By Dave Wagner, Freedom New Mexico
BLACKWATER DRAW — These are not your father’s Greyhounds, for sure.
Fourth-year coach Mark Ribaudo and his staff are implementing an uptempo-style spread passing attack in preparation for the 2008 season.
Everything went pretty well in Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage at Greyhound Stadium, he said, helped by an unseasonably cool, overcast day.
“Overall, I think we’re ahead of the game,” Ribaudo said. “I just like the direction of the team, and the enthusiasm.”
The Hounds worked crisply through about a 2 1/2-hour scrimmage — one designed to also help prepare the defense for the types of schemes they’ll face.
ENMU, which has a 6 p.m. intrasquad scrimmage on tap next Saturday, opens the regular season Aug. 29 against NAIA member Southern Nazarene at Bethany, Okla.
“I wanted to see more scoring than in our first scrimmage (on Tuesday),” Ribaudo said. “I wanted to see our special teams improve, which they did, and I wanted us to make some plays.”
As opposed to the run-dominated, triple-option attack of the past, the Hounds are incorporating a no-huddle look with four or five wide-outs. “I want a fast tempo,” Ribaudo said.
It provides a stiff test for the defense as well.
“That takes a lot out of you, but I thought (the defense) held up pretty well,” Ribaudo said.
Sophomore cornerback Tillman Stevens, a returning starter, said he enjoys playing against the new offense.
“I like this system way better,” said Stevens, a returning starter. “We’re getting a better look at everything (opponents may run). They push us hard, and we push them hard.”
Ribaudo said, for the most part, the first-team offense was matched against the second-team defense and vice versa on Saturday.
Sophomore running back Joseph Banyard, a transfer from Texas Christian, and senior wide receiver Michael Carrasco drew praise from Ribaudo on offense. On the other side of the ball, he singled out transfer Ron Green at tackle, senior Kyle Wilson at end, sophomore Nathan Uland at linebacker and senior Jeremy Hibbler and junior J.T. Thompson in the secondary.
The quarterback position has about a half-dozen candidates, with redshirt sophomore Eric Wilcockson, sophomore Corey Baker and freshman J.J. Harp the leaders.
Wilcockson, who spent last year at Division I-AA Sacramento State after playing at Pierce College in Los Angeles in 2006, said he was used to a spread offense, but not one which throws as much as this one.
“It was more of a pro-style attack,” he said of his junior college season, “not an ‘air-it-out’ style.
“It’s a lot of fun. Only being here 10 days, as a quarterback that’s what you like to do is pass the ball.”
Wilcockson said he’s enjoying the competition at his position, adding that the Hounds have some QBs who can throw the ball.
He wouldn’t say, though, where he thought he is in the mix.
“I’m just out there trying to learn the offense and work hard and get better,” he said. “I just can’t wait for the first game.”
Stevens said he and numerous other players spent the summer in Portales conditioning for the season.
“We did 7-on-7s five days a week,” he said. “We’re pretty solid in all our positions. There’s always room for improvement, but so far I think we’ve done pretty good.”
Ribaudo said the team appeared to come through the scrimmage with no significant injuries. If there’s an issue at this point, he said, it’s probably with overall depth.
“I think depth will be a major concern with us, particularly on defense,” he said. “Some of our No. 2s on defense really need to step it up.”