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2008 New Mexico Preview - Offense
New Mexico QB Donovan Porterie
New Mexico QB Donovan Porterie
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 9, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - New Mexico Lobo Offense

New Mexico Lobos

Preview 2008 - Offense


- 2008 CFN New Mexico Preview | 2008 New Mexico Offense
- 2008 New Mexico Defense
| 2008 New Mexico Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN New Mexico Preview
| 2006 CFN New Mexico Preview 

What you need to know:
The offense might not have put up huge yards, and it struggled to get points on the board, but it was effective enough to do what was needed to win nine games and has just enough pieces in place to be a lot better. It starts in the backfield with QB Donovan Porterie ready to have a huge season now that he has two years of experience and with the same offense in place. RB Rodney Ferguson is a big, pounding runner who'll gain 1,000 yards for the third year in a row if he stays healthy. The offensive line loses four starters, but it should be fine if the JUCO transfers play as well as expected and if redshirt freshman Byron Bell is as good as advertised. The biggest issue is a receiving corps with no real returning production with Marcus Smith and Travis Brown gone.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Donovan Porterie
244-418, 3,006 yds, 15 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Rodney Ferguson
292 carries, 1,177 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: Roland Bruno
21 catches, 186 yds, 0 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Rodney Ferguson
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior WR Jermaine McQueen
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman OT Byron Bell
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Chris Mark
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Ferguson, 2) QB Donovan Porterie, 3) C Erik Cook
Strength of the offense: Running backs, Donovan Porterie
Weakness of the offense:
Receiving corps, consistency

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: This is the year for junior Donovan Porterie to go from being an exciting, emerging prospect to a Mountain West all-star who can carry is team to big things. With good 6-3, 206-pound size and good passing skills, he threw for 3,006 yards and 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. While the stats are nice, they don't show how good he is in the clutch. Poised beyond his years, he's able to play well under pressure and make things happen when he absolutely has to. While he's not a runner, he's mobile enough to take off from time to time and is just quick enough to make defenses pay attention to him. As his career has gone on, he's starting to take on a folk hero quality, but he has to be consistent from one week to the next.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-2, 225-pound redshirt freshman Brad Gruner was the team's star recruit last season after leading his Chandler High team to the Arizona state championship after coming back from a torn up knee. He's an accurate passer with a big arm, but he's not going to run too often. When given a chance, he'll grow into a big-game passer who can push the passing game deep.

Watch Out For ... Porterie to be special. Now that he has had the same offense and the same coaches for two years in a row, and with three years of experience, he's ready to break out and be a major Mountain West star.
Strength
:
Passers. Porterie was great last year at cranking out yards, and Gruner will be a great one after he gets his feet wet. The passing game should be fine if some decent receivers emerge.
Weakness
:
Proven backups. There aren't any. Porterie has been the main man with the only other quarterback with playing experience gone.
Outlook: As long as Porterie is consistent and if he can get his completion percentage up to around 60%, he should make everyone around him better. The problem is a receiving corps without any stars or any real experience, so if Porterie isn't on, there will be a huge drop from last year when the offense cranked out 3,070 yards of passing offense.
Rating: 7


Running Backs


Projected Starters: New Mexico always has a productive back, and it has a star in senior Rodney Ferguson, who's coming off his second straight 1,000-yard season rushing for 1,177 yards and 13 touchdowns. The 6-0, 229-pounder isn't going to tear off many big runs, and he only averages about four yards per carry, but he's a workhorse who can catch the ball out of the backfield and is a 100-yard machine hitting mark in 13 of his last 16 games. His biggest issue is the classroom; he has to find it. He'll be the star of the ground game again, but he was academically ineligible for the New Mexico Bowl win over Nevada and has to work his way back to being the No. 1 man on the depth chart. That'll take about ten minutes.

6-0, 250-pound senior Matt Quillen returns to his fullback slot for the third straight season. A devastating blocker who opens up huge holes for the ground game, he's a big hitter; that's it. He can be used in the offense, but he isn't with just four carries for four yards last season along with eight catches for 44 yards. He could grow into more of a short-yardage running role.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Paul Baker it the speed to go along with Rodney Ferguson's power. With Ferguson out of the New Mexico Bowl, Baker stepped up tearing off 167 yards on just 22 carries to finish with 465 yards on the year. He averaged only 4.3 yards per carry and didn't get in the end zone, but he proved to be a good second back who offers a different look to the offense. He hasn't busted off anything too big over the last few years and needs to actually hit a home run or two to get more playing time.

