ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bratton glad to have some help
A year ago, when Bob Davie looked at his group of offensive linemen, he wondered how that unit could possibly make it to the end of spring practice.
Though he probably wouldn’t admit it, he might also have wondered why he left the ESPN/ABC broadcast booth to become the head football coach at the University of New Mexico.
A year later, the picture is decidedly different. Where there were eight bodies in March 2012, there now are 12 – and there would be 13, if sophomore guard Garrett Adcock weren’t sitting out the spring while awaiting shoulder surgery.
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Come the fall, three more offensive linemen – two junior-college transfers, one freshman – will join the ranks.
Six returning offensive linemen, including Adcock, started at least one game last season. Only right tackle Korian Chambers is gone from the starting lineup.
Last spring, because of graduation and roster attrition, the Lobos had only eight offensive linemen. Center Dillon Farrell and guard LaMar Bratton never got off the practice field, working with both the first and second units.
“It was really exhausting,” Bratton said Thursday. “You really have to take care of your body in those situations.”
And yet, Bratton said, the challenges of the spring proved to be a springboard to a fall during which the UNM ground attack ranked fifth in the nation with an average of 301.3 yards per game. Running back Kasey Carrier set a school record with 1,469 rushing yards – something that doesn’t happen if the offensive linemen aren’t doing their job.
Even so, Bratton welcomes the reinforcements.
“I’m loving it,” he said. “… Now that we have these big numbers, we can have great rotations and guys can start learning. I love to coach up the younger guys and help them get better, so when I and all the (older) guys are out of here they can just keep rolling like nobody left.”
Offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier values the competition and depth created by the stronger numbers.
“We’re one of the few positions on the team that’s got some guys coming back,” he said, “which is always really nice. … Toward the end (of last season) we got beat up a little bit. We’ve got to fight through that, be a physical team and run the ball, and hopefully the passing game will continue to improve.”
Bratton, from Riverside, Calif., started at center in 2011 as a redshirt freshman. He moved to left guard last season and, despite his relatively small stature (6-foot-2, 281 pounds) was a mainstay. He started all 12 games for the Lobos (4-9) and didn’t have a penalty called against him all season.
Lenzmeier expects – no, demands – more of the same from Bratton in 2013.
“I had to rip him in meetings (Thursday), because I didn’t get what we should have gotten out of him on Tuesday,” Lenzmeier said. “He can be a leader for us if he does everything right. He played well for us last year, but he’s got to improve on that. We expect him to be an all-conference player, and that’s what we’re striving for.”
Lenzmeier, himself an all-conference offensive tackle for the Lobos (2003), has similar goals for his unit as a whole.
“I think these guys have the potential to be a pretty good group, but they’ve got to work for it,” he said. “Every day, they’re going out there and busting their butts.”
Bratton, Farrell and left tackle Darryl Johnson were full-time starters last season. They all return; Johnson and Farrell are seniors. Adcock, junior Jamal Price and senior Calvin McDowney all logged starts.
Sophomores Dillon Romine and Johnny Vizcaino also return; Vizcaino left school last fall but re-enrolled for the spring semester. Sophomore Bryan Oldenkamp, who was ineligible last fall, enters the mix. Sophomore Andrew Aqua, who was shifted to the defensive line last August, was moved back to offense.
Add three walk-ons to the group, and Davie likes what he sees.
“Just from your overall efficiency in practice, when you can only go one offensive line (as the Lobos did last spring), it cuts down on reps, cuts down on competition at that position, it affects everything.
“Obviously, we’re a lot farther ahead.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal