By Dave Wagner, Freedom New Mexico
Mark Ribaudo admits he’s a little more than annoyed, and it has him fired up.
The fourth-year Eastern New Mexico University football coach said he was none too happy to see the Greyhounds picked for last place in the seven-team Lone Star Conference South Division, and said they have every intention of proving the pollsters wrong.
“I don’t like the poll,” he said. “I’m tired of people just looking down their nose at Eastern, and we need to do something about it.
“This program isn’t going to be last. We’ve got a chip on our shoulder.”
The Hounds (5-6, 0-6 South in 2007) are slated for a walkthrough at 11 a.m. today, then have their first regular practice of the season at 3 p.m. ENMU’s opener is Aug. 30 against NAIA opponent Southern Nazarene at Bethany, Okla.
Ribaudo, who spent eight seasons as ENMU’s defensive coordinator before becoming the head coach, noted that in 1998 and 1999 the Hounds posted South co-championships after they were picked near the bottom of the South.
The Hounds are going away from their traditional option game this season, implementing a spread offense that often will feature at least four receivers.
“I think the change is good,” said senior wide receiver Michael Carrasco, who is playing his third position at ENMU. “The (returning players) have been working at it all spring, and a lot of us stayed through the summer.
“Not only is it more fun and it keeps the players interested, but the fans want to watch it too.”
Ribaudo and Carrasco maintained that the grind-it-out style of the past may have had an adverse physical affect on the Hounds.
“Going into the Abilene (Christian) game last year, we had a lot of guys that were hurting,” Carrasco said of the South opener. “With the new ‘Air Raid’ (attack), it’s a lot more finesse.”
Ribaudo said the quarterback position, manned for the past three seasons by Michael Benton, is wide open with seven candidates — all in the freshman or sophomore classes.
The Hounds threw 75 passes all last season, but Ribaudo thinks they might approach that number in a game. Still, he said ENMU expects to have a competent running game.
“We’re going to try to squeeze as many plays as we can and be as explosive as we can,” he said. “The pass will set up the run. We’ve got some good running backs.”
The defense has been altered slightly, he said, going from a 3-5 basic look to a 3-4.
“Our conditioning this summer will help us out a lot,” senior defensive end Kyle Wilson said. “We simulated an actual game (situation) instead of just running.
“I’m ready to get started; it’s my last year. I’ve got to make it an All-American year and help my team win a national championship.”
That sounds good to Ribaudo.
“We want to win an LSC championship, go to the playoffs and win a national championship,” he said. “That’s the way we’re going to approach it.”