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Happy Being Center Again

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Farrell returns to the position for which he was recruited

UNM FOOTBALL
By Rick WrightJournal Staff Writer

RUIDOSO – Same goal, different methods.

Last August, first-year Lobos offensive line coach Ron Hudson moved sophomore Dillon Farrell from center to tackle. LaMar Bratton, a redshirt freshman, became the starting center.

Sept. 1
Season opener: Southern at UNM, 3 p.m. Radio: KKOB-AM (770)

Farrell, Hudson said, had the frame (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) to play tackle. Bratton, relatively small at 6-2, 275, had physical dimensions more typical of a center.

The objective, Hudson said, was simple: to get the Lobos’ five best offensive linemen on the field.

After last season, Hudson left UNM’s employ after Bob Davie was hired to succeed Mike Locksley as head coach.

Jason Lenzmeier, Hudson’s successor, has precisely the same goal: get the five best O-linemen on the field.

But Lenzmeier’s methods are different. Farrell is back at center; Bratton lines up next to him at left guard.

Farrell, who was recruited to UNM as a center, had made it no secret that’s the position he’d prefer to play. He’s happy.

If Bratton is unhappy, he doesn’t let on.

“I’m never disappointed,” Bratton said. “The only thing I worry about is this team being successful. … I’ll go out there at tackle if it means we’ll be more successful.”

Bratton now is listed at 282 pounds – still small for an offensive guard. He doesn’t care, and, apparently, neither does Lenzmeier. Bratton and true freshman Ryan Adcock, 6-2 and 270, have been working at first-team guard ahead of junior Calvin McDowney (6-3, 350) and sophomore Jamal Price (6-3, 332).

“I’ve always been undersized for a lineman,” Bratton said, “but I use it to my advantage as far as keeping low and being able to ‘squat’ people.

“I just really work hard in the weight room and work on my flexibility.”

The message Lenzmeier constantly sends, Farrell said, says nothing about physical stature.

“You look at LaMar, and he’s a shorter guy and a lighter guy,” Farrell said. “But effort and technique, that’s a big thing that coach Lenzmeier harps on. Effort and technique beats anything (having to do with) size.”

Typically, the center is the quarterback of the offensive line – recognizing the defensive alignment and changing blocking assignments accordingly.

That’s why Farrell prefers to play center. Yet, when Hudson moved him to tackle last year, there were no complaints.

“You want the best five guys out there,” Farrell said. “If you don’t, you’re selfish and not helping your team out at all.”

From the beginning of spring practice, there has been no doubt that Farrell and Bratton were among UNM’s five best linemen. In fact, during the spring, because of depth issues, they took every single snap.

The 2012 recruiting class has eased those concerns somewhat. Still, Farrell, Bratton and senior tackle Korian Chambers, all full-time returning starters, anchor the offensive line.

Bratton’s prior experience at center, Farrell said, continues to come in handy.

“LaMar’s helping me so much,” he said, “just helping me identify stuff and seeing patterns in the defense. … It’s great playing next to a guy like that.”

Until this offensive line plays against someone else’s defense, the jury will remain out; optimism was the watchword last August, too.

Even so, Bratton and Farrell radiate that emotion.

“The O-line is like night and day from spring until now,” Bratton said. “We move people off the ball, and our chemistry is up there.”

Farrell said the team’s stay in Ruidoso, which began Aug. 5 and ends Friday, has helped immensely.

“Just during camp, being around each other all the time,” he said, “the trust factor comes in big.”
— This article appeared on page D5 of the Albuquerque Journal

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