Ready to make an impact is redshirt freshman James Wright with a good combination of power and speed. He fits the offense and is exactly what a New Mexico back looks like. While he's the third man in the mix, plug him in and get 100 yards. He'll be a major factor sooner than later.

6-2, 235-pound sophomore fullback Josh Fussell isn't nearly the same blocker as Quillen, but he's a good receiver catching four passes for 46 yards with a 36-yard touchdown pass against New Mexico State. He also got six carries as a short yardage runner.

Watch Out For ... Wright and Mike Love. The two young runners have all the talent and all the skills to make the Lobo running game even better. Ferguson is a sure-thing and Baker is a nice change-of-pace back. The more Wright and Love can provide, the fresher everyone else will be.
Strength
:
The system. Yeah, the Lobos finished 78th in the nation and seventh in the Mountain West in rushing, but the stats are misleading. Any back working behind the big line gains 100 yards.
Weakness
:
Big runs. The ground game is the definition of plodding. Forgetting about all the sacks taking yards away, UNM still struggled too much to bust off big gains averaging just 3.5 yards per carry with the longest run just 37 yards.
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 and academically eligible. There are other options with Baker bringing the speed and new faces to the mix Wright and Love each able to shine if given the opportunity. The backs are better than the overall numbers will be.
Rating: 7.5


Receivers


Projected Starters: With Marcus Smith and Travis Brown gone, there's a big opening for the No. 1 receiver; and a No. 2. Looking to take over at the X is 6-3,185-pound sophomore Chris Hernandez, a little-used spot starter who caught two passes for 22 yards, both coming against UTEP. With good hands and just good enough speed, he should be serviceable from the start, but it's asking a lot to replace Smith's 91 catches for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns.

6-2, 180-pound senior Jermaine McQueen might be the team's fastest player, but he hasn't shown it yet on the field making eight catches for 44 yards. He has one fundamental flaw: he can't catch. He's a deep threat who has a hard time hanging on to the deep passes, so he'll mostly be used on short throws to get him into the open so he can try to break a big gain.

At New Mexico's T position will be Roland Bruno, one of the few players with any returning production finishing third on the team with 21 catches for 186 yards last year. The junior, who came to New Mexico to run track, is a smallish 5-10, 166-pound former walk-on who was a shocker as the season went on becoming more and more productive before making five grabs for 86 yards against Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl. He's a quick target who finds ways to get open, but he has to get healthy after getting banged up in spring ball.

6-5, 257-pound senior Chris Mark is back after starting 11 games and catching 12 passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns. He has a great combination of skills with good athleticism and excellent hands, and he's strong around the goal line. The key will be to get him the ball more; he was underutilized last year as a short-to-midrange target. A good blocker, he's a positive for the running game. 

Projected Top Reserves: How quickly can sophomore Bryant Williams be ready? The star of the recruiting class, the JUCO transfer from Coffeyville CC in Kansas didn't do too much at the lower level, being stuck on a running team, making just 14 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown, but his potential is limitless with great quickness and agility in a 5-11, 180-pound frame. He might need a year, but he'll eventually be a game-breaker.

Trying to replace Brown at the inside Z will be junior Daryl Jones, but he'll have a huge fight on his hands to get the job. At 6-3 and 207 pounds he's a big, imposing target, but he only has four career receptions. He has the size, the speed, and the skills, but he's still unpolished and he needs to be a better, crisper route runner.

Behind Chris Mark at tight end will once again be 6-3, 249-pound junior Mitch Straub, a tough blocking transfer from Kansas State who won't be involved in the passing game but will be big for the ground attack. Originally a defensive player, he brings that physical play to the offense.

