2009 New Mexico Preview - Offense
New Mexico C Erik Cook
New Mexico C Erik Cook
Posted May 20, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - New Mexico Lobo Offense

New Mexico Lobos

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN New Mexico Preview | 2009 New Mexico Offense
- 2009 New Mexico Defense
| 2009 New Mexico Depth Chart
- 2008 UNM Preview | 2007 UNM Preview
| 2006 UNM Preview 

What you need to know: The offense wanted to go more to the spread late in the Rocky Long era, and now it's diving in head first under new head coach Mike Locksley, the former offensive coordinator at Illinois. While the Lobos don't have a Juice Williams to do a little of everything under center, Donovan Porterie, despite a disastrous 2008 with no production and a devastating knee injury, is a veteran talent who should do a good job of directing traffic. However, he's not the runner the offense needs meaning Tate Smith and Brad Gruner will factor into the mix. The receiving corps is experienced, but it's not very good, while the backfield is good, but has little experience. Helping the cause will be a strong line that has to make a big adjustment, but has if full of mid-range NFL talent to keep the adjustment period relatively painless. Erik Cook might be the Mountain West's best center, while Byron Bell is on the verge of becoming a special tackle.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Brad Gruner
99-184, 1,037 yds, 3 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: James Wright
54 carries, 348 yards, 2 TD
Receiving: Bryant Williams
36 catches, 272 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Donovan Porterie
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior OT Ivan Hernandez
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman RB A.J. Butler
Best pro prospect: Sophomore OT Byron Bell
Top three all-star candidates: 1) C Erik Cook, 2) Bell, 3) OG Joshua Taufalele
Strength of the offense: Line talent, Receiver experience
Weakness of the offense:
Receiver talent, Donovan Porterie's knee


Projected Starter:
Talk about your disastrous seasons, senior Donovan Porterie was supposed to have a breakout campaign and was supposed to emerge as one of the Mountain West's biggest stars. Instead, he threw for 372 yards, no touchdowns, and five interceptions in four games, obliterated his knee, and missed the rest of the year. He has been able to recover quickly enough to be back in his starting role, but he's still a question mark as he's trying to get back to 100%. Not a runner before, now he's really not going to be taking off and will be more of a pocket passers, but he has the 6-3, 208-pound size and the arm to regain his 2007 form when he threw for 3,006 yards and 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. A folk hero of sorts because of his style and the way he was able to play well under pressure, at least before last year, he's a good veteran for the program to work around.

Projected Top Reserves: When Porterie went down, sophomore Brad Gruner stepped in and struggled. The 6-2, 217-pounder was the team's start recruit of 2007 after leading his Chandler High team to the Arizona state championship after coming back from a torn up knee, but when he was thrown to the wolves, he completed 54% of his passes for 1,037 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions (with three of them coming against Tulsa). More of a runner than Porterie, he gained 331 yards and three touchdowns. While he might have sputtered in the passing game, he improved by the end of the season finishing with 204 yards against Colorado State.

Junior Tate Smith walked on after playing for Cisco JC. While he's only 6-1 and 190 yards, he has a huge arm and can make all the throws even better than Porterie. He's also mobile with the ability to scramble and get out of tough situations. Good enough to work his way into the No. 2 job, he could be counted on if Porterie's knee isn't right.

Watch Out For ... Porterie's knee. It's not like he was having a big year before getting hurt, but he was still missed. He had just enough time to heal up to get back on the field, but he'll likely need a while before everything is working 100%.
: Passers. Gruner wasn't great, but he got a little experience and should be ready to do more if needed. Porterie is a smooth-as-silk passer, while Smith has a live arm and can get the ball deep.
Mobility. Porterie is the team's best quarterback, but he doesn't fit what Mike Locksley would like to do with the offense. Will the offense fit the players or vice versa?
Outlook: An utter disaster last season thanks to the loss of Porterie, the quarterback situation was a problem with the Lobos finishing 111th in the nation in passing efficiency and 110th in passing. Mobility is a must for the new coaching staff, but Porterie can't run and the passing game will be sacrificed if he's not the starter.
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: The offense needs a quick back who can burst through the hole, and redshirt freshman A.J. Butler should be a good fit. While he's a lanky 6-1 and 195 pounds, he's a tough inside runner with excellent hands and good cutting ability. While he's not going to be a workhorse, and he might not be he go-to back in the clutch, he's going to get the early look in the starting role because of his hands and his quickness.

