Lobo football: Preseason media give love to lots of players, but not Gonzales - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo football: Preseason media give love to lots of players, but not Gonzales

Coach Danny Gonzales is shown during a UNM spring football practice session from February. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The college football offseason is full of preseason rankings, all-conference team picks and win-total predictions that can provide optimism for programs, anger for fans, motivation for players, or simply garbage in coaches’ opinions.

Who could forget when University of New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales sternly stated two words when the Lobos were picked last in the 2020 Mountain West Conference Mountain Division preseason poll by the league media?

“Don’t care,” Gonzales said.

Two eye-catching preseason opinions from the media came out this month, including that nine Lobos were selected to the Athlon Sports Preseason All-Mountain West Conference Team.

Also, Mountain West Conference Connection asked the question for its roundtable of reporters: Which coach is on the hot seat in 2022?

Gonzales and UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo were the names mentioned the most, low-hanging fruit for their records (3-9 for UNM and 2-10 for the Rebels) in 2021. Both coaches enter their third year with their team.

“Those things that people write is stuff that is out of our control; that doesn’t bother me,” Gonzales said. “If I didn’t think we were going in the right direction, then there would be room for concern and then you look at what the possibilities might be. … We are right on schedule for where I thought we’d be in Year 3. We need to stay healthy.”

As for the Athlon Sports magazine’s preseason all-league picks, last year the Lobos had just six players selected, which was last in the league.

This year, senior defensive back Jerrick Reed, a 2021 preseason All-Mountain West Team selection from the media, and punter Aaron Rodriguez, who showed great improvement late last season, lead UNM, as they were Athlon second-team picks.

The Lobos’ defense is expected to be the team’s strength and the unit had three players – defensive lineman Jake Saltonstall, Lobo back Tavian Combs and linebacker Ray Leutele – on Athlon’s third team.

Combs and Leutele are from Gonzales’ first recruiting class and have a huge amount of playing experience in their first two years.

They are listed as juniors, but both have an extra year of eligibility because the NCAA granted that after the coronavirus-shortened season in 2020.

Sophomore wide receiver Luke Wysong was also a third-team pick by Athlon as a punt returner. Wysong usually creates excitement with the ball in his hands. As a punter returner, he scored his first career touchdown, which went for 63 yards against Colorado State, last season.

Athlon also had a fourth team, which included Lobos Nate Jones (running back), Isaak Gutierrez (offensive lineman) and Donte Martin (cornerback).

UNM is expecting big things from Jones, who redshirted last season – much bigger than fourth-team status from a magazine.

“It gives you optimism, which is good,” Gonzales said of what the picks mean for Lobo football and its fans. “These guys are really doing a good job of working their tails off and I think the coaches are doing a really good job of evaluating and developing.

“As we continue to go, we’ll continue to get better.”

CHECK OUT THIS WIN TOTAL PROP: SportsBetting.ag has its full slate of victory totals for 131 FBS college teams competing in 2022 (as seen on Page B4), including the Lobos, who are set for 2.5 wins. You can bet the under at -140 or the over at +110.

Rival New Mexico State is at 3 wins.

For what it’s worth, the Journal has UNM at 5 wins, and that’s before the Lobos face Colorado State.

The Rams, who have an 11-game win streak against UNM, face New Mexico Friday, Nov. 25 at 1:30 p.m. in Fort Collins to close the regular season.

LOBOS OPENER: UNM’s season opener is set for Saturday, Sept. 3. There had been talk the game would be moved to Thursday, Sept. 1 before the Labor Day Weekend, but Maine could not accommodate that date.

The kickoff time is yet to be determined, but Gonzales is pretty sure the game will start at 6 p.m.

The Lobos report to preseason camp on Aug. 4 and begin practices for the upcoming season on Aug. 5.

Home » From the newspaper » Lobo football: Preseason media give love to lots of players, but not Gonzales


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