PORTALES — If everything falls into place next week on national signing day, Eastern New Mexico University football coach Mark Ribaudo says he’ll be one happy man.
The third-year coach said Tuesday the Greyhounds have 16 verbal commitments from high school prospects for next season, and he’s hoping to add more in the next few days. Of course, nothing becomes official until Feb. 7 when players can sign national letters of intent.
“As it looks, I’m pretty excited,” Ribaudo said. “Right now, this would be the best year we’ve had since I’ve been head coach, and I’m hoping it might be the best year since I’ve been here.”
The Hounds have already brought in seven transfers at the semester, Ribaudo said, including safety Jeremy Hibbler, who has played two years at West Texas A&M. Older brother Justin Hibbler played several years ago at ENMU.
The others are from the junior college ranks. Four are from New Mexico Military in Roswell — offensive tackle Larry Booker, running back-wide receiver Tim Hamett, defensive end Andrew McCraw and linebacker Dulayne Cumberlander — while coming in from California programs are guard Carlos Downey and defensive end David Reed.
“They’re all really good,” Ribaudo said. “I think every one of them has a chance to make an immediate positive impact.”
Among the major areas of concern is the offensive line, which was hard-hit by injuries during last year’s 3-7 campaign.
Ribaudo said there are other areas where replacements will be needed — not the least of which is at punter and place-kicker, where four-year regular Lee Price has finished his eligibility. The Hounds are also looking to replace two defensive linemen and regulars at linebacker, running back and defensive back.
“We didn’t try to earmark particular areas that much,” Ribaudo said. “You just have to try to get what you can get.
“I feel great compared to the last two years. Let’s just hope I feel great next Wednesday.”
The Hounds are scheduled to open at home on Sept. 8 against Northeastern State.
Ribaudo said that ENMU is looking into adding an 11th game against Paul Quinn University, an NAIA school in Dallas. A decision is expected within the next week or so.
If the game is played, it would probably be in Dallas on the final weekend of August.