New Mexico Lobos Season Preview
The New Mexico Lobos are coming off a 1-11 season and though there was not a team in the FBS that went winless, the Lobos still had the least amount of wins among the entire nation, tied with three other teams.
Former Illiniois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has now had back-to-back 1-11 seasons, and there has been a new quirk under Lockley’s deal. If his Lobos win six games, he receives an extra $50,000 bonus. Even if he is fired, he will still receive $450,000.
Originally it was set at $1million, but with all the struggles, there is no doubt he may be the one coach you can count on being shown the door if his Lobos have another awful season.
Statistically Speaking Lobo Louie Will Not Be Happy
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They have been going 1-11 as of late, but back in the early 2000s, they were a formidable team in the MWC. Looking back in the past 10 years, the Lobos are 36-40 in MWC play and are 13-27 in the previous five years. However, the past three seasons have been the worst of the bunch, as they are just 4-20.
There are a few reasons as to why the struggles have continued, but they are not difficult to understand. New Mexico had the worst defense in America, and it was not even that close, statistically speaking.
In total defense, they ranked 119th, allowing 469 yards per game. In scoring defense, they allowed 36 points per game, which was 113th in the nation.
It does not stop there as they also ranked 83rd against the run, allowing 165 yards per game. Against the pass, they allowed 253 yards per game, which ranked 105th in the nation. Anyway you put it, the Lobos were beyond atrocious last season. Luckily, they can only improve.
Locksley Gets Help from Illinois
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They have nine back on defense, and will be led up front by an Illinois transfer by the name of Reggie Ellis. He could make a huge impact, as he did play in a few games last year—starting only one.
Developing as a youngster, look for Ellis to jump on the scene as the top interior linemen on the team. Joe Harris is another youngster that did not start a season ago that should make this line much better.
The two returning starters in Calvin Smith (solid talented sophomore) and Jaymar Latchison struggled a season ago, but will only improve. Overall, the line should avoid being a joke like last season, and it may actually be impressive in conference play when they are not against the big dogs.
The linebacking core will be sensational for their standards, and it will be arguably the best core after TCU and Boise State. They will be led by Carmen Messina (115 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) and Maryland transfer Javarie Johnson, who should drastically improve the front seven.
Still, it will still be in the middle of the conference in terms of overall talent, behind the usual suspects of Boise State, TCU and probably SDST as well.
Air Force and Colorado State are right there with the Lobos, also. The secondary will be led by Bubba Forrest and Anthony Hooks (both seniors). New Mexico only picked off seven passes, which was tied for 105th in the nation (another stat that makes the D look awful).
Dangerous Receiving Core
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The offense has been just as bad and they return six starters from a season where they ranked dead last in total offense (265 YPG). It is a coincidence how you go 1-11 and are essentially the worst team in America in terms of production and statistics. They need to improve their ground game for starters.
Ranking only 106th in the land averaging a laughable 108 yards per game is no way to win football games in Albuquerque. Kasey Carrier (373 yards and 2 TDs on 104 carries) and James Wright (304 yards and 2 TDs on 89 carries) are once again expected to man the backfield, but something has to change or else there will continue to be issues.
Did I just mention issues? Two returning starters on the line means Mike Locksley will be scratching his head on how the hell he is going to win any conference game with a non-existent run game.
When I ranked my top linemen in the MWC, no Lobos were in my top five, ten or even 20 for that matter. Issues will continue in 2011.
I may sound like a Debbie downer about the Lobos, but I actually have some good news. New Mexico has three receivers who may challenge for All-MWC honors, because the following player is actually that damn good.
Former Buckeye Lamaar Thomas has 4.38 speed and should become the top newcomer in the MWC this year (at least at receiver). That is if his teammate Deon Long does not beat him out for that award. Long is a former West Virginia Mountaineer who played at Hargrave Military school in ’09. Throw in top returning stud Ty Kirk, and dare I say this is the best wide receiver core in the entire MWC?
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Well, it is very close between TCU and Boise State. I will lean with the Broncos slightly over the Horned Frogs and Lobos because of the overall experience at Boise. Plus with Kellen Moore, how can you go wrong?
Though he is far from a Heisman candidate like Moore, B.R. Holbrook has some decent talent under center this season. He only threw 2 TDs and 6 INTs a season ago, but threw for 619 yards, while completing 53 percent of his passes.
He is nowhere a top-end talent, but should be better than what the Lobos have experienced with the past few years. Keep in mind the Lobos have had major injury issues at this position for a few seasons in a row, and just staying healthy may give the Lobos an extra win or two. They still lack the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s, but they should have more wins this season than the past two combined.
Predicted Finish: 3-9, 1-6
Predicted Bowl: None
Predicted order of finish in MWC: 7th