Lobo safeties Reed, Combs expect big, busy 2022 seasons - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo safeties Reed, Combs expect big, busy 2022 seasons

UNM’s Jerrick Reed II (9) plays defense against sophomore wide receiver Luke Wysong (15) during football practice Saturday. (Chancey Bush/ Albuquerque Journal)

Shortly after safeties Jerrick Reed II and Tavian Combs were told that they were the University of New Mexico’s top tacklers during a media interview, Reed immediately offered a correction.

“Stop,” Reed said in a playful tone. “I was the top tackler.”

Reed recorded 89 total tackles, 54 unassisted after playing every game for the 3-9 Lobos. Combs, in his second year, finished with 81 total tackles, 40 unassisted. He played in 11 of 12 games.

The two safeties know they will be expected to make just as many tackles this season, which began with practices on Friday and Saturday. To prepare for the role, Combs added 20 pounds of muscle during the offseason.

“It’s the standard,” Reed said of the safeties making tackles in Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 defense. “People look at you to be that guy, you have to be that guy. You can’t slack off because everybody will notice. Every day you gotta come in and work hard. Have the right mind-set, film study, eat right, take care of your body so that you can stay on top of your game and be that guy when your play is called.”

Reed, a preseason All-Mountain West Conference pick for the second straight season, arrived at UNM in 2019, when the Lobos struggled mightily against the pass, the deep ball especially. The Lobos allowed 321.4 yards passing yards per game and ranked 130th and last in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

But in 2021, UNM allowed 219.8 passing yards per game to rank 54th, its best passing defense since 2010 when the unit was ranked 53rd at 218.8 yards per game.

“It’s been night and day for sure,” Reed said. “It was bad then, it’s good now and we’re gonna be better when the season comes.”

UNM junior Tavian Combs (7) tackles Geordon Potter during football practice on Saturday. Combs is known as the Lobo safety. (Chancey Bush/ Journal)

When Combs arrived in Albuquerque in 2020, it didn’t take him long to earn a starting spot. Even with the challenges the pandemic produced, he continually excelled over the past two seasons.

“The playing time has helped me a lot,” said Combs, known as the “Lobo” safety in Long’s scheme. “At first I thought you can come in and gain a lot of knowledge and experience right at the start. But now being a two-year starter I’ve seen that experience really matters. So being on the field a lot has helped me develop other ways I didn’t think I could.”

The Lobos have great depth among their defensive backs. Combs expects that freshmen and inexperienced players will need to contribute.

Freshman safety Jer’Marius Lewis of Summit, Mississippi, might need to make plays right away instead of take a redshirt season. The same goes for freshman cornerback Zach Morris of Flower Mound, Texas.

Reed knows this is his final season with the Lobos. He senses it can be a special one because he already has great familiarity with the defense and fellow safeties Combs and Ronald Wilson.

“I know what he’s gonna do and he knows what I’m gonna do,” Reed said of the safeties. “I know that he knows what he’s doing. It’s that chemistry, that relationship, that communication level is gonna make us great.”

PLAYER MOVEMENT: Keyonta Lanier, who had five catches for 87 yards and one touchdown as a freshman last season, is no longer on the team due to a violation of team rules, UNM coach Danny Gonzales said Saturday. Gonzales declined to elaborate and Lanier did as well, when contacted on social media. Earlier Saturday, Lanier tweeted that he will be entering the transfer portal.

Lanier, who prepped at Long Beach Poly in California, appeared in nine games and started two. Lanier missed spring football with the Lobos due to academics.

“During the spring, there were things he had to live up to and expectations to meet,” Gonzales said. “He got himself eligible and then violation of team rules. It was my decision.”

Avery Burt, a defensive lineman from Contra Costa College, arrived in Albuquerque three days ago and practiced with the Lobos on Friday.

Burt, 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, began his college career at the University of Oregon in 2018.

“He’s got a motor,” Gonzales said. “He can move.”

Gonzales added that the Lobos are close to securing another transfer defensive lineman.

“We’ll see if we can get his stuff done in the next couple days,” Gonzales said. “If we can’t, then it’s too hard to come in super late and have a chance to compete this year.”

QB UPDATE: Redshirt freshman quarterback CJ Montes and sophomore transfer Justin Holaday (Fresno City College) performed well Friday, Gonzales said, while senior transfer Miles Kendrick (Kansas) “made some big throws” on Saturday.

“I think those three, they’ve taken the brunt of the reps,” Gonzales said. “It’s almost impossible to tell without pads on because there’s not nearly as many collisions in front of them with the interaction on the outside. It’ll be next week before we see anything significant.”

Kendrick, deemed fully healthy after breaking a leg last fall, has the most experience in terms of NCAA FBS games than the other QBs, playing in 17 with four starts.

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