Archie McDaniel has come home.
Perry Eliano feels as if he has.
Saturday, McDaniel (outside linebackers), Eliano (cornerbacks, special teams) and Calvin Magee (offensive coordinator) were officially announced as new members of the University of New Mexico football coaching staff.
McDaniel is a returnee, having worked for Lobos head coach Bob Davie from 2012-14 before leaving for SMU. Eliano comes to UNM after two years at Bowling Green, but before that spent five years at UTSA.
Albuquerque and San Antonio, Eliano said, have a similar, Southwestern feel.
Upon his return, McDaniel was greeted by some familiar faces. Five current UNM coaches – Davie, defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, running backs coach Scott Baumgartner. tight ends coach Clay Davie and quarterbacks coach Apollo Wright – worked with McDaniel during his first tour of duty with the Lobos.
The Lobos weren’t able to redshirt many of their 2014 freshmen. But four fifth-year seniors in 2018, offensive guard Aaron Jenkins, running back Tyrone Owens, safety Bijon Parker and wide receiver Patrick Reed, shared the practice field and the sideline with McDaniel that fall.
His return, McDaniel said, truly felt like coming home.
“There’s nothing like coming back to a place where you truly feel wanted,” he said. “That felt really good.
“There’s nothing like working with good people, good people that you’ve had a chance to work with before.”
As familiar as the surroundings feel, McDaniel sees some differences as well. University Stadium is now Dreamstyle Stadium. The football offices have undergone a facelift, thanks to the generosity of Dreamstyle Remodeling CEO and UNM megadonor Larry Chavez.
The improvements, McDaniel said, “really, really help from a recruiting standpoint. … I think everything’s headed in the right direction.”
He has the same feeling about the defense.
During McDaniel’s previous three years at UNM, the Lobos ranked 97th, 119th and 124th nationally in total defense. The past three years, UNM ranked 97th, 56th and 70th.
McDaniel is eager to help continue the trend.
“I’ve always kind of watched New Mexico from afar, even when I was gone,” he said. “Being able to come back and really see how things have grown and changed and progressed is exciting to see.”
Eliano, as well, likes what he’s seen so far of Cosgrove’s scheme.
“Obviously, we’re going to be aggressive,” he said. “… I think it’s extremely important that you play well on the edge at corner to do that.”
While Davie obviously knew McDaniel well, he and Eliano had only exchanged handshakes in the past. Eliano coached at UTSA from 2011-15, and the Lobos and the Roadrunners played a home-and-home series in 2013-14 – UTSA winning in Albuquerque, the Lobos winning in San Antonio.
But there was a connection Eliano knew nothing about until he interviewed for the UNM job. Davie and Lynn Hickey, UTSA’s athletic director from 2001-17, knew each other from their previous years at Texas A&M.
“Obviously, I knew (Davie) was at A&M, but I didn’t put the two together until I was actually here on campus,” Eliano said. “Coach Davie had inquired about me to (Hickey). I love Lynn. She’s an awesome, awesome woman and leader, and we had a great relationship at UTSA.
“So it goes back to making tracks going up that mountain. You never know when you’re going to have to go back down. So it was that strong connection that allowed me to get my foot in the door (at UNM).”
Eliano recalled from that home-and-home series that New Mexico was tough and physical on defense; UTSA scored only nine points in losing to the Lobos at the Alamodome.
From the Roadrunners’ victory over the Lobos in 2013, he left with a favorable impression of Albuquerque.
“I think the city of Albuquerque is a great place, and I think it’s extremely attractive,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, I definitely feel that much stronger about it.”