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Football: Lees take crash course on Lobos’ ‘D’

Inside linebacker Chris Lee runs through drills on the first practice of the 2014 camp for the New Mexico Lobos. Lee is a 6-1, 250-pound transfer from Laney College. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Inside linebacker Chris Lee runs through drills on the first practice of the 2014 camp for the New Mexico Lobos. Lee is a 6-1, 250-pound transfer from Laney College. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

This fall, when University of New Mexico defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove yells “Hey, Lee,” at UNM football practices, two heads will turn.

Before the fall is over, Chris Lee and Lee Crosby hope to turn a few heads themselves.

For now, they’re keeping their heads down and learning as much as they can as fast as they can.

Lee, an inside linebacker, and Crosby, a cornerback, are two of 11 junior college transfers UNM signed in February. Seven of those play on defense, a unit that last year gave up averages of 516 yards and 42.8 points per game.

In the offseason, Lobos coach Bob Davie has stressed the need for more size, strength and maturity on defense.

Lee and Crosby clearly fill those needs.

Crosby stands 5-foot-11 and weighs a solid 190 pounds. Lee, listed at 6-1 and 250, is the Lobos’ heaviest linebacker. Both are 2011 high school graduates.

“I think I can come in and help the team,” said Crosby, a junior transfer from Baltimore by away of Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, after Thursday’s first practice of the preseason. “… I’m working hard to pick up as much as I can, as best I can from the other guys.

“They’ve been helping me a lot through the whole process.”

Crosby waited until signing day, Feb. 5, before deciding between New Mexico and Wyoming. He went with UNM, he said, because the Lobos’ coaching staff “respected me and showed me a lot of love from the beginning. I felt at home since they first started recruiting me. It was a perfect fit.”

UNM’s Lee Crosby (5) talks with Cranston Jones during practice on Thursday. Crosby, a cornerback, has transferred from Snow College. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

UNM’s Lee Crosby (5) talks with Cranston Jones during practice on Thursday. Crosby, a cornerback, has transferred from Snow College. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Lee, a junior transfer from Laney College in his hometown of Oakland, Calif., had an offer from Arizona State but signed with New Mexico instead.

“I felt that New Mexico just showed me the most love,” he said. “Coach Davie and coach Cosgrove and all the coaching staff, they made me feel right at home as soon as they got here on my visit, so I feel like this is the right place for me.”

Crosby and Lee enrolled at UNM this summer, and neither had the benefit of participating in spring practice. Davie said both players face an uphill climb in learning the defense, “particularly at the positions that a Lee Crosby or a Chris Lee play. Having that spring practice, particularly at those perimeter positions, is key.”

Like Crosby, Lee said his more experienced teammates have gone out of their way to help him.

“I’m just trying to help my team get some wins,” he said. “Anything I can (do) to help out.”

JUCO-BOUND: Two Albuquerque players who signed with UNM in February, Sandia linebacker Camrron Bean and Valley wide receiver Aaron Molina, did not qualify academically and will play for junior colleges this fall. Bean is headed for Pima Community College in Tucson; Molina will play for Mesa (Ariz.) CC.

ANCHORS AWEIGH: Diquon Woodhouse, a 5-9, 197-pound running back from Altus, Okla., by way of the U.S. Naval Prep School in Newport, R.I., has been given the scholarship vacated by junior college running back Jakari Johnson.

Woodhouse signed with Navy but never made it to Annapolis, Md., and thus will be a true freshman with five years in which to play four seasons.

Johnson, who signed a letter of intent in February, is not on the roster.

As a senior at Altus High School, Woodhouse rushed for 1070 yards on 150 carries. New Mexico had recruited him heavily before he committed to Navy after his senior season.

THEN THERE WERE TWO: Linebacker Toby Ball, who would have been a fifth-year senior this fall, has opted not to play this season after earning his degree. Ball’s exit from the roster leaves only two players – center LaMar Bratton and defensive back Devontah Tabannah – who signed letters of intent in February 2010.

ROSTER UPDATES: New Mexico signed 27 players in February, two over the limit for a single recruiting class. With the absence of Bean, Molina and Johnson and with the addition of Woodhouse, UNM is at the maximum of 25.

… Walk-on quarterback David Vega has eligibility issues and might try to play as a senior elsewhere, Davie said. Vega sat out spring practice with a foot injury.

… Davie said wide receiver Jalyn Judkins, a 2013 signee, is not on the roster and will not return. Judkins left for personal reasons.

… Tight end Christian Rebhun, a 2012 signee, left UNM after the 2014 spring semester. Rebhun suffered a torn ACL during a 2013 preseason practice in Ruidoso.

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