1st and Ten – The
Education of Kole McKamey Continues – Although Lobo QB Kole McKamey
missed the last few games of the season with a back injury, it was
another solid season for the Lobo QB. Throughout his first two years as
starter, McKamey’s growth was evident throughout each game. In 2004, he
was probably a much better runner than he was a passer, but in 2005, he
started to show his acumen throwing the football, making the Lobo
offense that much more diverse. Alongside former star RB DonTrell
Moore, McKamey wasn’t typically the focus of opposing defenses, but as
the year progressed, opponents couldn’t sell out to stop Moore as
McKamey hurt them with an option here or a throw to Hank Baskett there.
He progressed so far as a throwing quarterback that his completion
percentage rose from 49% all the way to 62% and his touchdown to
interception ratio went from being a ‘negative’ rating to being above 1
(6 to 9 in 2004 vs. 13 to 9 in 2005). So, in 2006, McKamey is going to
be a marked man, but he also gets some help from a former Pac-10 head
coach. Former UCLA head man Bob Toledo returns to the college game as
the offensive coordinator to assist the Lobo QB in his pursuit of All-MWC
honors and another bowl game. Toledo may not want to run the option as
much as the Lobos have in the past as a way to keep McKamey healthy, but
also to maximize
the progress that he’s made in the passing game over the past three
years. A running threat must emerge to replace DonTrell Moore and the
offensive line must keep #12 upright in the pocket, but if they do that,
the Lobos will benefit from the ‘schooling’ of K Mc.
2nd and Seven –
Blackout – One definite that head coach Rocky Long has established
in Albuquerque is that his defense will hit someone in the face for a
full 60 minutes. Outside linebacker Quincy Black epitomizes that trait,
and then some. The senior is everything you could ask for in an outside
linebacker – fast, nasty and physical, as he has the physical gifts to
be a dominant player in this conference. He finished last year with 63
tackles, but with his speed and aggressiveness, he should be able to
pile up nearly triple digits this season. He can be a defensive game
changer, and the Lobos will need more of that in 2006.
3rd and Three –
Wright-handed – Safeties come in so many shapes and sizes nowadays.
Some are 6’3”, 225 pound Sean Taylor types. Some are long and lanky
like Pat Watkins of Florida State. Some are stout, aggressive types
who’ll knock you into next week, like Troy Polamalu or in the college
game, LaRon Landry of LSU. The Lobos have a corner sized safety DeAndre
Wright who was a former running back in high school. See, it takes all
types. As a third year sophomore, Wright only started the last half of
the year, but he made an impact with his versatility. He finished the
year with 4 sacks, quite impressive for a safety, and is a perfect
component for Long’s varied blitzing scheme. This young man is
definitely worth watching in 2006.
4th and One – Open
Auditions – This will be a key year for the Lobos in the MWC.
Although the Lobos finished with 6 wins last year, they weren’t invited
to a bowl game and lose some major players off of last year’s team.
Four time All-MWC RB and MWC offensive player of the year RB DonTrell
Moore is out of eligibility. And, so is All-MWC WR Hank Baskett. All-MWC
center Ryan Cook and offensive tackle Terrance Pennington have moved on
as well. Those are huge holes to fill, obviously, but made even more
important by the fact that the MWC isn’t going to wait for the Lobos to
get caught back up. Utah and TCU were magnificent in 2004 and 2005,
respectively, and the conference, as a whole, is getting better, so Long
and his staff must find replacements for Moore and company quickly.