Fide Davalos is spun to the ground by defenders Will Smith (top) and Royal Bell during Saturday’s Eastern New Mexico football scrimmage. Freedom Mewspapers photo by Kevin Wilson
By Dave Wagner
PORTALES — Derrick Hunter is ready to step up his role this fall for the Eastern New Mexico University football team.
And he thinks the team is ready to step up as well.
“With this being my third year, I want to show the younger guys the ropes,” said Hunter, a 6-foot, 170-pound junior from Lamesa, Texas, who has led ENMU in receiving in each of his first two seasons.
The Greyhounds posted a 6-5 record in 2003, but finished the season with three consecutive losses. This year, though, they bring a bevy of senior-laden experience to the table.
“Things kind of fell apart a little bit,” Hunter said of the late-season slide. “We’re definitely taking that as motivation, taking that negative and turning it into a positive.”
Hunter caught 30 passes for 644 yards as a freshman and grabbed for 619 yards — nearly half of the team’s total of 1,264 yards passing — last season.
“He’s got the tools to be the best in the Lone Star (Conference),” veteran ENMU coach Bud Elliott said. “He has speed, a good vertical jump, good hands — I don’t think there’s a better receiver in the Lone Star right now.”
With a strong senior class, Hunter said he sees a bounce in players’ steps during preseason.
“People came in this year with the attitude that they’re looking for good things to happen,” he said. “This year, we’ve got great leadership and a great group of seniors.
“That sense of urgency is there because we want to do it for (the seniors).”
Hinson’s job to lose
Unless he gets hurt or something goes drastically wrong, senior Steven Hinson will be ENMU’s starting quarterback this fall for the second consecutive year.
Elliott said after Saturday’s situational scrimmage at the ENMU practice facility that the real battle is for the No. 2 position.
“Steven’s No. 1, (redshirt freshman) Michael Benton’s No. 2 and (sophomore) Jon Bell is No. 3,” he said. “Jon Bell is battling with Michael Benton, though, for the No. 2 spot.
(Michael) progressed real well last spring, and I didn’t think he had a bad day. Steven right now is throwing at the highest (completion) percentage.”
Greyhound offensive coordinator Mike Howard has seen a few players make huge strides over the summer, most notably junior tight end Art Tennison.
“His consistency is so much better,” Howard said of Tennison. “He’s someone that’s just matured.”
The Price is right
Special teams coach Mike Walton didn’t have any doubts when naming an oustanding special teams player during preseason — kicker Lee Price.
“He’s taken care of business this summer,” Walton said of Price, who made all of his field goal tries and hit a 40-yarder in Saturday’s scrimmage, despite Corey White getting a hand on it. “He’s done extremely well on kickoffs, and you saw him today with field goals.”
There are several spots where the backup is close to being the starter across the offense and defense. Howard said the fullback spot — which is a huge key to the option offense — has become a close competition thanks to the development of Robert Garza and Patrick Hemphill. Sukora Cooper, who started last year, is currently the favorite to start again.
— Freedom Newspaper writer Kevin Wilson also contributed to this report.