Projected Top Reserves: It was hard for James Wright to see too much action with Rodney Ferguson and Paul Baker the main backs, but he came through with a nice first season rushing for 348 yards and two touchdowns averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Used mostly in blowouts, the 5-11, 235-pound sophomore showed what he could do with 120 yards and a score against Wyoming and 110 yards against San Diego State. While he was a perfect fit for the old offense, he has to prove he can handle the workload in the new attack.

While he didn't get a whole bunch of work last year, rushing for just 62 yards and a touchdown, junior Terence Brown made his carries count. The 6-0, 186-pounder averaged 20.7 yards per carry getting all his yards on three carries against San Diego State. One of the fastest players on the team, he'll be used in a variety of ways

Watch Out For ... the streak to end. New Mexico is the only team in the nation to have a 1,000-yard rusher in every year since 2002. That's not to say that Wright or Jones can't hit the mark in the running-friendly system, but they'll end up splitting time.
Strength: The new system. The attack is great at utilizing backs who can cut and find the open hole. A speedy runner can tear off yards in chunks, and Wright, for his size, and Butler can do that.
Experience. The running attack focused on Rodney Ferguson and Paul Baker last year, with the two combining for over 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns. That's not to say the new backs aren't ready, but they haven't had to shine in games that matter.
Outlook: The Locksley spread attack is conducive for big years for the back who is hottest at the moment. Ideally, the quarterback is a big part of the ground game, but if it's Donovan Porterie under center, more of the responsibility will fall on the running backs. This group can handle it.
Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters: While junior Chris Hernandez wasn't the team's leading receiver, the 6-3, 191-pounder stepped up and became the team's most dangerous one averaging 13 yards per catch with 33 grabs for 428 yards. he didn't score and he was dinged up in the middle of the season, but he was steady throughout showing off just enough speed and good hands. One of the team's strongest receivers, he's also a solid blocker.

6-2, 182-pound sophomore Michael Scarlett got six starts as a fourth wide receiver and showed flashes of great potential catching 11 passes for 104 yards. He has the size and he has the athleticism, but he needs to keep working on his route running ability and his consistency. The former high school quarterback could be a game-breaker if he can get the ball more in space.

Senior Roland Bruno was one of the few receivers with any experience going into last year, and he came up with a nice year finishing third on the team with 24 catches for 242 yards at the old T position. The former walk-on came to New Mexico to run track, and while he's a wisp at 5-10 and 166 pounds, he has proven to be more than just a sprinter who plays football. He's a great route runner who'd shine if there was steadier quarterback play.

The Lobo offense will use the tight end more than in the past, meaning there's an opening for redshirt freshman Lucas Reed to be a breakout target. The 6-6, 215-pounder from Tucson is a good receiver with nice hands. While he'll be an average blocker, he should shine as a route runner on third downs.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Bryant Williams was the star of the 2008 recruiting class as a transfer from Coffeyville CC in Kansas. Originally a Michigan State Spartan, before having to go the JUCO route, he came up with a good first season with team-leading 36 catches for 272 yards and a touchdown, but he wasn't the gamebreaker he was expected to be early on averaging a mere 7.6 yards per carry. The 5-11, 190-pounder has good speed and will be a reliable target in three and four-wide sets.

Listed as a starter coming out of spring ball is senior Daryl Jones, a big, imposing 6-4, 212-pound target who only caught two passes for 22 yards in a disappointing season. The tools are there with speed and hands to go along with his size, and he's a tremendous blocker, too. But he'll have to produce early on to get the full-time job with Chris Hernandez listed behind him.

