Preview 2007 - Offense
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2006 CFN New Mexico
What you need to know: The offense is scrapping the Bob
Toledo attack and going back to a more basic style that'll pound
the ball more with a big line, but won't forget about balancing
things out through the air. With one of the Mountain West's best
receiving tandems in Travis Brown and Marcus Smith, and a rising
superstar in quarterback Donovan Porterie, the passing game
should shine, while Rodney Ferguson will be a 1,000-yard back.
If injuries are a problem, there will be big troubles with no
developed depth among the skills positions and even less to
count on up front.
Passing: Donovan Porterie
71-133, 967 yds, 6 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Rodney Ferguson
252 carries, 1,234 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Travis Brown
64 catches, 867 yds, 4 TD
Star of the offense: Junior RB Rodney Ferguson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior OT
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Chris Mark
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Devin Clark
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Ferguson, 2) QB Donovan
WR Travis Brown
Strength of the offense: Starting skill players
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive line depth, proven backup
Projected Starter: It took a little while for
sophomore Donovan Porterie to become comfortable this
spring, but he looked the part of a star for the next several
seasons by the end of the session showing better command and
more accuracy. One oft the league's brightest young stars, he's
6-3 and 206 pounds with a live arm and just enough mobility to
move around well under pressure, but he's not a runner. His
stats, completing 53% of pass passes for 967 yards and six
touchdowns with two interceptions, doesn't tell half of the
story. Great at pulling out comeback wins, including three in a
row against UNLV, Utah, and Colorado State, he started to take
on a magical, folk-hero quality before he got dinged up and
missed the final two games of the regular season. Now the job is
all his, and he has to grow into it.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-5, 225-pound senior
Bryan Clampitt is a big, strong emergency option who had a
nice spring. The former walk-on hasn't cemented himself as the
number two man, but he's close.
Freshman Blair Peterson got to school early and got his
chance this spring, but he struggled. Ay 6-4 and 210 pounds,
he's a tall, talented passer who's back after serving an LDS
mission. In time, he'll be a good backup option if he gets
enough reps. That'll be hard with star recruit Brad Gruner
expected to make an impression when he joins the team this
fall. He's a 6-2, 225-pound passer with good accuracy a winning
pedigree having returned from a torn ACL to lead his team to the
Arizona state title last year.
Watch Out For ... Porterie to make big mistakes
here and there, but show something special by the end of the
season. He's on a learning curve, but once he's comfortable,
he'll be lights out.
Strength: Pure passers. There isn't the runner the team
had with Kole McKamey over the last few seasons. Porterie,
Clampitt, Peterson and Gruner are gunners.
Weakness: Proven backups. There aren't any. Clampitt's been in
the system, but the second best option could turn out to be a
Outlook: The offense will have to live through the
inevitable Porterie mistakes to reap a huge reward. He played
beyond his experience last year, and now he'll emerge as one of
the best players in the league. Developing the reserves,
especially the true freshmen, will be vital.
Projected Starters: While he wasn't DonTrell
Moore, junior Rodney Ferguson grew into an
ultra-productive back rushing for 1,234 yards and seven
touchdowns while finishing third with 28 catches for 291 yards
and two scores. At 6-0 and 229 pounds, he's a power runner who
isn't going to show much wiggle, but can burst through a hole
when it opens up. A workhorse who had 20 or more carries in
seven of the final eight games of the year, and 34 for 172 yards
early on against UTEP, he can carry the offense at times. As one
of the biggest hitting backs in the Mountain West, opposing
defenses don't want to see him late in the game.
6-0, 250-pound junior Matt Quillen is back at fullback
after running for 32 yards and catching eight passes for 53
yards. Mostly, he's a blocker for Ferguson who packs a major
wallop for the running game. With decent quickness, he's good at
getting on the move.
Projected Top Reserves: Ferguson will get the bulk
of the workload, but 6-0, 221-pound redshirt freshman Mike
Love will see plenty of carries. The New Mexico high school
star with great speed for his size, he's a tough, smart runner
who fits the profile of the typical big, strong Lobo back.
Third in the rotation will be junior Paul Baker, the
team's second leading rusher with 121 yards on 30 carries. At
5-7 and 195 pounds, he's a speed back who provides the juke and
quickness the other backs don't. The key is getting him on the
move on the outside where he can make things happen. He wasn't
able to bust off anything big last year, but he should provide a
nice change of pace.
Watch Out For ... Love. He's the in-state star who
has all the talent to become another great Lobo back. If he can
provide a little relief so Ferguson doesn't have to do
everything, he'll have earned all the hype.
Strength: Ferguson's dependability. With the offense
focusing even more on overall balance and power, he should put
up huge numbers behind an offensive line that'll pound away for
the ground game on a more regular basis.
Weakness: Proven backups. Even though Love will be the real
deal, he hasn't done it on the field yet. Baker can't handle the
workload on a full time basis.
Outlook: Ferguson is one of the Mountain West's
premier backs and will be a mortal lock for 1,000 yards if he
stays healthy. 1,500 yards is possible unless Love and Baker
prove to be so good that they demand 15 carries a game. No
matter what happens, the running game will be back to New Mexico
standards after finishing 94th in the nation.
