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So Many Have Come – And Gone

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Only 23 Scholarship Players From Locksley Era Remain

Some kids get homesick, or aren’t getting enough playing time to suit them. Some feel their position coach, or the head coach, is too tough.

Some hate losing; sometimes a coaching change is a factor.

Other kids develop allergies – sometimes to ragweed or juniper, more often to discipline or attending class. Others have family concerns. Still others never qualify academically in the first place.

Attrition is a fact of life in college football. Look at any program’s recruiting class in any February as announced, compare it with that team’s roster two, three or four years later, and you’ll see a lot of names missing.

Still, by any standard, the number of players who have left the University of New Mexico since 2009 – or never showed up – is shocking.

Bob Davie, the Lobos’ first-year head coach, is getting his team ready for Saturday’s season finale at Colorado State. But, at Tuesday’s weekly fall sports news conference, he spent considerable time talking about the future.

That future, he said, is muddied by the attrition the program experienced during former coach Mike Locksley’s tenure.

Davie said only 23 scholarship players remain from Locksley’s three recruiting classes. “When the dust settles, that’s pretty remarkable,” he said.

The Journal came up with slightly different numbers. But however one does the math, more Locksley signees have left, or never showed up, than stayed.

Redshirt sophomore LaMar Bratton, the Lobos’ starting offensive left guard, signed a letter of intent in February 2010. Only five other players who entered the program on scholarship that year – linebacker Toby Ball, wide receiver Lamaar Thomas, running back Chase Clayton, cornerback Devonta Tabannah and linebacker Javarie Johnson – are still on the team.

“We just decided to grind it out,” Bratton said. “We knew that if we just stuck with it and just learned to fight through adversity it would make us better as people.

“I’ve talked to a few of the guys that left, and they’re still struggling to get back into (Division I football). So I feel like making the decision to stay here was the best for all of us.”

The long list of those who left from that class includes star wide receiver Deon Long, defensive tackle Calvin Smith and quarterbacks Stump Godfrey and Tarean Austin.

“It’s crazy,” Bratton said, “how big this senior class is (23) and how small ours will be when we get there.”

As a result, Davie’s looking at the prospect of having a 2013 team top-heavy with freshmen and sophomores – from his recruiting classes – and alarmingly light on juniors and seniors.

“I think (the situation) is unique,” Davie said.

When he took the UNM job a year ago, Davie made it clear he preferred to sign high school players rather than junior college athletes – not because of any disdain for the junior college ranks but because of the limited return on the investment.

In attempting to meet certain needs, Davie and his staff did sign four junior college transfers this year: wide receiver SaQwan Edwards, offensive tackle Bryan Oldenkamp (who’s ineligible this season), and linebackers Rashad Rainey and David Orvick.

He might sign that many, or more, this time around.

“I don’t really want to do that,” he said, “but when you look at (the attrition), you have to go supplement those numbers somehow.”

Davie believes he and his staff, starting from scratch, put together a solid first recruiting class in February.

Rainey, offensive guard Garrett Adcock and cornerback Cranston Jones have started a combined 16 games. Wide receivers Edwards and Carlos Wiggins have been solid contributors.

Because of the composition of the 2013 squad, the Lobos (4-8 overall this year, 1-6 in Mountain West Conference play) will need major contributions from next year’s class, as well.

Of the 25 players who signed with UNM in February, only four are sitting out the season as redshirts. Davie would like to redshirt more freshmen next year but isn’t sure he’ll be able to. Every scholarship, he said, must count.

“We cannot make a (recruiting) mistake,” he said. “We have to take the right guys. … We cannot, cannot waste one of these scholarships.

“That’s tough, because it’s not an exact science.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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