For those who’d like to see the ground-oriented New Mexico Lobos throw the football around like Baylor or Washington State, tonight just might be your chance.
The Lobos will conduct their 15th and final spring practice this evening with a session expected to include plenty of footballs in the air.
The public is invited at no charge, and coach Bob Davie – greatly encouraged by the work of his quarterbacks and receivers in workouts one through 14 – wants to see how they perform in front of an audience.
He’s also eager to see how his re-formatted secondary, with five defensive backs instead of four, reacts to the air assault.
“I’m kind of anxious for (tonight),” Davie said. “We’re gonna try to throw and catch with people in the stands, see if we can play some man-to-man coverage, see if guys can cover guys.”
The No. 1 story this spring has been the contest at quarterback between incumbent starter Lamar Jordan and transfer Austin Apodaca, a record-setting Colorado high school passer who came to UNM from Washington State by way of Mesa (Ariz.) Community College.
Apodaca has not disappointed. The velocity on his throws came as a shock to the Lobos’ receivers, though they gradually have adjusted. Apodaca has appeared comfortable running with the ball, as well, though quarterbacks have not been tackled to the ground.
Jordan, however, remains clearly in charge of the first-team offense. Beginning his third season in UNM’s system, his running ability is a given and his passing clearly has improved.
“I knew Lamar Jordan would be a guy that wouldn’t back down,” Davie said. “He just has that kind of personality.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback JaJuan Lawson, Davie said, has had a solid spring as well. Davie noted that Lawson, as the No. 3, is in the same position Jordan was entering the 2014 season. Then, because of injuries to starter Cole Gautsche and uneven play by backup Clayton Mitchem, Jordan became No. 1.
Davie has challenged his receiving corps this spring, mentioning more than once that UNM signed four wide receivers in its 2015 signing class.
The receivers – wideouts and tight ends – appear to have responded well. During Wednesday’s practice, senior Marquis Bundy caught two touchdown passes. Lawson, beating a safety blitz, hit tight end Chris Edling for a long TD.
Senior wideout Carlos Wiggins and junior Dameon Gamblin have had productive springs, Davie said.
When tonight’s focus is not on the passing game, it will shift mostly to special teams.
The Lobos are set on kickoff return with Wiggins and Ridge Jones, who both returned kicks for touchdowns last season. But auditions still are being held for a punt returner.
“We’ve been so poor on punt return,” Davie said.
Wiggins, he said, wants the job. But there are several other candidates.
Davie also wants to see if sophomore kicker Jason Sanders is ready to take the field-goal duties away from incumbent Zack Rogers.
“I think Jason Sanders has been really impressive, really impressive,” Davie said. “He’s got a strong, long leg.”
Rogers, who Davie said is nursing a calf injury, seems certain to retain the punting duties he handled last season.
The Lobos will do some tackle-to-the-ground scrimmaging, Davie said, but mostly involving backups.