Welcome to the seventh piece of our twelve-part series that hopefully makes the dead period go by a bit quicker. These articles aim to provide a detailed look at what each team has done thus far on the recruiting trail and what work still needs to be put in before NLI day in February. One team a day will be featured this year in alphabetical order. Today will look at New Mexico.
New Mexico was hoping to build on its strong finish to 2020 when it entered 2021. It started off that way, with two wins in the first two games. Things got off track shortly after that, and then the wheels quickly fell off as the Lobos seemed to regress. In a shocking move, they transformed into somewhat of an option offense halfway through the season, which helped a bit or at least showed signs of improvement by the end of the year.
Through the ups and downs of the season, Coach Gonzales and his staff displayed an ability to recruit by getting players to buy into the culture and be a part of the rebuilding process. While they are not lighting up the recruiting rankings, they are recruiting their home state well and finding the type of players who want to play for New Mexico. To learn more about their class, keep reading.
The Road So Far:
New Mexico has never been a destination program when it comes to the world of college football. And until Gonzales took over, it appeared like the program wasn’t putting much effort into recruiting players to come to play for them. That has been changing the past few seasons, and while still a work in progress, it has improved significantly compared to what it was. It may not show up in recruiting rankings, but the Lobos are doing good work.
They were able to sign 25 players in December, 13 on offense and 12 on defense. They had a pretty good ratio of high school talent with some transfers mixed in. As has been the case under Gonzales, they recruit the state of New Mexico, as well as nearby Texas, with determination.
Offensively, there was a big emphasis on running backs, and they changed up their QB recruit mid-way through the fall. Both of these moves emphasize their commitment to moving towards an option-running attack. A few wide receivers are still entering the fold, along with a pair of junior college tight ends to push for immediate playing time. Then, there was a heavy focus on the offensive line. UNM brought in two from high school, two from the JUCO ranks, plus a transfer. It’s clear they are seeking to bring in players who fit the scheme and can compete right away.
Over on defense, there was a nice blend on the defensive line, with two high school players and then a transfer to help set the edge. Three new linebackers enter and fold, and they seem to fit the prototype that DC Rocky Long looks for in his defensive scheme. Lastly, there was a clear emphasis on defensive backs, as New Mexico ended up signing seven of them in this class. It’s a bit interesting that all of them appear to be from the high school level, but one or two figure to push for immediate playing time next season.
Number who signed in December: 25
Number who will enroll early: 3
247 Composite Rankings:
- Overall: 123rd
- Recruiting: 115th
- Transfer: N/A
The Road Ahead:
Top Targets Remaining: DL, LB, WR
New Mexico already signed the bulk of their class, so a big chunk of the work is done leading up to the second signing day in February. With that being said, recruiting and working to improve the team never truly stops, so the coaching staff will likely still tinker with this class in some way.
The offense looks to be in pretty good shape. Another wide receiver wouldn’t hurt, ideally a deep play threat to keep defenses honest against their run-heavy scheme. Perhaps a veteran QB who can run the option, but the Lobos already have numerous quarterbacks on the roster. It is likely the defense seems some further upgrades, specifically on the interior of the defensive line. Also, a linebacker who can play right away could bolster that unit well.
Expect any additions over the next few weeks to come through the transfer portal. One reason for this is because their recruiting class is pretty full, but they are allowed to replace outgoing transfers with incoming ones, up to seven players anyway. The second reason is to find players who can step into immediate playing time, which in theory would help the team see immediate improvements in 2022.
Coming next: San Diego State