2016-17 may be another football season, but Lobo fans can expect to see the same triple-option offense that they've grown accustomed to under the Davie regime. Last year fourteen players (including punter Zack Rogers) ran the ball for a combined 3278 yards on 638 carries. UNM boasted three runners with over 800 yards each. At the very top of the list was Jhurell Pressley who accumulated 907 yards on 147 carries. However, Pressley graduated and is now in camp with the Minnesota Vikings, so how can the cherry-and-silver replicate or even improve upon the eighth-best rushing offense in the nation last year?
The good news for the Lobos is that the drop off after Pressley wasn't too steep. Teriyon Gipson and Lamar Jordan each rushed the pigskin 147 times for 850 and 807 yards, respectively. Both are returning this coming season and I expect Gipson to fill Pressley's shoes quite seamlessly as the feature back. Gipson might not start the season in the same conversation as SDSU's Donnel Pumphrey, Wyoming's Brian Hill, or Boise State's Jeremy McNichols, but he could very well finish the year on that level. He is a shifty back who uses his speed to get to the outside and make the big play. Last year he had a 79 yard run and this year he'll put up big numbers.
Jordan is in a much more precarious position. He is a heck of a rusher, but unpredictable anytime New Mexico decides to throw the ball. This has left him in a QB battle with Austin Apodaca, who is a better passer than rusher. How the battle shakes out will determine Jordan's impact on New Mexico's rushing offense. Still, I would venture to guess that Jordan will have a presence, as you don't keep an athlete like him on the bench. After all, 807 yards rushing is nothing to overlook and above all, Jordan is a crafty playmaker.
The back I have my eye on is Richard McQuarley. Last year he was used mostly in goal-line situations and that allowed him to put up seven touchdowns. This season he'll be the second option behind Gipson and he offers a nice counter to his teammate. At 5'11'' and 218 pounds, McQuarley's size gives the Lobos a different look to Gipson's 5'8'' and 182 pound frame - McQuarley can pound the ball up the middle.
These will be the Lobos' heavy hitters for this upcoming season, but due to the amount that the offense runs the ball, it is worth noting a few of the other impact players: Daryl Chestnut, David Anaya, and Tyrone Owens will all have opportunities, especially if there are any injuries. Chestnut specifically had some promising runs, including a 64 yard touchdown run. He and Owens could emerge as UNM's backs of the future.