Offensive line biggest concern for Hounds

CNJ staff

PORTALES — Second-year Eastern New Mexico University football coach Mark Ribaudo expects around 86 players to take part in spring drills, which begin today at the ENMU practice facility.

NCAA regulations allow for 15 spring workouts, including three in helmets and shoulder pads. The team will work most Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays prior to the annual Green and Silver game, set for 2 p.m. March 25.

Most practices will be at 3:30 p.m., Ribaudo said, adding that the public is welcome to watch.

Ribaudo said the spring game, normally played at Greyhound Stadium, may be moved to Clovis High’s Leon Williams Stadium. He said he is working with people at Clovis to see if that can come about.

Also scheduled are 3:30 p.m. intrasquad scrimmages on March 12 and March 18 at Greyhound Stadium.

“Spring ball is a good deal,” said Ribaudo, whose team went 5-6 in 2005 (2-4 Lone Star Conference South). “We’re usually on a day, off a day to let the kids bodies’ recover.

“We look at it as 15 practices in preparation for two-a-days (in August). We want everybody to leave these practices knowing what we’re doing, and we want to know who we can count on.”

Ribaudo said among the major concerns on offense are the line and the receiving corps, both hard-hit by graduation.

“We’ve got some good OLs, but they need to come together and jell,” Ribaudo said, adding that the team must also replace its top three wide receivers, including two-time All-LSC South selection Derrick Hunter, and tight end Art Tennison.

He said he’s looking for improvement from a defensive unit that gave up 30 points a game last season.

“We only graduated (cornerback) Corey White and (linebacker) Kwame Darko (among the starters), but we need to improve at every spot,” said Ribaudo, who has been the defensive coordinator since coming to ENMU in 1998. “We need to see who can help us play quality LSC football.”

Ribaudo said he’s optimistic about the coming season.

“Overall, I think we had better recruiting (over a year ago),” he said. “Our off-season has gone fantastic, and I think our team chemistry is a little better.”

The Hounds are playing a 10-game schedule in 2006, down from 11 the previous several years. They open on Sept. 9 against Northeastern State in Tahlequah, Okla.