WR competition heats up

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Eastern New Mexico University receiver Jesse Poku prepares to make a catch during Saturday’s practice. The Greyhounds open their 2008 season on Aug. 30 against Southern Nazarene at Bethany, Okla.

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

PORTALES — With the Eastern New Mexico University football team going to a four-wideout, spread formation on offense, the Greyhounds will be looking long and hard for receivers during preseason drills.

You’d think they would be able to find some. After all, coach Mark Ribaudo says there are currently 23 on hand.

“It needs to be that way,” Ribaudo said Saturday. “Everybody’s in camp because they haven’t run this (specific style) before. Everybody’s in the running.”

A handful of the receivers were around for spring practice, getting a feel of the system. They figure to get lots of competition, though, from the newcomers.

“That’s the way it should be,” said sophomore Jesse Poku, one of the holdovers. “We’re going to put the best four receivers on the field. You never know how good a man is until you push him.

“Coach Rib knows what he’s doing. It works for me.”

Redshirt sophomore Justin Campos, who led the Hounds in receptions (10) and yardage (167) and caught one touchdown pass last season, also said he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“Competition only breeds greatness,” he said. “If each person does their part, it’s going to make the team better.”

Ribaudo said the new system has added some work for the coaches as they try to figure things out.

“We chart every pass that’s thrown — who threw it, who caught it, what play it was and did it work,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of ground to cover (in preseason). I don’t know when all those questions will be answered. Some might now be answered until we get into the season.”

The Hounds will get their first look at the new offense in full pads in a 9 a.m. scrimmage on Tuesday at their practice facility.

The benefit of the new attack is that it’s closer to what players ran in high school than ENMU’s triple-option, run-dominated offense of the past.

“It’s just different terminology,” said Campos, who prepped at Lubbock Coronado. “Of course, the college game is a lot faster (than high school).

“But it’s a big change between blocking every play and running routes.”

He said there’s competition at virtually every position this season, not just wide receiver.

“With the people that (eventually) come out on top, we’ll be pretty hard to stop,” Campos said.

One thing’s for sure — the wide-outs should be noticed, said Poku, who had nine catches for 131 yards and two TDs in 2007.

“(My) goal is to be successful in college and, hopefully, make it to the pros,” he said. “Here, my main goal is to contribute to the team and be a go-to guy.”