Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
How bad is player availability for the University of New Mexico football team?
Coach Bob Davie said Tuesday that the Lobos are down to 57 scholarship players “available right now to play in this game on Saturday” from the 83 who started the season.
“They’re not all injuries,” Davie said. “We’ve had 14 season-ending injuries, which is a lot.”
It’s gotten so bad the Lobos don’t even have enough running backs to use for the scout team to prepare for Air Force, UNM’s home opponent on Saturday.
Granted, the 21½-point favorite Falcons (8-2, 5-1 in Mountain West Conference) are unusual in that they use three backs in their triple-option scheme. The Lobos (2-8, 0-6) still don’t have enough and have been working in some of their defensive backs as scout team running backs, Davie said at his weekly press conference.
The Lobos’ running backs situation is only but an example of what has left UNM thin at other positions, including at wide receiver and on the defensive line.
Senior running back Ahmari Davis, who was third in the MWC with 832 rushing yards, was the latest Lobo to go out with a season-ending injury. He suffered a right knee injury during UNM’s second possession in Saturday night’s 42-9 loss at No. 20 Boise State.
During the Lobos’ third possession, redshirt sophomore running back Bryson Carroll sustained a severe right ankle injury. Carroll hasn’t been practicing this week and will most likely be out.
Redshirt sophomore running back Daevon Vigilant has been ruled out with concussion symptoms. Kentrail Moran, also a redshirt sophomore running back, experienced inflammation in his right knee against Boise State, but should be able to play against Air Force, Davie said. Moran had surgery on the knee after a torn ACL last year.
Redshirt sophomores Bobby Cole and Micah Gray are the lone running backs fully healthy. Gray scored on a 1-yard touchdown run late against the Broncos on Saturday.
Freshman running back Chad Alexander, who has been on the scout team throughout the season, has one game left to play and remain eligible for a redshirt season, so technically he is also available. He has played in three games.
Apollo Wright, UNM’s running backs coach, said he’s been a part of teams that have experienced injuries at a position, but he has never seen anything such as what has taken place this past week for the Lobos’ running backs.
He felt especially bad for Davis, who rushed for 185 yards last year and showed remarkable improvement during the offseason.
“He was having such a good season,” Wright said. “He was getting better every single game. He was really getting it.”
Gray, who prepped at Clovis High, said he is excited because he will mostly receive more opportunities against Air Force, but he is maintaining the same type of preparation.’
“Coach said that whether you are a 1, 2 or 3, you always have to prepare like a 1,” Gray said. “I feel like in the running back room that’s what we do. We all practice hard every single day.”
At wide receiver, Jay Griffin IV, a speedy redshirt junior, will miss his fifth game of the season due to personal reasons, Davie said.
Senior defensive lineman Adebayo Soremekun won’t play on Saturday for personal reasons, Davie said. Soremekun also missed last week.
Davie was asked if seniors should gain the majority of playing time with just two games remaining in the season, or if backup quarterback Trae Hall should have meaningful game action with starter Tevaka Tuioti performing inconsistently.
Davie said Tuioti is better than Hall, a redshirt freshman, at this point, and the coach wants to put the Lobos in the best position to end a seven-game losing streak.
“Truthfully we don’t have many guys,” Davie said. “It’s kind of all-hands-on-deck right now anyhow. You still go all the way till the end with the guys who give you the best chance to win.”
Tuioti fumbled twice against the Broncos, including on the opening play that Boise State returned for a touchdown.
Davie pointed out that Tuioti has been able to play in consecutive games without injury, a problem for him in the past.