NCAA Football

2010 NCAA Football Preview: New Mexico Lobos

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2009 Record: 1-11 (1-7 in Mountain West)
2009 Bowl: None
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Mike Locksley (1-11 in 1 year at New Mexico)
Non-Conference Schedule: at Oregon (9/4), Texas Tech (9/11), Utah (9/18), UTEP (10/2)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 16.3 points per game (last in MWC, 113th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 100 (9th in MWC, 110th in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 215 (6th in MWC)
Total Yards/Game: 315 (8th in MWC, 103rd in Nation) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 35.9 points per game (last in MWC, 113th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 165 (6th in MWC)
Passing Yards/Game: 253 (9th in MWC, 105th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 418 (8th in MWC, 100th in Nation)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: -0.58 per game (8th in MWC, 102nd in Nation)
Penalties: 60 yards per game (7th in MWC)

Returning Starters
Offense: 5
Defense: 6
Kicker/Punter: 0

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB B.R. Holbrook, Soph (19 of 34 for 170 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT)
Rushing: RB Desmond Dennis, Soph (78 carries for 427 yds, 3 TD, 5.4 ypc, 42 ypg)
Receiving: WR Ty Kirk, Soph (35 rec, 418 yds, 2 TD, 3.5 rec/game)
Tackles: LB Carmen Messina, Jr (163)
Sacks: DE Jonathan Rainey, Jr (9.5)
Interceptions: CB Nathan Enriquez, Soph (2)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #105
Sporting News: #96

2010 Pre-Season MWC Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #9
Phil Steele: #9

It is not a good mix when you are last in your conference in points scored and you also give up the most points. That's the boat that New Mexico was in last year, but shockingly despite finishing 1-11 on the year they did not come in last place in Mountain West. When we needed answers about UNLV we turned to Jacob from the SB Nation blog Mountain West Connection. For this preview we head back to Mountain West Connection and spoke with Jeremy about the New Mexico Lobos.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

The running game appears to be a strength with that position going four deep, and the defensive line could be one of the best in the Mountain West. Well, the defensive line could be good as the Lobos are pinning their hopes on two transfers from Illinois --Reggie Ellis and Ugo Uzodinma -- who are now eligible and four star defensive tackle recruit Calvin Smith from Florida. The team has no go to wide receiver and their quarterback is green and only played sparingly because he got mono last year and was out a month. There really is not too much hope in New Mexico expect for the slogan should be "It can't be any worse then 2009." The team by default should be better wit a year in the Mike Locksley system. The back seven of the defense will be in trouble again with the exception of LB Carmen Messina who lead the nation in tackles last year.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

Right out of the gate the Lobos travel to Autzen stadium where they stand little to no chance, and then it does not get any easier as they play Texas Tech and Utah at home. Their first test against a reasonable opponent comes in week four when they play at UNLV who is breaking in a new head coach. The UNLV game -- and possibly the Tech game -- will where we will know if the Lobos are going to be any better then last year. The Rebels will be transitioning to a more pro style offense and move away from the spread attack they ran under Mike Sanford, so the learning curve will be there for the Rebels which could give the Lobos chance to get their first win.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

TCU, because it is the last game of the season and if New Mexico is not in contention for a bowl game, and if TCU is going for a BCS bid then things could get ugly. TCU may need to put on some style points to prove they are really that good and will need the win to stay ahead of other teams vying for that BCS bid.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Linebacker Carmen Messina because he played on a defense that was one of the worst in the country, but he was able to lead the nation in tackles and was an all-MWC player. If the defense can improve as expected look for him to be able to attack more in blitzing situations which would only make him better.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

Running back Demond Dennis he had 427 yards on offense in only ten games, but managed a 5.47 yard per carry average, but at home he was a stud by averaging over eight yards per carry. His numbers were not great, but the Lobos will look to have a quartet of backs running the ball. The upside to that is that they will all be fresh, but look for Dennis to be the main back and get close to the 1,000 yard mark this season.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

There are two impact players on defense and the first is LB Carmen Messina who had 162 tackles mainly because the defense was on the field a lot and the defensive line was not very good, and the other is defensive end Johnathan Rainey had 9.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. The two will hopefully lead a defense that must get better, plus couple that with Reggie Ellis and Ugo Uzodinma who will be eligible after transferring from Illinois, and super freshman Calvin Smith who was a four star defensive tackle from Florida.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

The pressure will be on the running back corp which will be the best position on the team. They will need to help ease in BR Holbrook who is expected to be the starting QB. Sophomore Demond Dennis will lead the running back corp that will go four deep. If the running game can become solid that will make the quarterback transition much easier as well as help the defense by running some time off of the clock. A go to receiver is a must need for the BR Holbrook who is expected to be the starting quarterback.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

This is not a flashy player by any means, but it looks to be redshirt freshman Dillon Farrell who will play center. He is projected to be in the starting lineup, and is 6'4 but is undersized at 272 pounds and will need to put on some weight to be able to become a force. Besides him there is the possibility of a true freshman starting at quarterback with Tarean Austin and Darian "Stump" Godfrey who are the type of player to run the Locksley system. There is a three star athlete Detchauz Wray who allegedly runs a 4.4, but is small at 5'11 and 162 pounds, and could be used as a return player, slot receiver, or may just redshirt to put on some weight.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

There are three actually who should make an immediate impact. The first two are defensive tackles Reggie Ellis and Ugo Uzodinma who followed head coach Mike Locksley from Illinois to New Mexico. Both are sophomores The other is four star defensive tackle Calvin Smith. Smith should see the field immediately and make an impact from day one. It is still odd that he choose New Mexico over most SEC schools, Notre Dame, and Florida State. Guess this really shows the prowess that Locksley has in recruiting which was one of the reasons he was brought into New Mexico.

Mike Locksley is coming off of a 1-11 debut season at New Mexico. What did he do well last year and what does he need to work on most?

They really did nothing well last year, but if I have to choose one is that they somehow almost beat BYU and had their kicker been able to make a couple of kicks they would have pulled an upset over the Cougars. The offense needs the most work, they were at the bottom or near the bottom in every major offensive category. Locksley brought over with him his spread attack, but did not have the quarterback to run the system. Donovan Porterie was the starter and is athletic but was coming off of an ACL injury that limited his athletic ability.

Is Locksley the answer at Head Coach? If so, what kind of time table do you see for his turning this team around?

His recruiting is the reason he is in town, but the Lobos never had as bad a season as last year in a very long time. Under previous coach Rocky Long the team was always competitive and able to attend the occasional bowl game. He is on thin ice with the incident of slugging the wide receivers coach last season and the lawsuits about sexual harassment and ageism, so he needs to show drastic improvement in the win column and limit the beat downs. If his recruiting is alleged to be as good as advertised he will need another two years where he will have his players in his system before the Lobos will be in contention for a bowl game.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

First off beating their rival New Mexico State is a must, getting to at least three wins, and not getting blown out. Their schedule is stacked at the beginning with games at Oregon, Texas Tech, and Utah at home, and then their tail end of the schedule is tough with games at Air Force, at BYU, and TCU at home. They realistically should be able to be competitive with UTEP, UNLV, and Colorado State and possibly win those games. A very early record prediction is 3-9 with wins over New Mexico State, UNLV, and UTEP.

Visit the SB Nation blog Mountain West Connection for news and views on the MWC. You can also follow them on twitter @JeremySBN.

Previous Mountain West Previews
Colorado State Rams
UNLV Rebels
Utah Utes

Next Up: Illinois Fighting Illini

2010 Previews
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Sun Belt- Troy Trojans
WAC- New Mexico State Aggies