Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The University of New Mexico football team completed its eighth spring football practice on Tuesday.
Around this time last year, that was the point when the coronavirus pandemic ended the Lobos’ second half of spring football with seven practices remaining.
This year, UNM coach Danny Gonzales is doing his best to take advantage of the practice time and to remind players to stay out of trouble.
Before UNM’s spring break last week, Gonzales and the UNM football program helped produce a video themed “Win in the dark” that was posted onto Twitter on March 12.
UNM senior Bobby Cole, the Lobos’ top returning running back, speaks in the video about the theme.
“Winning in the dark means check your character at all times,” Cole says. “What you do in the dark is going to come to the light. So, if you’re doing wrong in the dark it will soon come to light and you’ll be exposed.”
The Lobos didn’t get into any trouble during spring break, nor, as Gonzales sometimes says, “act like a bunch of knuckleheads.”
They also remained healthy.
“We tested 100 percent negative for our football team and staff,” Gonzales said after the Lobos were tested for COVID-19 on Monday. “We didn’t miss anyone because of COVID. They did their part.”
UNM will end spring football with an intrasquad scrimmage game in the stadium on April 3, starting at noon, that is open to the public.
JONES STILL A NO-SHOW: Sophomore running back Nate Jones continues to be out for spring football. Gonzales said that Jones’ status is unchanged since the start of spring football, when the coach said Jones had not been meeting the team’s expectations.
Gonzales didn’t specify or expand on the reason for Jones’ absence.
“If you don’t meet our expectations, you’re not out here,” Gonzales said on March 3.
Jones, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound four-star recruit rated by ESPN out of powerhouse St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, California, was second on the team last season with 210 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 41 carries.
WHO’S AT CENTER: UNM senior center Kyle Stapley, who is out with a left knee injury, has been seen at practices offering tips and helping those who are filling in for him.
Isaak Gutierrez, a 6-foot-2, 305-pound junior, and Radson Jang, a 6-2, 234-pound senior, have been taking the snaps at center. Gutierrez, who started at right guard last season, has been playing center with the first team during spring football.
Stapley is expected to be ready for preseason camp in August. When that happens, where will Gutierrez move?
“That’s a fall camp deal,” UNM offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier said. “It’s all based on competition. Kyle is not guaranteed anything.”
Lenzmeier, a former UNM offensive lineman, said his group is treating Stapley’s absence as a positive. Gutierrez could gain more versatility during the spring.
Gonzales said Gutierrez and Jang are gaining valuable experience.
“We know what Kyle can do,” Gonzales said. “When we get to Sept. 2 he’s going to be just fine.”
Stapley is one of 14 “super seniors” who returned to the Lobos this season due to the coronavirus-delayed and shortened 2020 season that did not count against players’ eligibility. He played the final two games on a badly injured left knee.
Doctors performed surgery to repair a torn MCL and discovered he also had a torn ACL, Gonzales said.