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Players get a vote of confidence

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No new tight ends were brought in during ’13 recruiting class

Lucas Reed and Chris Biren are gone but not forgotten.

Andrew Aho and Chris Edling, heirs apparent to the New Mexico Lobos’ two tight end positions, aren’t trying to make anyone forget Reed or Biren. They’re just trying to do their jobs as well as the departed seniors did.

That the coaching staff chose not to sign a tight end as part of UNM’s 2013 recruiting class, Aho says, is a strong vote of confidence in that regard.

Aug. 31
Texas-San Antonio at New Mexico, University Stadium, time TBA

“Having played with Lucas and Chris (Biren), I feel I learned a lot from them that I can pass on to (the younger tight ends),” Aho, a 6-foot-3, 221-pound senior from Roswell, said after Saturday’s practice. “I think (the coaches) trust me to prove that I can do it on my own, without Lucas and Chris, and then help these young guys come along, as well.”

Edling, a 6-3, 230-pound sophomore from Corsicana, Texas, also took the absence of tight ends on signing day as a positive.

“I thought (the coaches) had a lot of confidence in us coming in,” he said. “We’re really looking to Aho because he’s a senior in our group. He’s been around Lucas and (Biren) a lot, and he knows what’s expected of us.”

Aho is the younger brother of James Aho, the Lobos’ former placekicker, and an older brother of George, a redshirt freshman linebacker. He came to UNM as a walk-on but later was awarded a scholarship.

After missing 2012 spring practice with a knee injury, he played last fall as the principal backup at tight end.

Edling, a 2012 signee, played mostly on special teams as a freshman.

After nine of 15 spring-practice sessions, tight ends coach Derek Warehime said, Aho is No. 1 and Edling is 1A.

The Lobos often employ formations with two tight ends, with one on the line of scrimmage and the other as an offset fullback. Last season, Reed usually was the former and Biren the latter.

This spring, Aho has played mostly on the line of scrimmage, blocking in close quarters.

“I feel really comfortable at the ‘Y,’ with my hand in the dirt because I’ve had the experience,” he said. “I’m confident in my footwork. I know what I’m doing, and I feel like I can get the job done.”

Edling more often is the offset fullback, though neither he nor Aho is exclusive at either spot.

“I’m more of the H-back,” Edling said. “… I like that you get to build up some momentum before you hit somebody, so it’s a little harder hit.”

Aho and Edling, Warehime said, so far have justified the decision not to sign a tight end.

“For what we do offensively, they fit,” Warehime said. “They’re smart kids, which is probably one of the most important pieces in playing the position. They’re competitors.

“The thing they both bring to our position is athleticism. They’re both athletic kids that can do a lot of things and go out and compete and be physical, and they really enjoy playing the game.”

The Lobos did add one tight end to the roster by moving Reece White, a sophomore walk-on from Cleveland High School, from wide receiver. Warehime said White and junior Mat McBain are in the mix for playing time.

And, oh, yes. Tight ends are receivers, too. Right?

Last year, UNM tight ends caught just nine passes. Aho caught two of those, a 7-yarder for a touchdown against Wyoming and a 48-yarder that set up a field goal against Colorado State.

Edling caught one pass for 13 yards in a season-opening rout of Southern.

Both tight ends said they see improvement in the Lobos’ passing game, starting with quarterbacks Cole Gautsche and Clayton Mitchem.

“We’re working hard on our routes,” Aho said. “… We have become predominantly run right ends, so I think it’s a good mix to get down with your hand in the dirt and then mixed it up with the pass to keep the defense off balance.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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