Combining with Lucas Reed at tight end is Jonathan Mader, a 6-4, 200-pound redshirt freshman who was a quarterback in high school and has spend the last year learning how to be a tight end. He's a good athlete with nice size, but he'll need a while before he can be a steady target.

Watch Out For ... more overall production. The passing game was a nightmare throughout last season due to poor quarterback play and inexperience in the receiving corps. This year's group knows what it's doing, even in a new offense.
Strength: Experience. A monster problem going into last year after losing Marcus Smith and Travis Brown, this year the top three receivers are back and there are a few options to look at across the board. 
Talent. The jury is out on whether or not the receivers can actually play. Yes, the quarterback play stunk last season, but it's not like the receivers did much to help the cause. New Mexico receivers caught three touchdown passes, and QB Donovan Porterie caught the fourth.
Outlook: The receiving corps had to start from scratch going into last year, and it showed. There was steady production, but little pop and no scoring threats whatsoever. If the quarterbacking is better, the receivers will be stronger, but it's not going to be the other way around. This is a limited corps that'll will be fine, at best, but never special.
Rating: 5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: The anchor of the line and one of the Mountain West's best blockers will once again be Eric Cook, a 6-6, 315-pound senior who will play at the next level for a long time at either guard or center, but he could even get a look at tackle if needed. He played four of the five spots on the line in 2007, but this year he'll stick to his spot at center for the second year in a row. 

While he didn't earn all-star honors last year, 6-2, 310-pound senior Joshua Taufalele is on the verge of big things after coming up with a great season for the running game. Extremely strong for the running game, he's a blaster with tremendous technique and the drive to finish off blocks to spring extra yards. He started every game at right guard and will be one of the anchors of the line.

6-5, 325-pound Byron Bell was expected to be a star early on and he didn't disappoint. Extremely athletic for his size, he was a rock at right tackle in every game and now will move over to the left side where he should be dominant. The key to his game is being able to stay academically eligible, but as long as he can stay healthy and keep improving, he'll get paid a lot of money to be someone's right tackle at the next level.

With Bell moving sides, senior Ivan Hernandez will take over the fill-time job at right tackle. Expected to play a big role going into last year, he only played in two games thanks to knee and ankle problems. The 6-6, 295-pound former JUCO transfer is a perfect fit for the new offense with good athleticism and mobility, even with his leg issues.

Taking over for Matt Stried at left guard will be Mike Cannon, a 6-3, 295-pound junior who only played in one game last year and has to get healthy after having knee problems starting in high school. Able to play either guard or tackle, he's far better suited for a spot on the inside where he should be a decent blocker on the move.

Projected Top Reserves: Former JUCO All-American Ben Contreras was one of the team's top recruits of last year and was supposed to figure into the starting mix right away. The 6-2, 300-pound senior only say time in one game, stepping in at center against San Diego State. In his final year, he's not going to see much time at center with Cook starring, so he might end up moving to guard.

Junior Derek Tallent is a versatile 6-4, 303-pound junior who has the potential to be fantastic at either guard or tackle, but he has had problems with a knee injury that sidelined him late in his high school career. Able to move to center if absolutely needed, he'll start out at right guard behind Joshua Taufalele.

Watch Out For ... Bell. the NFL scouts will be coming to Albuquerque this year to mainly look at Cook, but it's Bell who they're going to fall in love with. He'll be a fourth round pick whenever he comes out, and several teams are going to consider him a steal there.
Talent. New Mexico never had a problem getting big, beefy lineman under Rocky Long, and this year's starting five, after figuring out what it was doing last year, should be good. Cook and Bell are NFL talents, while Taufalele isn't far off.
Health. The fill-in parts and most of the top backups have a major skeleton in the closet or two. The line was able to hold up well last year with the same starting lineup for every game but one, but it's asking a lot for the same luck again.
Outlook: After a disaster up front a few years ago, the former coaching regime made a point to go upgrade the line in a big way, and it should pay off this year. Can the talented veterans handle the new attack that relies more on positioning and athleticism than brute force? Yes, but there are questions about the depth along with the left guard and right tackle jobs. However, having Cook, Bell, and Taufalele to build around is a great plus.
Rating: 7