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Holy cow! Lobo Stapley adds creativity to social distancing workouts

Lobo center Kyle Stapley, a team captain last year, has drawn the praise of new head coach Danny Gonzales. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Editor’s note: Below continues an ongoing series on the 2021 University of New Mexico football team.

University of New Mexico football coach Danny Gonzales has encouraged his players to post their workouts on Twitter or find ways to excite Lobo fans through social media.

Kyle Stapley, UNM’s senior center, took it to a new level recently. He showed a workout on his farm in Utah during his time of staying at home and practicing social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stapley, with assistance from his father playing the role of a quarterback, practiced his shotgun snap while pointing out possible blitzers in the form of cattle.

Stapley, who was a team captain last season, also pulled a tractor, his way of staying in shape.

“Kyle has been our best,” Gonzales said of Stapley’s creativity. “He’s pulling tractors. He’s playing with emus. He’s lining up against cows. Him and his dad, and his dad being the quarterback, that was hysterical. … That was one of the better ones I’ve seen not just from our team but all over social media.”

Stapley’s improvisation of working out on his farm is an example of his effort to improve and be ready if or when there is a football season. His efforts will be needed during a transition year of a new coach.

Gonzales sees pluses and minuses on the offensive line. The main positive is that there is leadership with as many as four seniors who could start up front — Stapley, Teton Saltes, Ben Davis and Jacob Jankoviak. Stapley and Saltes were starters last year.

The negative is more about the future beyond, since they will all be gone at season’s end.

“They’ve shown they can be a physical bunch,” Gonzales said of the offensive linemen. “Ben Davis has been a good addition from Minnesota (as a graduate transfer). We weren’t sure how it was going to be for him when he first got here. The workouts were a little rough coming into a high altitude, but he was able to fight through and get himself into shape and compete during spring ball and work himself up to the first team.”

When Gonzales became head coach in December, he sought out Jason Lenzmeier as one of his assistants to coach the offensive line. Lenzmeier, like Gonzales, played at UNM and coached as an assistant for the Lobos before.

Lenzmeier went right to work when he became UNM’s offensive line coach in January. He knew his role would be challenging because the Lobos were left with eight offensive linemen on scholarship, half of what is ideal for the team, he said.

Eight wasn’t enough for spring football to have for scrimmages. The Lobos added five offensive linemen in its first recruiting class in February. Three of them —Davis, Isaak Gutierrez and Greg Brown — joined the team for spring football.

Gutierrez transferred in as a sophomore from Butte College in Oroville, California.

Brown was an early academic qualifier from Shadow Creek High in Pearland, Texas.

Gonzales and Lenzmeier were initially impressed with Brown’s athleticism, as he also excelled as a thrower for the high school track and field team.

He was thriving during the first eight practices of spring football before the coronavirus pandemic ended all team activities. Lenzmeier and Gonzales are hoping Brown will pick up where he left off when the team is allowed to resume practices.

“Greg Brown was a big surprise because he was competing so well as a true freshman out of high school,” Gonzales said. “That will give him a big leg up for being able to compete in the fall. He was doing really well, improving enough to show us that with some summer workouts and fall camp he could be able to contribute next year. … I’m excited about him.”

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