ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — To sign a wide receiver, the run-oriented New Mexico Lobos must be creative.
“That true high school receiver that went out and caught 100 balls his senior year, let’s be honest,” UNM football coach Bob Davie said after Saturday’s practice. “He’s gonna go someplace where he can catch 100 balls in his college career.
“So I think our pool of those guys, our potential pool, comes from different areas.”
The Lobos, then, might target the following:
- Receivers without gaudy statistics, whether because they played in a run-oriented offense or because their quarterbacks spread the ball around.
- Undersized kids who might have caught plenty of passes, but are overlooked by schools in the power conferences.
- Kids with sure hands but without blinding speed.
- Players who played both ways in high school but were recruited by most schools for defense.
- Kids who lost significant time during their prep careers to injury.
- Local kids who entered the program as walk-ons.
- Lobo sophomore Dameon Gamblin caught 49 passes in 2012 as a senior at Mesquite High School in suburban Dallas, averaging almost 15 yards a catch. But, at 165 pounds, he was ignored by the Big 12 schools.
Gamblin saw limited action last season as a freshman, but Davie expects more from him this fall.
“He was as good a little player as there was in that whole Metroplex, Dallas-Fort Worth area,” Davie said. “But probably because he was a little bit undersized, he wasn’t recruited as highly. … He’ll be a heck of a player (at New Mexico).”
Davie has been cautiously optimistic about his team’s passing game thus far in the young 2014 preseason, praising his quarterbacks and calling his wide receivers perhaps the most improved unit on the team.
Gamblin, 5-foot-10 and 160 as a freshman, likes what he sees as well.
“We’re passing more (in practice),” he said, noting that the ball has been in the air in 11-on-11 “team” situations as well as in seven-on-seven passing drills. … We just have to do our job and make plays when we get our number called.”
- Chris Davis caught 88 passes last season for Oak Christian High School in Westlake Village, Calif. But no team in the Pac-12 was interested in a 5-6 wide receiver. The Lobos were.
- Not only was Lobos junior Carlos Wiggins small of stature coming out of Plano (Texas) West High School, he played running back as a senior.
At UNM, Wiggins has become one of the nation’s premier kick returners. Last season, the 5-8, 157-pounder also was a major factor in both the Lobos’ powerful running game and their stunted passing attack.
Wiggins, now among UNM’s more experienced receivers, said the younger players are progressing well.
“They understand it’s a long process, and they’re just starting to get it together,” he said.
- True freshman Garrison Mitchell played both ways for Beaumont (Texas) Central, but most schools wanted him as a safety – not as a wideout, the position he’ll play at UNM.
- Matt Quarrells, another true freshman wide receiver, missed half of his senior year at Hazelwood Central in Florissant, Mo., because of injury. Otherwise, Davie said, “he would have been highly recruited.”
- Lobos junior Marquis Bundy had the size (6-3) and the hands coming out of Boulder Creek High School in Anthem, Ariz. But, because of concerns about his speed, only UNM and Air Force among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision schools offered him a scholarship.
Bundy has become the team’s principal deep threat – not because of his speed, but thanks to his size and his ability to adjust to the ball in the air.
- Former Rio Rancho Ram Jeric Magnant, now a senior, has risen from walk-on status to starting status during his UNM career.
Of the receivers as a group, Davie said, “I see some guys that understand what they have to do in this offense. … But I also see guys that I think are earning opportunities to catch the ball.
“Hopefully, we can throw the ball a little bit better.”