2009 CFN New Mexico Preview
New Mexico FS Ian Clark
New Mexico FS Ian Clark
Posted May 20, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - New Mexico Lobos

New Mexico Lobos

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak 

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- 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

Head coach: Mike Locksley
1st year
Returning Lettermen
Off. 22,  Def. 18, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Lobo Players
C Erik Cook, Sr.
2. OT Byron Bell, Soph.
3. LB Clint McPeek, Sr.
4. FS Ian Clark, Sr.
5. SS Frankie Solomon, Sr.
6. QB Donovan Porterie, Sr.
7. OG Joshua Taufalele, Sr.
8. RB James Wright, Soph.
9. PK James Aho, Soph.
10. LB Carmen Messina, Soph.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-7
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 at Texas A&M
9/12 Tulsa
9/19 Air Force
9/26 New Mexico State
10/3 at Texas Tech
10/10 at Wyoming
10/24 UNLV
10/31 at San Diego State
11/7 at Utah
11/14 BYU
11/21 Colorado State
11/28 at TCU

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 8-4
2008 Record: 4-8

8/30 TCU L 26-3
9/6 Texas A&M L 28-22
9/13 Arizona W 36-28
9/20 at Tulsa L 56-14
9/27 at NMSU W 35-24
10/4 Wyoming W 24-0
10/11 at BYU L 21-3
1018 SDSU W 24-7
10/23 at Air Force L 23-10
11/1 Utah L 13-10
11/8 at UNLV L 27-20
11/15 at Colorado St L 20-6
Nov. 22

It's not like Rocky Long was bad, or that his tenure wasn't memorable; it's that New Mexico needed a new direction.

Long had taken the the Lobos as far is they could go, and after nine years and a fair amount of success, the program had to undergo a few changes. With the hiring of Mike Locksley, the former offensive coordinator at Illinois, New Mexico is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, get to a point where New Mexico becomes a wee bit of a destination job, and hope for sustained success. Utah, when Urban Meyer took over the reins and took the team into the stratosphere before bolting to Florida, and followed up by Kyle Whittingham's era, would be the ideal example.

Locksley isn't going to be a New Mexico lifer. Either he's not going to get the job done and he'll get canned, or he'll win and become one of the hot prospects on the coaching circuit. All coaches are upwardly mobile, but Locksley has the skill, the staff, and the makeup to be fantastic, and then get the huge paper somewhere else. However, it's going to take a little while.

Locksley might be a good offensive coach, but his real talent is as a recruiter. Not only does he have the prerequisite low friends in high places, but he's the type of guy who forges relationships. When he locks on to a recruit, he has just the right touch to show the family that he can be a mentor, a friend, and a father figure when needed. Ron Zook turned around Illinois by being one of the Big Ten's most tireless workers on the recruiting trail, but it was Locksley who laid the groundwork for Zook to close.

So while the rewards of the Locksley hire might not kick in for a few years until after the talent level is upgraded, New Mexico fans still want wins right now, and this team will struggle to get them thanks to a nasty schedule and a ton of holes to patch up.

Locksley would like a Juice Williams-type under center who can run and throw equally well, but the best quarterback option is Donovan Porterie, and he can't move. There's potential for the offense only because the line has three stars in tackle Byron Bell, center Erik Cook, and guard Joshua Taufaele, and the receiving corps, while limited, is full of veterans.

The defense is full of high-motor, try-hard types, but it's short on great talents. The entire front line needs to be replaced, there are some role changes after the coaching staff scrapped the 3-3-5 for a traditional 4-3, and there's a major health problem all across the board. Helping the cause will the special teams that have the potential to be among the nation's best if everyone plays like they did last year.

Locksley will shake things up, and he has put together a solid staff that should do a great job right away. This will be a wild-card team in a transitional season. No one will put New Mexico in the hunt for the Mountain West title, but that doesn't mean the new coaches and the feisty team can't make some noise.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Donovan Porterie, bum knee and all, is the team's best quarterback. He didn't look like it in a disastrous first few games of last year before tearing up his knee, but he's the one who can make everyone around him better. However, the coaching staff would prefer to have a runner at quarterback, and that's not Porterie. Brad Gruner is the best combination of run/pass skills, but he didn't lead the way to many wins when he got his chance. Tate Smith is an interesting option, but he's not the passer Porterie is. 

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush. For the defense to work, the Lobos have to get into the backfield on a regular basis. They struggled to do that last year, and now they have to replace the entire defensive front and there isn't a sure-thing pass rusher to build around. Defensive coordinator Doug Mallory will try to manufacture pressure from the quick, athletic linebackers, but it would be a huge plus is an end like Jaymar Latchison or DeAndre Davis could shine.

The team will be far better if … the offense can throw a touchdown pass. Four. That's how many touchdowns the Lobos threw for last year with just one coming in the final seven games of the year. Part of the reason was the loss of Porterie, but he threw five interceptions and no touchdown passes before getting hurt. The running game won't be as strong this year, so the passing attack, especially the receiving corps, has to be far better.

The Schedule:
The Lobos have one of the league's toughest non-conference schedules considering the supposed layup will be an in-state rivalry game against New Mexico State. New head coach Mike Locksley has to deal with a trip to Texas A&M right away before getting high-powered Tulsa at home. The conference schedule kicks off relatively early with Air Force coming to Albuquerque, and the easiest games come up early with a week off between the date at Wyoming and games against UNLV and at San Diego State. And then comes the finishing kick with three road games in the final five including trips to Utah and TCU. Getting BYU at home is a plus.

Best Offensive Player: Senior C Erik Cook. Porterie needs to be the star of the show, and he could be if he regains his 2007 form, and tackle Byron Bell could end up being the best NFL prospect, but the best player at the moment is the 6-6, 315-pound veteran in the middle. He was a steadying force for last year's rebuilding line, and he'll be the anchor and quarterback of a solid front five this year.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Clint McPeek. He's not all that big, he's not all that fast, and he's not the most talented player in the Mountain West, but McPeek does anything needed to make a play. With fantastic energy and a non-stop motor, he throws his body around without any regard for his health. That's a problem because he's always banged up and he's always playing hurt. Even so, he should be the team's top playmaker at a true outside linebacker position.

Key player to a successful season: Porterie. The defense has a ton of issues, but the coaching staff should keep the production going after the Lobos weren't that bad last year. The offense was a mess scoring 22 points of fewer in eight games (going 0-8 when scoring 22 or fewer, and 4-0 when scoring more), and take out the 70-7 debacle of a win over San Diego State, the attack scored 49 points in five of the final six games. Porterie has to get hot early on and he has to put points on the board. If he can't get the job done, then Smith or Gruner need to shine.

The season will be a success if ... the Lobos win six games. It's going to be a fight to get there, but the Lobos have to beat the teams they're better than like New Mexico State and ... and ... uh, uh oh. There will have to be a few major upsets, and they'll have to beat some improved teams like Colorado State and UNLV to get there, but .500 would be a good stepping-stone.

Key game: Sept. 19 vs. Air Force. It's a home game and it's the Mountain West opener. If the Lobos can pull this off, there's a chance for a good run with Wyoming, UNLV, and San Diego State up next in conference play. With a brutal finishing kick, New Mexico can't afford to give away any Mountain West home games.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Touchdown passes: Opponents 24 - New Mexico 4
- Red zone touchdowns: Opponents 71% (44-of-62) - New Mexico 44% (38-of-86)
- Touchdown runs: New Mexico 23 - Opponents 6

- 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