Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Montes excited to compete as Lobos preseason camp begins

The University of New Mexico football team began preseason camp with a practice at night. (Courtesy of UNM Athletics)

University of New Mexico football coaches and even quarterback CJ Montes himself would tell you not to buy in too much that he took the first snaps on offense when the Lobos began preseason camp on Friday night.

But just the fact that Montes did start with the first team showed how far he has come from last year when Colorado State humbled him during a 36-7 loss to the Rams after he had told the media that the Lobos “should blow these guys out .”

Now, Montes, a redshirt freshman, is battling to be UNM’s starting quarterback against two transfers Miles Kendrick (Kansas) and Justin Holaday (Fresno City College) and sophomore Isaiah Chavez.

Montes, who made a few big throws on Friday night, has as great a chance as the other quarterbacks to become the Lobos’ starter.

Montes wasn’t content with the early portion of practice or with his great improvement shown during the spring, when he took the majority of snaps with the first team.

“I gotta go out there and compete,” Montes said. “I still gotta prove myself. We got three other great quarterbacks competing for the spot as well. I gotta keep doing what I’m doing and doing what they need me to do. Just keep competing.”

Montes said he feels that he is more composed in the pocket than he was last year. That comes from knowing the playbook, “inside and out,” he said.

He has also become a better quarterback because of his teammates, especially the Lobos’ defense.

“We got one of the best defenses, so going against them everyday is going to make us better,” Montes said. “That’s what we need.”

TRANSFER IT, TRANSFER OUT: Keyonta Lanier, who had five catches for 87 yards and one touchdown as a freshman last season, has entered the transfer portal, RivalsPortal tweeted on Thursday.

Lanier, a three-star recruit out of Long Beach Poly, appeared in nine games and started two. Lanier missed spring football with the Lobos due to academics.

Avery Burt, a defensive lineman from Contra Costa College, arrived in Albuquerque two 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’s got a motor,” UNM coach Danny Gonzales said. “He can move.”

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

“We’ll see if we can get his stuff done in the next couple days,” Gonzales said. “If we can’t, then it’s too hard to come in super late and have a chance to compete this year.”

MEET JUSTIN HOLADAY: Holaday, a versatile quarterback from Fresno City College, said he is excited to compete to become UNM’s starter.

He appears to be the dark horse to win the job.

“I have a strong arm,” Holaday said. “I can move a little bit. I’m a competitor. I’m going to go out there and play my hardest every down.”

Holaday, who played for Lemoore High in central California, said it had been his dream to play for Fresno State, “my hometown team,” he said. Lemoore is about 50 miles away from Fresno State.

“But the dream was always to play Division I football,” Holaday said. “That’s what it was.”

He said he will have no added motivation on Oct. 22 when the Bulldogs visit University Stadium.

“They’re a great team; good people,’ Holaday said. “I’ve got friends on that team. It will be fun to play against them.”

JONES’ GOALS: UNM running back Nate Jones is a big believer in the Lobos’ new and improved offensive line. As a result, he has set high expectations for his season.

He said he is aiming to produce 15 touchdowns and at least 1,000 yards rushing this season.

Jones appears more slender than when he was as a freshman for the Lobos in 2020. He has added speed and power, he said. He has the look of a young Marcus Allen.

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Jones’ nickname is Sandbeast, however.

Jones said that when he was in the third grade he was playing in the sand.

“I was bear crawling one day and my coach felt like I was in there beasting it up,” Jones said. “And then he called me Sandbeast.”

JAH’MAR WANTS MORE: Gonzales said it’s too early to project that freshman Jah’Mar Sanders will be a redshirt this season. Gonzales said at his press conference on Wednesday that Sanders would be used in a variety of ways on offense, including slot, receiver and probably as an option quarterback.

“Depending on how he acclimates to the speed of the game will determine how much he plays,” Gonzales said of the freshman out of Port Arthur, Texas. “And if he does a lot of real good things then it’s going to be hard to make him a full-time quarterback. We’ll evaluate that as camp goes along.”

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