Watch Out For ... Williams. It might not happen right away, but at some point this year the top recruit needs to break out and be the playmaker the passing game will likely be missing.
Strength
:
Mark. He's a prototype tight end who should be a more featured playmaker in the offense now that new targets are needed. He's a big, tough receiver with the skills to catch 40 passes if used right.
Weakness
:
Returning production. Marcus Smith and Travis Brown combined to catch 167 passes for 2,156 yards and ten touchdowns. The rest of the team, not just the receiving corps, caught 86 passes for 814 yards and six scores.
Outlook: Can you say starting from scratch? If you're on the roster as a receiver, you'll get a chance to see meaningful playing time. The tight ends should be more prominently featured, but a few deep receivers have to emerge. Most importantly, there needs to be a good rotation of players to make up for the loss of Smith and Brown.
Rating: 5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The line is undergoing an overhaul losing four of the five starters. That means junior center Eric Cook, who took over a starting spot at left tackles in the third game of the year, needs to be a steadying force up front and a nearly flawless quarterback on the line calls. At 6-6 and 312 pounds, he's one of the line's biggest players and is versatile enough to slip into any position in the front five.

Junior Ivan Hernandez will get the first look at replacing Devin Clark at left tackle after seeing a little bit of playing time in three games. The 6-6, 295-pound former JUCO transfer is still a bit raw, but he's finally over the knee problems that limited him a few years ago. He's not going to be a mauler, but he should be a decent pass protector right away.

The new star should be 6-5, 296-pound redshirt freshman Byron Bell, but he has to stay academically eligible. He got through his freshman season, but this can't be an issue; he's too good. He's great on the move and he should be the anchor of the line at right tackle as the year goes on. A top prospect and a great get for the program, he's the one everything will eventually revolve around.

Stepping in at left guard will be 6-3, 302-pound sophomore Mike Cannon after seeing a little bit of action as a reserve. Able to play either guard or tackle, he's better suited for the inside after getting bigger and strong over the last few years. He's not a bad athlete, but he'll be better in the smaller space.

Sophomore Derek Tallent is a versatile 6-4, 309-pound prospect who needs as much playing time as possible. Well past the knee injury that sidelined him late in high school, he has worked hard in the weight room and has seen plenty of practice action over the past few seasons. While he could play center, he's needed at right guard.

Projected Top Reserves: JUCO All-American Ben Contreras was one of the team's top recruits and should figure into the starting mix sooner than later. The 6-2, 300-pounder is a top center who'll get every shot at winning the starting job in the middle. If he can prove he can handle the work, that'll allow the versatile Erik Cook to move to the weakest spot on the line.

6-2, 320-pound JUCO transfer Joshua Taufalele is one of the line's biggest players and a possible instant starter at right guard. A great high school player, he's big, tough, and should be a devastating run blocker wherever he ends up.

Former JUCO transfer Sylvester Hatten started early on last year at left tackle before getting banged up. At 6-3 and 308 pounds he's a big blocker who was an all-star at guard in the JUCO ranks and can be moved around where needed.

6-3, 321-pound Matt Streid was supposed to be a starter somewhere on the line but was ineligible and missed the whole year. The senior is versatile enough to step out and play tackle, but with his bulk he's far better at guard where he'll combine with Mike Cannon on the left side.

Watch Out For ... the line to not be all that bad. Normally losing four starters off a line would be devastating, but the JUCO transfers and the expected emergence of a few young players should keep things from falling apart.
Strength
:
Size. As always, New Mexico's offensive line is massive. It's not the ridiculously girthy group of past seasons, but it's a typical big Lobo front five that should do a better job of moving earth than it did last year.
Weakness
:
Experience. There are plenty of options and a lot of good prospects, but there are also plenty of ifs. There's only one sure thing up front, and that's Erik Cook. He might not even stay at center.
Outlook: The line was awful two years ago and struggled in the running game last year. Now the Lobos have to deal with the loss of four starters, but there's a chance for a bit of an upgrade if everything breaks right. There's a talent adjustment with some star JUCO transfers coming in, and there are three extremely promising underclassmen in Byron Bell, Derek Tallent and Mike Cannon to build around. With no seniors among the projected starters, this group will have this year to jell before rocking in 2009.
Rating: 6

 

  

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2008 New Mexico Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 9, 2008
2008 CFN New Mexico Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 9, 2008
2008 New Mexico Preview – Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 9, 2008








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