Lobo secures Reed and Combs expect big, busy 2022 seasons

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UNM’s Jerrick Reed II (9) tackles second-year wide receiver Luke Wysong (15) during Lobo’s football practice Saturday. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

Shortly after Jerrick Reed II and Tavian Combs were told they were the top tacklers at the University of New Mexico during a media interview, Reed immediately offered a correction.

“Stop,” Reed said cheerfully. “I was the best tackler.”

Reed recorded 89 total tackles, 54 unassisted after playing every game for the 3-9 Lobos. Combs, in his sophomore year, finished with 81 total tackles, 40 unassisted. He has played in 11 of 12 games.

Both safeties know they’re expected to make as many tackles this season, which started with practices Friday and Saturday. To prepare for the role, Combs added 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason.

“It’s the norm,” Reed said of the safeties making tackles in Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 defense. “People see you as that guy, you have to be that guy. You can’t slack off because everyone will notice. Every day you have to come and work hard. Have the right mindset, study the movie, eat right, take care of your body so you stay on top of your game and be that guy when your game is called.

Reed, an All-Mountain West Conference preseason pick for the second straight season, came to UNM in 2019 when the Lobos struggled mightily with the pass, the deep ball in particular. The Lobos gave up 321.4 passing yards per game and ranked 130th and last in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

But in 2021, UNM allowed 219.8 passing yards per game to rank 54th, its best passing defense since 2010 when the unit was ranked 53rd at 218.8 yards per game.

“It’s been night and day for sure,” Reed said. “It was bad then, it’s good now and we’ll be better when the season comes.”

When Combs arrived in Albuquerque in 2020, it didn’t take long for him to earn a starting spot. Even with the challenges the pandemic has produced, he has continually excelled over the past two seasons.

“Game time has helped me a lot,” said Combs, known as the safety “Lobo” in Long’s scheme. “At first I thought you could come and get a lot of knowledge and experience from the start. But now that I’ve been a starter for two years, I’ve seen that experience really matters. So being on the pitch helped me a lot to develop other ways that I didn’t think I could.”

The Lobos have great depth among their defensive backs. Combs expects freshmen and inexperienced players will have to contribute.

First-year safety Jer’Marius Lewis of Summit, Mississippi, might need to make plays right away instead of taking a redshirt season. The same goes for freshman cornerback Zach Morris of Flower Mound, Texas.

Reed knows this is his last season with the Lobos. He feels it can be special because he already has a lot of familiarity with the defense and fellow safeties Combs and Ronald Wilson.

“I know what he’s going to do and he knows what I’m going to do,” Reed said of the safeties. “I know he knows what he’s doing. It’s that chemistry, that connection, that level of communication that’s going to make us great.


PLAYER MOVEMENT: Keyonta Lanier, who had five catches for 87 yards and a touchdown as a freshman last season, is no longer with the team due to a violation of team rules, the coach said Saturday. ‘UNM, Danny Gonzales. Gonzales declined to give details and Lanier did the same, when contacted on social media. Earlier on Saturday, Lanier tweeted that he would enter the transfer portal.

Lanier, who prepared at Long Beach Poly in Calif., appeared in nine games and started two. Lanier missed spring football with the Lobos due to academics.

“During the spring, there were things he had to meet and expectations he had to meet,” Gonzales said. “He made himself eligible and then broke the team rules. It was my decision.”

Avery Burt, a Contra Costa College defensive lineman, arrived in Albuquerque three days ago and practiced with the Lobos on Friday.

Burt, 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, began his college career at the University of Oregon in 2018.

“He has an engine,” Gonzales said. “He can move.

Gonzales added that the Lobos are close to getting another defensive lineman transfer.

“We’ll see if we can do his business in the next few days,” Gonzales said. “If we can’t, then it’s too difficult to come in very late and have a chance to compete this year.”

QB UPDATE: Redshirt freshman quarterback CJ Montes and second-year transfer Justin Holaday (Fresno City College) performed well on Friday, Gonzales said, while senior transfer Miles Kendrick (Kansas) “made some big throws” Saturday.

“I think those three, they took the weight of the reps,” Gonzales said. “It’s almost impossible to tell without pads because there aren’t as many collisions ahead of them with the interaction on the outside. It will be next week before we see anything significant.

Kendrick, deemed completely healthy after breaking his leg last fall, has the most NCAA FBS game experience than other QBs, playing 17 with four starts.

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