Gonzales reveals shakeups to UNM football coaching staff - Albuquerque Journal

Gonzales reveals shakeups to UNM football coaching staff

New University of New Mexico offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent speaks at a Monday news conference at the L.F. “Tow” Diehm Athletics Facility as he and three other offensive assistant coaches are introduced. (The birthday cake commemorates the 47th birthday of UNM head coach Danny Gonzales, left.)
Chancey Bush/Journal

In a new year, New Mexico football’s staff has a few new faces.

Fourth-year head coach Danny Gonzales announced on Friday that Cornelius Williams, Cam Blankenship and Joe Scelfo have joined UNM’s offensive staff as position coaches. Working under new offensive coordinator and former UAB interim head coach Bryant Vincent, the four new hires are tasked with repairing a Lobo offense that finished dead last in total offense with 228.1 yards per game.

“We’ve got some rock stars, in both recruiting and what they’ve done on the field,” Gonzales said of the recent additions. “The idea is to keep them here for a long time.”

Of the three new assistants, all have worked or played under Vincent in the past.

After playing right guard under Vincent at UAB and South Alabama from 2012-2015, Blankenship is set to replace Jason Lenzmeier as offensive line coach after serving in the same role last season at UAB.

In his lone season as a position coach, Blankenship coached an offensive line that featured two All-Conference USA First Team linemen while paving the way for 235.6 rushing yards per game. The Benjamin Russell High, Alabama product previously worked as an assistant strength coach with the Blazers before being promoted to an active coaching role prior to the 2022 season.

Scelfo replaces former offensive coordinator Derek Warehime as the Lobos’ new tight ends coach. As a center for South Alabama from 2013-15, he played right next to Blankenship for one season under Vincent before moving on to North Carolina State as a graduate transfer and later signing an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans.

With prior stops as a graduate assistant at North Carolina State and center and guards coach at Southeast Louisiana, Scelfo comes to Albuquerque by way of Gardner-Webb University, where he worked as an offensive line coach and run- game coordinator for the previous two seasons.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs qualified for the FCS playoffs for the first time in 2022 with an offense that averaged 32.5 points per game.

“To get both of those guys on the same staff at the same time with the chemistry that they have, I’d put it up against anybody,” Vincent said of Blankenship and Scelfo.

Rounding out the new hires, Williams will replace Brandon Blackmon as receivers coach. The former Troy receiver served in the same role under Vincent at UAB in 2014 and with his alma mater from 2015-2020 before assuming the same role at Auburn for the 2021 season. Williams was dismissed four games into his tenure with the Tigers and moved on to serve as an offensive analyst with Alabama for the 2022 season.

“My goal was always for us to get back together because of the man he is and the leader he is.,” Vincent said of Williams. “And when we can get all these guys on the same staff, I feel like we’ve got a dynamite staff – without a doubt.”

Despite the shakeup, the Lobos did retain two offensive assistants. Former interim offensive coordinator and Cleveland Storm head coach Heath Ridenour is set to serve as a co-quarterbacks coach while Jamie Christian will continue as running backs coach and special teams coordinator.

FROM THE PORTAL: Less than one day after entering the NCAA’S transfer portal, Dylan Hopkins has found a home.

Gonzales announced on Friday that the former UAB and Maryville High School (Tennessee) QB will transfer to New Mexico as a redshirt senior. A 10-game starter in 2022, Hopkins threw for 1,913 yards, 10 touchdowns and 4 interceptions as a redshirt junior at UAB en route to a 7-6 season.

For his part, Gonzales praised the addition and said it’s “significant” for Hopkins to already have a grasp on Vincent’s offense ahead of the start of spring practice on Feb. 13. But despite the connection, Vincent promised an open competition for the starting job in the spring and fall among a quarterbacks room he believes could be among the best he’s ever worked with.

“We’re always going to play the best player because we’re always going to do right by the kids in this program, but the best player’s gonna play,” he said. “And Dylan knows, if he doesn’t come and bring it every single day, he gives up the opportunity.”

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