Projected Starters: There are better receiving
corps in the Mountain West, but it'll be hard to find a better
1-2 combination than seniors Marcus Smith and Travis
Brown. The 6-3, 189-pound Brown led the team with 64 catches
for 867 yards and four touchdowns, while the 6-2, 214-pound
Smith was a tremendous deep threat averaging 16.2 yards per
catch on 53 grabs with nine touchdowns.
Brown has excellent hands and is a consistent route runner.
While he's not a possession receiver, he's good at making the
key plays and was great at exploding against the top teams
catching 15 passes for 270 yards and two scores against Utah and
BYU. While he's a proven producer in all areas, he's also a
Smith is a former running back who got the hang of the receiver
job right away. With tremendous speed, he exploded at times
throughout last year with five catches for 179 yards and three
scores against New Mexico State and four grabs for 101 yards
against UNLV. Now he has to become more consistent and far more
polished. He disappeared in too many games and isn't nearly the
route runner Brown is.
Stepping into the starting tight end job will be 6-5, 257-pound
junior Chris Mark, who made his only catch count for a
touchdown against San Diego State. He has it all with good size,
nice speed and excellent hands. He's also a willing blocker. Now
he has to show he can do it all when the lights go on.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 207-pound sophomore
Daryl Jones will play behind Brown and will be groomed
for next year's starting job after catching just one pass for 25
yards. He has the combination of size, speed and skills, but he
needs plenty of work on the finer points of being a top
5-11, 198-pound junior Jason Caprioli caught two passes
for 11 yards and now will play behind Smith. The walk-on isn't
going to wow anyone, but he has the potential to become a strong
possession receiver in three-wide sets and always runs the right
routes. He won't remotely push Smith for starting time.
Behind Mark is sophomore Luke Walters, a 6-4, 238-pound
pure receiver who caught one pass for 14 yards. He's working on
his blocking, but he's not anywhere near Mark's level. In time,
he'll become a matchup problem for slower linebackers.
Watch Out For ... Mark to grow into his role as a
top pass catching tight end. He has all the tools, and now in
the new scheme with fewer wide receivers, he'll be a bigger part
of the passing game.
Strength: Brown and Smith. Mr. Consistency and Mr. Deep
Ball form a dangerous combination that'll scare the heck out of
Weakness: Proven backups. Jones has a ton of potential, but he
hasn't done anything yet. Caprioli is strictly a backup. Someone
has to emerge or else the corps will start from scratch going
Outlook: The two stars are back, and there's an
emerging top target at tight end. Between the three, the passing
game will shine, but any injuries would be disastrous
considering there's no developed depth whatsoever.
Projected Starters: The Lobo line struggled last
year, and it had a hard time getting back on track this spring with
several key players banged up. 6-2, 308-pound senior center Vince
Natali is a versatile blocker who missed spring ball with a shoulder
problem. While he wasn't an anchor and struggled in the running game, he
got better as the season went on. As the main man in the middle, he has
to be more consistent and grow into the leadership role.
Also banged up is 6-4, 312 senior tackle Devin Clark, who hurt
his ankle this spring and missed time. The former JUCO transfer has the
talent to become an all-star at right tackle with a sensational
combination of strength, size and athleticism. It took a while, but he
became one of the rocks of the line as the season went on.
Back at left guard is 6-5, 332-pound senior Anthony Kilby after
starting on the line for the last two seasons. With his size, he's one
of the team's best run blockers and the one the offense will work behind
when it needs a hard yard. Not the best athlete, he's good when he
doesn't have to get on the move.
The other two spots are open for battles, with junior Matt Streid
likely to take over the starting left tackle job and senior Bart
Miller working at right guard. Miller has the bigger shoes to fill
replacing all-star Robert Turner, but the 6-4, 295-pound senior has seen
plenty of time on the line at both guard and tackle. Can he stay
healthy? Knee and leg injuries cost him earlier in his career, but he
was able to play throughout last year. Streid can play either tackle or
guard, and while his 6-3, 321-pound size and physical nature makes him a
more natural guard, he should be fine in the rotation at tackle.
Projected Top Reserves: Looking for the starting
left tackle job will be 6-3, 308-pound JUCO transfer Sylvester Hatten,
a massive blocker who could end up moving inside to play guard. He was a
JUCO All-American at guard, but will be tried out behind Streid, if he
doesn't win the starting job.
Also up for a starting gig s 6-6, 312-pound sophomore Erik Cook
after seeing a little bit of action last year. More of a center than a
guard, he played well enough this spring to get a strong look behind
Miller with Natali entrenched in the middle.
Watch Out For ... Clark to be special. He has NFL
written all over him if he can prove he can protect the passer on a
regular basis. He has all the measurables the next level scouts love,
but to be considered a serious prospect, he has to be the star of the
Strength: Size. As always, New Mexico's offensive line
is massive. It's not the ridiculously girthy group of past seasons, but
it averages 314 pounds per starter.
Weakness: Depth. One of the plusses of the spring ball injuries
was the time it allowed several young backups to get, but there are
still three redshirt freshman needing to play big roles along with a
relatively untested sophomore (Cook) and a JUCO transfer (Hatten).
Outlook: The line was awful last season. It did
nothing to keep the quarterbacks clean, and it struggled in the running
game. Blame the scheme. With a bunch of road graders playing in a
finesse offense, it wasn't the right fit. Now the big, bulky line should
be able to do what it does best and slam its way into defenses to pave
the way for the backs. Expect a better year.