NCAA Football

The Lobo football signing class is giving clues that change is coming

The Lobo football signing class is giving clues that change is coming

UNM football coach Danny Gonzalez discusses the first wave of 11 signees for Lobo football Wednesday in the Pit. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Poor, pitiful New Mexico with a paltry 11 seed announced Wednesday ahead of a 2-10 2022 season?

Danny Gonzalez doesn’t see it that way.

“A lot of great things are happening in our football program,” Gonzalez, who is in his fourth year as UNM’s head coach, said during a signing day news conference.

First, Gonzalez said he was excited about the 11 players who faxed in signed letters of intent on Wednesday.

The group is heavily weighted on offense, with two quarterbacks, four wide receivers and one offensive lineman. New Mexico ranked 131st and last in the nation among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense last season.

Seven of the 11 signees, he said, can enroll for the upcoming spring semester and participate in spring practice.

Help is also on the way, Gonzalez said. The announcement of a new offensive coordinator is pending completion of “some (human resources) things that haven’t been done,” he said.

Matt Zenitz, college football writer for on3.com, reported Wednesday that UNM is selecting Bryant Vincent, who was the interim head coach at Alabama-Birmingham this season, to be the O coordinator. UAB went 7-6 this season with a 24-20 win over Miami of Ohio in the Home Town Lenders Bahamas Bowl on Friday. The Blazers averaged 30.1 points and 438.2 yards per game.

On Nov. 30, UAB announced the hiring of former Fresno State and NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer as its new head coach.

Gonzalez fired offensive coordinator Derek Wareheim midway through the 2022 season. Defensive backs coach Heath Ridenour served as the O’s interim coordinator until the end.

Gonzalez said the 11 signees announced Wednesday will by no means complete the 2023 signing class. The recruiting calendar, dramatically updated in response to the NCAA’s transfer portal, allows recruits to visit campus the weekend of Jan. 13-14.

“I’m looking at having those seven (of Wednesday’s 11 signees) plus another eight or nine kids in the middle of the year,” he said.

Gonzalez said those January “signees” — they won’t have to sign letters of intent, only grants if they enroll — will either be transfer portal applicants or junior college players who have qualified academically after high school. and may enroll at UNM as a sophomore.

Gonzalez said if the two quarterbacks and three wide receivers signed Wednesday offer to change the offense’s scheme, that’s exactly what will happen.

“We’re not going to be triple teamed,” he said.

One of the two quarterbacks, Devon Dampier of Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, is expected to commit in January. Dampier passed for 2,349 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 1,206 yards this season, leading Saguaro to the Arizona Open Division title game. He was awarded the Ed Doherty Award, which is called the Heisman Trophy in Arizona prep football.

“Weapon talent, very hard to handle, incredible balance,” Gonzalez said.

La Cueva quarterback Aidan Armento, who threw for 4,303 yards and 50 touchdowns in leading the Bears to the Class 6A New Mexico state title game, also signed with UNM on Wednesday.

“His release is unbelievable,” Gonzalez said. “His accuracy is incredible.”

Wednesday’s practice didn’t give up entirely on defense: El Paso Austin quarterback Jayden Wilson and guards Skyler Cook (Central Union High School, El Centro, Calif.) and Derek Moore (Woodbridge High School, Irvine, Calif.). The Lobos finished 46th in total defense in 2022, but lost defensive coordinator Rocky Long to Syracuse and two of their most productive players, linebacker Cody Moon and safety AJ Halsey, to transfers.

Gonzalez said UNM lost a total of 16 players to the portal, but said only the departures of Moon and Halsey were really unpleasant surprises.

“AJ thinks he can find a better opportunity (elsewhere), and that’s fine,” Gonzalez said. “I’m a big fan of AJ Haulcy. Cody Moon, ditto. … I am happy for him, I am proud of him, I wish him success.”

As for Long’s departure, Gonzalez — a defensive coordinator at San Diego State and Arizona State before returning to his alma mater as head coach — said he will take over defensive duties next season.

He said he would hire a new defensive coordinator now. Troy Refett, UNM’s defensive backs coach the past three seasons, was UNM’s defensive coordinator under Long in 2008.

NSD Release 2022 – December by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd



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