Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

UNM’s Hannah a whirlwind at linebacker

New Mexico’s Reco Hannah (44), shown sacking Houston Baptist quarterback Blaise Bentsen in last year’s season opener, is revved up to play in this season’s first game against Main on Saturday.
Roberto E. Rosales/Journal

Recently, a question, mostly meant to be rhetorical, circulated around the University of New Mexico football team as the Lobos eagerly prepare for their season opener against Maine at University Stadium on Saturday.

What’s the definition of being fanatical?

The first thought for UNM linebackers coach Jake Rothschiller and many Lobo football players revealed the answer: Reco Hannah, New Mexico’s senior linebacker.

“He truly loves the game,” Rothschiller said of Hannah, who is in his final season on a medical redshirt after a right knee injury that limited him to four games last season. “He loves all aspects of the game. Hey loves practice. He loves watching film. He loves the weight room. … You need a scout guy? He’ll run up there and do it. He’s selfless. He’s into the team. And, he’s ultimately a leader. I feel like that’s what makes him one of the better players on our team.”

Hannah is a vocal leader and also leads by example, Rothschiller added.

The left linebacker in UNM’s 3-3-5 defense doesn’t show much emotion about this being his final college football season. He’s all business, Rothschiller said,

“He’ll hype up the defense,” Rothschiller said. “He knows it’s his last year. He knows he has something to prove, but he’s even keel.”

Last year, coach Danny Gonzales, who played for New Mexico and began his coaching career at UNM, started a tradition to honor former legendary Lobos Brian Urlacher (No. 44) and Bobby Santiago (No. 42) by issuing their jersey numbers to players on the team. No. 44 went to Hannah and No. 42 to redshirt sophomore middle linebacker Dion Hunter from Cleveland High.

Hannah was just as amped for last season’s opener against Houston Baptist as he is for the Lobos’ game against the FCS Black Bears, who went 6-5 last season. But he sustained a tear in his right meniscus after recording six tackles, one sack and one tackle for a loss in a 27-17 win, Gonzales said. A couple of weeks later after surgery, it was thought he was out for the season.

But he beat recovery expectations and played in three more games, as Hannah and coaches decided to try for a medical redshirt. Hannah was on his super senior season last year, gained from the coronavirus-delayed 2020 season.

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“He played in four games (for the medical redshirt),” Gonzales said. “We could have gotten him in for six games at the end of the season, but for the longevity of our program and for development for him, and he’s big, strong and athletic, (four games) would benefit everybody to go that route. ”

Rothschiller said there are at least six linebackers capable of being playmakers in Hannah, Ray Leutele, Hunter, Cody Moon, Syaire Riley and Alec Marenco.

Moon, a former walk-on out of Volcano Vista, has the potential to be among the best linebackers in the Mountain West if he can gain more weight, Gonzales said. Moon is listed at 205 pounds.

Last season, Leutele showed that he’s capable of producing big plays when he helped the Lobos avoid a shutout in their 31-7 loss to San Diego State on Oct. 9. Leutele forced a fumble on the Aztecs’ lead running back, Greg Bell, then scooped it up and scored from 15 yards out.

Marenco has improved greatly during the offseason, Rothschiller said, and was among the top players in the weight room.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Yes, the Lobos are focused on Maine, but there has also been great planning for their home game against Boise State on Sept. 9 at 7, a Friday night.

Gonzales, who would rather not have UNM play on Friday nights because he believes that spotlight belongs to high school athletes, attempted to improvise with the Broncos coming to town for the game, which will be televised by CBS Sports Network.

Gonzales said he tried to move kickoff times to noon on Sept. 9 for games involving Albuquerque Public Schools.

At the Lobos’ night game, it will be Educators’ Night. UNM will be honoring local teachers and will get nominations from the community. Gonzales thought moving the start time to noon for high school games would potentially get more high schoolers to the Lobo game.

“But the logistics of how many days they have to have in the classroom and trying to get that changed after the academic calendar was set, it wasn’t as simple as saying, ‘OK, we’re going to play games at noon,’ ” Gonzalez said. “That didn’t work out, but that’s OK. We made an effort and it is what it is.”

ROSS WAIVED: The Miami Dolphins waived defensive back D’Angelo Ross, a former UNM player (2017-2018), with an injury designation.

Ross will revert to Miami’s injured reserve if he goes unclaimed on waivers.

Ross, who was capable of playing safety and cornerback, was signed by the Dolphins during the offseason. Ross had played for the New England Patriots previously.

In his two seasons at UNM, Ross had 85 tackles, 17 pass breakups and one interception.

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