2014 CFN Preview - New Mexico Lobos
New Mexico RB Jhurell Pressley
New Mexico RB Jhurell Pressley
Posted Jun 15, 2014

CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2014 - New Mexico should be much, much better than it was in 2013. It has to be. (Getty Images)

New Mexico Lobos

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Bob Davie
3rd year: 7-18
8th year overall: 42-43
Returning Lettermen
Off. 21, Def. 24, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Lobo Players
1. QB Cole Gautsche, Jr.
2. LB Dakota Cox, Soph.
3. DE Brett Bowers, Sr.
4. C LaMar Bratton, Sr.
5. KR/WR Carlos Wiggins, Jr.
6. RB Jhurell Pressley, Jr.
7. OT Johnny Vizcaino, Jr.
8. SS David Guthrie, Sr.
9. QB Clayton Mitchem, Sr.
10. DT Cole Juarez, Jr.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 UTEP
Sep. 6 Arizona State
Sep. 20 at NMSU
Sep. 27 Fresno State
Oct. 4 at UTSA
Oct. 11 San Diego State
Oct. 18 at Air Force
Nov. 1 at UNLV
Nov. 8 Boise State
Nov. 15 at Utah State
Nov. 22 at Colorado State
Nov. 29 Wyoming

2013 isn't going to work for head coach Bob Davie.

The Mike Locksley era was among the all-time disasters, failing to do much of anything right with no offense and a miserable defense that couldn't stop anyone. He went 2-26, bottoming out in 2010 scoring just 190 points and giving up 532. Davie entered the picture in 2012 and brought in a steady hand as his Lobos went 4-9, but were competitive losing five games by seven points or fewer.

In 2013, the offense might have been better than 2010 New Mexico, but the 513 points allowed by a supposedly good defense that had the potential to do far more was the real problem.

New Mexico might not have been a Mountain West superpower under Rocky Long, but bowl games became a regular thing and at least the program had an identity. Davie is still trying to find that as he continues to rebuild.

Just when it seemed like positive things were about to come, star quarterback Cole Gautsche went down and out last season with a reported concussion, and the bad year was made worse. This offseason, with several promising options and playmakers returning, top running back Crusoe Gongbay and defensive back SaQwan Edwards faced rape charges, and with the case still going, their futures are still up in the air.

New Mexico hasn't had any positive continuity or much in the way of luck over the last few years, and now Davie has to hope to catch a break soon.

The team and the coaching staff have to make their own positive things happen, and it has to start on D. Davie knows how to handle a defense, but his Lobos couldn't stop anyone through the air, and they couldn't get off the field.

Dead last in the nation in pass efficiency defense, second-to-last in pass efficiency defense, 118th in scoring – the defense didn't work. The offense continued with its rushing groove, but the passing game didn't help the cause, and when the defense was giving up points in bunches, a grinding ground game with no air help was no way to navigate through the Mountain West to try to keep up the pace.

Davie is too good a coach for the team to be this bad. But if the defense isn't night-and-day stronger, the program won't be, either.

What to watch for on offense: If you're going to be a running team, you need to be absolutely dominant. For the most part, the Lobos did the job on the ground averaging 6.14 yards per carry with 3,706 yards and 40 touchdowns on the year. However, having the nation's fourth-best ground game didn't equate to wins because the defense couldn't come up with stops. It would be nice to have more of a passing game and more downfield plays after an inconsistent year throwing the ball, but the backs need to come through despite all the uncertainty about the pecking order. The offensive line should be good, there are quick options in the backfield, and Cole Gautsche is back and ready to roll again at quarterback. Now the ground attack has to go from great to totally dominant to bail out the D.

What to watch for on defense: The recruiting class needs to provide some instant help for the 3-4. After allowing over 3,000 rushing yards, 40 touchdowns and 6.2 yards per carry, the line needed some tweaking, and the coaching staff went hard for the instant fix. There was a pass rush from end Brett Bowers, but not much else. Enter JUCO transfer Cole Juarez, a 6-2, 310-pound nose tackle from Riverside CC, and defensive tackles Taylor Timmons and Jack Ziltz, two big bodies that Davie plans on sticking on the inside right away. The team's two best recruits by far are defensive linemen, too, getting Aaron Jenkins out of Dallas as an eventual starting tackle and Garrett Hughes out of California to push for time on the end right away.

The team will be far better if … the defense could come up with a third down stop. More of a passing game has to be a part of the equation, and the run defense has to tighten up in a huge way, but overall, the D just has to be able to get off the field after allowing teams to convert almost half of their third down chances while doing whatever they wanted down the field. The run D might have been awful, but in key moments the secondary was worse. Opposing quarterbacks hit on a whopping 68% of their throws with 30 touchdown passes. Meanwhile, the Lobo defense came up with just four picks and almost never came through on long drives. The offense will do its part by hanging on to the ball, but now the defense has to make use of the rest.

The schedule: The Lobos don't have to leave the state of New Mexico until October, with three of the first four games at home and the other on the road at New Mexico State after a week off to prepare for the rivalry game. Can the Lobos start out the year with a big win against UTEP at home? They'll have to with Arizona State to follow. And then it's time to pack the bags with five road games in a seven date stretch before closing out the year with Wyoming. Unfortunately, the games against the West aren't easy, facing Fresno State and San Diego State to go along with a road game at UNLV, and while getting Boise State at home helps, going to Utah State and Colorado State in back-to-back November weeks could be a disaster.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Cole Gautsche. He's back after getting knocked out late last season, and he has a clean bill of health and is ready to go. Big, mobile and productive, he has good speed in the open field and has the tools to be better as a passer – now he has to be more efficient. He has to utilize his weapons down the field better and has to start taking advantage of defenses cheating up to stop the run, but when he's 100%, he has the ability to carry the offense.

Best defensive player: Sophomore LB Dakota Cox. The line didn't do its job, and the secondary allowed way too many deep plays, but Cox did his part to fill in the gaps as the team's leading tackler and run stopper. He didn't do anything to get into the backfield, and he wasn't disruptive, but he ate up everything that came his way and showed that he's a tackler and tough player to build around.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore DT Dominic Twitty. He'll get a big push from JUCO transfers Cole Juarez, Taylor Timmons and Jack Ziltz, but no matter who ends up working on the nose, the production has to be far better. The Lobos need an anchor to work around, and far too often opposing offenses had no problems pounding away in the middle. Twitty is more of a 3-technique than a nose, but he'll be asked to make a big impact after redshirting last year.

The season will be a success if … the Lobos win five games. The schedule is too daunting in the midsection and there are too many tough road games to hope for a big breakthrough year, but if the defense can just be a wee bit better, and the key parts can stay healthy on offense, there's a chance to get by UTEP, at New Mexico State, at UTSA and Wyoming. Win those four, come up with an upset along the way, and all of a sudden there's hope for the future.

Key game: Aug. 30 vs. UTEP. When we last saw New Mexico, it was losing its final three games of last season by a combined score of 180 to 87 to close out a brutal 1-6 run. One of the few bright spots on the year was a Week 2 win at UTEP, and now that the matchup is at home to kick off the season, the Lobos have to start out with a win or else it could be next to impossible to think about a winning season.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Rushing Yards: New Mexico 3,706 – Opponents 3,086
- Time of Possession: New Mexico 32:21 – Opponents 27:37
- Interceptions Thrown: New Mexico 5 – Opponents 4

-  2014 New Mexico Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players