Bud Elliott’s 10th season as Eastern New Mexico University’s football coach ended in disappointment, but hardly in discouragement.
Elliott, who will be 72 in December, intends to return next year for his 37th campaign as a college head coach. And he thinks the immediate future looks bright for the Greyhounds.
“We have so many redshirts right now that we think can play, so this won’t be a large recruiting class,” Elliott said. “We really need to recruit according to our needs. We’re loaded with good athletes at a lot of positions now, as far as redshirts go.”
The Hounds, who lost their final three games to fall out of playoff contention and finish 6-5, have “probably 10 to 12 redshirts that will contribute a great deal,” Elliott said. He added that 18 of the top 22 position players return, including 10 on offense.
The biggest need on offense is at tackle, a position which could be filled from the junior college ranks. “We need (someone) that might contribute right away,” Elliott said.
Elliott, who is one win short of 200 for his career, said sophomore guard Robert Acuna and sophomore wide receiver Derrick Hunter had good years. ENMU topped the LSC by a wide margin in rushing offense, but finished last in passing and turnovers were a key factor in most of the losses.
Junior quarterback Steven Hinson led the team in rushing and is always a threat to break one, but Elliott said the Hounds must have more punishing line play.
“I thought Steven Hinson played well, but we’ve got to take care of the football,” he said. “We need to get to the point where we get the ball in other players’ hands, but to do that we’ve got to get where we’re knocking people off the ball.”
A groin injury which sidelined senior receiver Cale Sanders for all but a few plays early in the season took away a major weapon from the offense.
Meantime, the Eastern defense loses cornerback Eric Mims, linebacker Ben Dollar and end Wayne Childs to graduation.
“We’ll go out and make some changes,” Elliott said. “We’re going to try to mix in some (zone) coverages from time to time.”
Junior tackle Brandon Wickware made the All-LSC South second team on defense, “but I felt like he should have been a first-team performer,” Elliott said. He added that juniors Antonio Wiley at cornerback and Jeff Howard at linebacker also performed well on that side of the ball.
Elliott said he thought the team’s 44-26 loss at conference champion Texas A&M-Kingsville on Nov. 1, ending any realistic playoff hopes, set the wheels in motion for the late-season slide.
“We need to get to the point where we don’t look so far down the road,” Elliott said. “We need to quit worrying about those things and just play it one game at a time.”