College Football: Run the Game Key for Lobo’s Offense
When spring football begins for the University of New Mexico on Tuesday, the Lobos will begin working to improve an offense that finished 130th and last in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The base of the UNM offense should be a running game that has seen a big transition since the Lobos ended the season 3-9 in November.
New Mexico will be without its two main rushers – Aaron Dumas and Bobby Cole – after the two entered the transfer portal and left the team. This means that for the third straight season, UNM will have a new running back.
For the spring, redshirt sophomore Nate Jones and junior Sherod White, a transfer from a junior college in Mt. San Jacinto in Riverside County, Calif., are expected to get a majority of the reps, Gonzales said. They will be in an attack that should be heavy and based on the triple option.
“It’s the best pairing we’ve had in our backfield,” said Gonzales, who is enthusiastic about the running backs overall. “It will be the deepest we’ve been in this room and probably the most talented.”
Jones’ story has Prodigal Son vibes. After the 2020 season, when he was second on the team in rushing with 210 yards and two touchdowns on 41 carries as a freshman, he missed spring football with the Lobos because he didn’t meet the standards of team,” Gonzales said without going into detail.
Soon after, Jones entered the transfer portal. Jones said he was humbled when he didn’t receive so much attention while in the transfer gate.
Before the start of pre-season camp last year, Jones decided he wanted to return to the team. He vowed to work harder and regain his role as a key contributor.
Gonzales put him on the scout team and challenged him to move up the ranks. At the end of the season, Gonzales praised Jones for his work ethic and for meeting all of his expectations.
White rushed for 1,001 yards for Mt. San Jacinto last year when he averaged 7.3 yards per carry. He scored 15 rushing touchdowns and showed his versatility with 37 receptions for 483 yards and five other touchdowns. He earned junior college All-America honors and was named team MVP.
The Lobos will also have a new running backs coach as Jordan Somerville left UNM to become an offensive assistant at Oregon.
UNM special teams coach Jamie Christian will also serve as running backs coach in his third year with the Lobos. Prior to UNM, Christian had been the running backs coach at Fresno State, where he developed Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims. Rivers finished his career third on Fresno State’s all-time rushing list with 3,352 yards. Mims is expected to be among the best guards in Mountain West as he returns for his final season with the Bulldogs.
Christian, a former Fresno State fullback (1991-93), also signed running back Charles Williams to UNLV when he worked for the Rebels. Williams became UNLV’s all-time leading rusher with 4,201 yards after his super senior season last year.
Christian has experienced runners at UNM at Jones and White, but there will also be young athletes eager to join the mix in August, including incoming freshmen Christian Washington, Myron Carter and Zach Vigil.
Washington, of Helix High in San Diego, Calif., and Carter, of Spring High in Houston, both have great speed with times of 100 yards in 10.5 seconds, Gonzales said.
Vigil was named Gatorade New Mexico Player of the Year after the 5-foot-10, 185-pound workhorse rushed for 1,553 yards and 30 touchdowns for the Rio Rancho Rams in his senior season.
Carter and Vigil are capable of playing as wide receivers but will start at UNM as running backs, Gonzales said.
In the spring, the Lobos will have junior Bobby Wooden, a former wide receiver who adds more speed to running backs.
Peyton Dixon, a junior who rushed for 95 yards in the season finale, will be out for the spring after undergoing wrist surgery, Gonzales said.
Chad Alexander, a redshirt junior, also adds depth and is an option as a special teams return specialist.