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ALBUQUERQUE — Coming off three consecutive one-win seasons and a turbulent era under Mike Locksley that saw the first-time head coach fired in the middle of last season, the University of New Mexico’s football program is struggling to make progress.
Former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie has been brought in to restore some Lobos luster, but he last walked the sidelines a decade ago, spending the time since as an analyst with ESPN.
And Davie acknowledged things are far from glowing as New Mexico prepares for the upcoming season.
“I’m sure every team we play, they’re looking at that schedule and saying, ‘We’re going to beat New Mexico,’ “ he said.
This despite returning 16 starters on both sides of the ball, among the most in the Mountain West.
“We don’t care how many players we have back,” Davie said. “Because they haven’t won, so I don’t know that that matters a whole lot. We’re really starting over.”
The makeover starts with the offense, which will be employing a hybrid, shotgun/option package.
“We’re a pistol by formation in that the quarterback is in the shotgun,” Davie said. “Primarily there will be a tailback, single back lined up behind the quarterback. We’re going to be an option team.”
Running the option out of the shotgun should also help the team pass well, he said, which will maximize the team’s ability to move the ball.
“Once we get the capability to execute this offense, I really do think it gives us the best chance to win. I think it gives us an identity moving into the future. And I think it’s something that we can recruit to.”
The offense should lend itself to some big plays, said senior receiver Lamaar Thomas.
“I’ve never run this type of offense before but I like it,” he said. “It doesn’t seem very receiver happy but once things get rolling, as we saw at the end of spring, a lot of receivers started to make big plays. It’s not like getting a bunch of catches but when we do get the opportunities, we have to take advantage of it.”
Senior quarterback B.R. Holbrook will be the trigger man for the offense and Davie is optimistic about his chance to succeed.
“He’s pretty balanced” Davie said. “He can run, he really can. And he can throw. ...We don’t have what you call a true option quarterback but we’re not a true option team, either.”
A lot of what the offense is looking to do, however, will depend on the Lobos’ thin offensive line.
“Offensive line, that’s a major concern,” he said. “We’re going to have to count on young guys playing. .Some of those other young guys are going to have to step up and play because we are limited. We’re really thin on the offensive line. That’s probably my biggest concern.”
Defensively, the Lobos will change their alignment to free up the linebackers to make more plays, said junior linebacker Dallas Bollema.
“It’s pretty fun,” he said. “The linebackers kind of move around a bit more and we have a little more flexibility with what we’re doing on the inside and the outside. So it kind of creates confusion and that’s fun.”
In the defensive backfield, Davie said he would like to use man coverage, if the group proves it can handle it.
“I think that’s going to be the biggest shift, how much truly can we be a man-to-man team based on our personnel,” Davie said.
The biggest change, however, will be one of attitude as the team tries to get back on a winning track after three difficult seasons.
“The goal is to put a team out there, let’s put it this way, that the Lobos don’t beat the Lobos,” Davie said. “A team that doesn’t have self-inflicted mistakes and a team that can execute. We’re going to be careful to try and not do too much. Build a foundation. Find some things we can do first. Then build hopefully as the season goes on.”