UNM opens its preseason practices in Ruidoso
RUIDOSO – Auditions for defensive backs and wide receivers are being held daily at White Mountain Sports Complex.
During virtually any University of New Mexico football practice, coaches will alternately call for the “ones” (first-team offense or defense), “twos” or “threes” to take their places on the field.
Tuesday, when the secondary or the wideouts were involved, coaches occasionally called for the “one-A’s,” “one-B’s,” “two-A’s” and “two-B’s.”
It’s about giving all the players in those unproven position groups a chance to prove their worth and bid for playing time come Aug. 31, when the Lobos open the season at home against Texas-San Antonio.
After Tuesday’s practice, the Lobos’ first in their Ruidoso home away from home, head coach Bob Davie was asked how much importance should be attached to who’s playing with the “ones.”
That depends, he said.
On the offensive line, seniors Dillon Farrell, Darryl Johnson and Calvin McDowney, junior LaMar Bratton and sophomore Johnny Vizcaino took almost every snap with the first team. On the defensive line, seniors Jacori Greer and Fatu Ulale and junior Brett Bowers did the same.
There is no question who the starting quarterback and the starting running back are: sophomore Cole Gautsche and senior Kasey Carrier, respectively.
There was some mixing and matching in the linebacker corps Tuesday, but senior Dallas Bollema was a fixture.
At defensive back and at wide receiver, the picture changed from play to play like a kaleidoscope.
In the secondary, senior safety Dante Caro was an almost-constant presence with the “ones.” But at cornerback, the rotation included junior SaQwan Edwards and sophomores Cranston Jones and the Jackson twins, Rashad and Vershad.
Joining Caro at safety most often was junior-college transfer David Guthrie, but senior Devonta Tabannah and redshirt freshman Ryan Santos also saw plenty of work.
At wide receiver, sophomore Marquis Bundy seems to have emerged as a favorite target. But sophomore walk-on Cameron DeBesse and junior-college transfer Tyler Duncan saw action with the “ones,” as did sophomore Carlos Wiggins and junior Jeric Magnant from Rio Rancho.
“We’ll just rotate and rotate until we get enough scrimmages to make a legitimate evaluation,” Davie said.
PASSING GRADE: Quarterbacks and wide receivers were in tune and on target for most of Tuesday’s practice, suggesting that the passing game – sorely lacking most of last season – might be ready for a breakthrough.
Bundy, a 6-foot-4, 206-pounder from Anthem, Ariz., was particularly impressive, presenting a big target but displaying enough speed to get deep.
“We probably completed more passes today than we did the whole year last year down here,” Davie said.
LOVING THE COOL PINES: Bollema knows what it’s like not to practice in Ruidoso in August. Bratton doesn’t.
Both veterans are completely sold on the benefits.
“My (true) freshman year we stayed in Albuquerque the whole time,” said Bollema, a fifth-year senior inside linebacker from Artesia. “Then we got to come down here my (redshirt) freshman year, and it’s just been awesome.”
The combination of cooler weather and high altitude, Bratton said, is a near-perfect combination.
“It feels great, just coming out here to this higher elevation,” said Bratton, a redshirt junior offensive guard who has been to Ruidoso every year since coming to UNM in 2010. “Even though it’s cooler, you still get a little more winded because of the elevation.”
And, throughout the grind of fall camp, both players said they remain aware of their surroundings.
“Our practice feels great just being in this beautiful scenery,” Bratton said. “When you look up, you just appreciate everything around you.”
TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE: The Lobos are scheduled for a practice tonight, in addition to their morning workout. It would be the first two-a-day practices of the Davie Era.
“This will be the first two-a-day I’ve had in probably a couple of years now,” Bratton said. “It’s always exciting to see who’s gonna step up when that second practice comes around, because you know you’re tired from the first practice. But that’s when the real guys come out.”
Davie said he was pleased with both the progress made and the attitude displayed during Tuesday’s practice.
“I think the sincerity of it is really good,” he said. “There’s something called false enthusiasm, (and) these guys know they’re looking at two weeks of heavy practices. So, I’d rather have just good solid concentration than pretend energy.”
INJURY REPORT: Darian Allen, a redshirt freshman defensive lineman, was carted off the practice fields after Tuesday’s practice with a knee injury. There was no word about the extent of the injury.