ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Several starting spots still up in air
The New Mexico Lobos have today off, but that doesn’t apply to their coaches. They’ll be holed up in the Tow Diehm Athletics Facility, poring over the film from Friday’s practice.
What they see on that film could decide, in some cases, who’ll start against Texas-San Antonio on Aug. 31 – and who won’t.
Most starting jobs, coach Bob Davie said earlier this week, have already been determined. But a few are still up for grabs.
And a starting slot against UTSA, he said, guarantees nothing going forward.
“The reality is, we have a lot of young guys that are gonna play,” Davie said. “But that depth chart will be decided by how they play.
“We have a lot of guys that we haven’t seen yet, really. You hope, you think they’re gonna do it. But the reality is, there are guys that may be backups right now that may end up starting. It’s gonna be a fluid situation.”
Listed here, then, are the positions where there’s competition for a starting job entering game week.
SAFETY: Both safety spots, Davie said, are highly competitive.
At strong safety, junior-college transfer Davie Guthrie and redshirt freshman Ryan Santos were splitting time with the first team before Santos suffered a foot injury. But Santos is healthy now, and Davie said he expects both to play.
At free safety, senior Dante Caro – UNM’s most experienced defensive back – is being challenged by former Albuquerque Academy star Brandon Branch. Junior Devonta Tabannah, moved from cornerback, is also in the mix.
“Tabannah’s had a good camp,” Davie said. “… He’s not very big, but he’s smart, pretty instinctive.
“I would say that at strong safety, free safety, it’s gonna be ever-changing.”
DEFENSIVE LINE: Nose guard Jacori Greer, right end Brett Bowers and left end Fatu Ulale (when healthy) have taken the vast majority of snaps with the first unit. But Davie said sophomore end Paytron Hightower has had a strong preseason and will play.
“It’s kind of a three-man thing right now (at defensive end),” Davie said.
True freshman Nik D’Avanzo, the Lobos’ biggest defensive lineman (6-foot-2, 307 pounds), likely will spell Greer in the middle.
CORNERBACK: Junior SaQwan Edwards, a converted wide receiver, appeared to have a lock on the left cornerback spot – but then missed several practices with a groin injury. True freshman Isaiah Brown is vying for playing time.
At right corner, sophomore Cranston Jones appears safe for now. But true freshman Jadon Boatright had been impressive before suffering a hip-flexor injury.
Identical twins Rashad and Vershad Jackson, who rejoined the team this week after an 11-day absence because of a practice-field incident, had been working with the first and second teams before their hiatus and could be heard from.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Sophomore Johnny Vizcaino opened the preseason at starting right tackle but has missed several practices with concussion symptoms. Junior Jamal Price has taken that spot.
This is the Lobos’ most experienced unit; center Dillon Farrell, guards LaMar Bratton and Calvin McDowney, and tackles Price and Darryl Johnson have 98 career starts among them.
Substitutions in the offensive line are relatively rare because of the coordination involved. But Davie said sophomore Garrett Adcock (eight starts last year) and JC transfer Reno Henderson could find their way onto the field.
TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE: The Lobos began specific preparation for UTSA on Friday with some work against the scout team.
Most of the two-hour workout, though, was devoted to player and unit evaluation, with most of the coaching staff in the press box.
CARRIER ON THE LIST: Lobos running back Kasey Carrier has been named to the watch list for the inaugural Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award.
The award goes to the Division I player judged the best in the nation who was born in Texas, graduated from a Texas high school or played for a Texas four-year college or junior college. Carrier was born in LaMarque, Texas, and starred at Pearland (Texas) High School.