#87 New Mexico Football 2016 Preview

New Mexico Lobos
Overall Rank: #87
#6 Mountain West


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After a long rebuilding process, New Mexico finally reached a bowl game, their first since 2007. They lost in the New Mexico Bowl to Arizona, but getting there was the goal and Coach Bob Davie did it. Now the program has to keep it going. Taking the next step and seriously competing for a Mountain West title would be nice, but the more realistic goal, for now at least, should be making another bowl game and not losing what has been built.
2015 Record: 7-6, 5-3
2015 Bowl: New Mexico Bowl vs. Arizona (L 37-45)
Coach: Bob Davie (18-32 at New Mexico, 53-57 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bob DeBesse
Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Cosgrove
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Teriyon Gipson, RB, 850 yards
Passing: Lamar Jordan, QB, 1,045 yards
Receiving: Dameon Gamblin, WR, 424 yards
Tackles: Dakota Cox, LB, 97
Sacks: Maurice Daniels, LB, 5.5
Interceptions: Lee Crosby, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Richard McQuarley, WR Delane Hart-Johnson, S Daniel Henry, LB Kimmie Carson, LB Donnie White, DE Nik D’Avanzo
Key Losses: RB Jhurell Pressley, WR Carlos Wiggins, TE Reece White, CB Cranston Jones, S Markel Byrd, LB Ryan Langford
For the most part, UNM won games with their offense. The team ranked second in the Mountain West and ninth in the nation in rushing offense and the offense should again be the team’s strength. Running back Jhurell Pressley is gone after rushing for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns, but Teriyon Gipson is ready to be the full time starter after rushing for 850 yards and six scores. He may not be as dynamic of a back as Pressley, nor can he account for all of the carries for New Mexico, but Gipson is a tough back. Quarterback Lamar Jordan is a fine runner too, accounting for 807 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. The hope is Jordan has a better junior campaign when it comes to passing the ball. He completed just 51.7 percent of his pass attempts and threw eight interceptions compared to just five touchdowns. On some long yardage situations, New Mexico would bring in Austin Apodoca, who didn’t fare much better than Jordan, but that goes to show just how much the coaching staff did not trust Jordan on passing downs. That makes it tough, but Jordan has the potential to develop into a good enough passer to stay on the field.
The good news for the defense is that a lot of talent returns and the probable starting 11 is full of upperclassmen. The bad news is this is still the same group that looked so bad for most of last season. The linebackers are the strength of the unit, led by Dakota Cox who tallied 97 tackles in 2015. The front seven was decent at getting to the quarterback, but it was mostly Cox and fellow linebackers Kimmie Carson, Donnie White and Maurice Daniels that picked up the sacks. The front line could do better and they likely will with the top six linemen back in the mix. The front seven is solid and should be pretty good, but that does not mean anything if the secondary does not improve. Experience at the cornerback spot is a concern with Donnie Duncan and Cranston Jones gone. Nias Martin needs to stay out of trouble and Isaiah Brown has to stay healthy or the secondary is going to be even worse than they were last year.
The Bottom Line:
In the end, the offense should be about the same as they were last year, with the running game taking a step back and the passing game taking a small step forward. The defense meanwhile will try to catch up with the offense after getting shredded through the air on a regular basis. Even with the secondary as bad as they were last season, New Mexico managed to win six games. Last year New Mexico beat some good teams in Utah State, Boise State and Air Force and then lost to some pretty bad teams. The hope is that their experience under center and on defense will lead to more consistent play.
Projected Bowl: New Mexico Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 252.2 (9th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 136.0 (121, 11)
Total Offense: 388.2 (70, 6)
Scoring Offense: 29.9 (58, 4)
Rushing Defense: 192.7 (93, 6)
Pass Defense: 244.9 (92, 12)
Total Defense: 437.6 (97, 9)
Scoring Defense: 28.4 (82, 8)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (39, 5)
Sacks: 2.31 (45, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 1.00 (6, 2)