Will Lobos compete? Gonzales challenges fans to see for themselves - Albuquerque Journal

Will Lobos compete? Gonzales challenges fans to see for themselves


Throughout Danny Gonzales’ first two seasons as head coach of his alma mater, the University of New Mexico, he contends he has never used the phrase “team culture,” or “wanting to change the team culture,” he said during his press conference Wednesday at the UNM Tow Diehm Facility.

Many new coaches use the phrase,”culture,” to the point it has become a cliché.

Gonzales said he doesn’t care about how things were before he arrived, only how are they now. As the Lobos head into the start of preseason camp on Friday off a 3-9 season – and picked to finish last in the six-team Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference – Gonzales encouraged fans and media to come take a look at his team.

A reporter asked Gonzales about his early goals of how he wanted to transform the Lobos into an aggressive team, always going after the ball and taking on the alpha role in all matchups.

Call it a new culture, a different intensity, call it what you want.

“Come out on Friday night and see,” Gonzales said of the Lobos’ initial practice, which starts at 7:30 p.m.

Gonzales believes the Lobos will be competitive and won’t get blown out in games this year.

“Some people will think I’m crazy,” he said.

The Lobos had what they believe was a successful offseason, in the weight room and with regard to recruiting.

Gonzales and his staff landed a few transfers who could contribute immediately, including quarterback Justin Holaday from Fresno City College. The Lobos also recruited younger, fringe 3-star-type players. Gonzales believes in his staff, which includes defensive coordinator Rocky Long and former NFL offensive lineman Byron Bell as a graduate assistant.

Those types of coaches developing players can make a big difference. Gonzales said Long has “made a significant” difference, helping immensely to put the Lobos on the right track this season to improve from last year.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Shancco Matautia is the lone returner for the projected starters. He played four games last year and thus returns as a redshirt freshman.

Gonzales said the Lobos, including offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier, have tried to be innovative and think outside the box with activities intended to unite the offensive line and create chemistry among its players.

The offensve line went camping in Davis Springs and trained with the Albuquerque Police Department, Gonzales said.

SKILL POSITIONS: Of course, the Lobos’ winner of the quarterback competition could be another key to the season and will be among the hot topics during preseason camp. Holaday, as well as redshirt sophomore Isaiah Chavez, redshirt freshman CJ Montes and senior transfer Miles Kendrick from Kansas will be in contention.

When Gonzales spoke about the offense, he suggested UNM would attack rather than be conservative, moving around players like sophomore wide receiver Luke Wysong to create mismatches.

Incoming freshman Jah’Mar Sanders was recruited as a quarterback out of Port Arthur, Texas. He’ll have some plays at quarterback but also have some plays at wide receiver, running back or in the slot, Gonzales said.

With a strong defense from 2021 expected to be strong again in 2022, it had seemed the Lobos were going to be a ball-control type of offense led by its rushers. That might happen in a game, but Gonzales has continually talked throughout the offseason about taking defenses out of position to create and exploit better matchups for his playmakers.

SCHEDULE: The Lobos begin the season with three straight home games. Gonzales has plans for special events at the games.

“That might be the best home season in September since probably 1981 when we beat BYU,” he said.

Against UTEP on Sept. 17, UNM will honor three teams from the past, including its 1962 UNM team that won the Western Athletic Conference championship. The 1982 team, the only 10-win team in program history, will also be celebrated, as will the 1997 team on which Gonzales played. The 1997 team reached a bowl game for the first time in 51 years.

September’s road schedule features UNM’s game at LSU on Sept. 24 and at UNLV Sept. 30.

The 112th meeting of the Rio Grande Rivalry between New Mexico and New Mexico State will kick off at 6 pm in Las Cruces on Oct. 15, the Aggies announced on Tuesday. No TV information for the game has been announced as of yet.

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