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UNM’s Lilly working to become a complete receiver

UNM’s Elijah Lilly waits for the ball during a punt return drill during practice Thursday.

For the better part of this offseason, University of New Mexico senior wide receiver Elijah Lilly has been dealing with various adversities in the form of pressure, injuries and frustration.

However, Lilly had a bit of a breakthrough during Saturday’s scrimmage, a closed practice in the stadium, UNM coach Bob Davie said on Tuesday.

Lilly made three “big-time” catches, Davie said.

“Even though it was just a scrimmage, you could see it was like it lightened the load on him,” Davie said. “Just seeing him when we came back to show him the tape that night, I said something to him. I said, ‘Lilly’s back.'”

During the spring, Lilly, who also competed on the UNM track and field team as a sprinter, suffered a hamstring injury. Later, on the fourth day of preseason camp, he hyperextended his knee that put him out for a couple of days.

“I’m a competitor,” said Lilly, who is UNM’s top returning receiver, as he was second on the team last year with 375 yards and five touchdowns on 21 catches. “When I’m not out there on the field I just feel like I’m letting my teammates down, and like I’m letting my family back at home down. I’m pretty hard on myself. Once that happens I have to realize God has a plan for me. Just me getting hurt that allowed me to take a step back and take everything else in and be able to learn multiple positions.”

Lilly, who is 6 feet, 160 pounds, is doing his best to move past the “raw” label that could be used on him because he is just in his second year of playing at receiver after making the transition from defensive back. He said he doesn’t want to be one-dimensional, or considered solely a speed receiver.

“I want to be a complete receiver,” Lilly said. “I’m just doing everything I can to make sure I’m a complete receiver.”

He said he would also like to contribute on special teams. He admitted he did not have the year he was wanted as a kickoff returner last year. Davie recalled at least three times, Lilly either muffed or fumbled a kickoff.

“Hopefully he can stay healthy and keep progressing because he’s such a weapon,” Davie said.

Last year, the Lobos played in their first year in a spread offense after using the triple-option in Davie’s first six years as UNM coach. In year two away from the triple-option, it is expected the Lobos will throw the ball more, especially with a deep and talented group at receiver.

HARD WORK: After 10 practices during preseason camp, and just 17 days away from UNM’s season opener against Sam Houston State, Davie said he is encouraged by the chemistry and energy on his team. He is grateful there were no injuries during Saturday’s scrimmage and he has enjoyed the way the Lobos have responded to a grueling schedule and demanding practices amid conditions in high temperatures.

Davie said this is the most physical preseason camp he’s had in this his eighth season at UNM.

“It’s not even close,” he said in comparison to the other seven camps.

TV: UNM’s game against New Mexico State at Dreamstyle Stadium on Sept. 21 at 2:30 p.m. is one of three Lobo games that will be featured on AT&T SportsNet.

New Mexico’s game at Wyoming will air on the network on Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. and UNM’s home game with Air Force at noon on Nov. 9 will also be on AT&T SportsNet.


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