PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University will begin spring football drills with a 3:30 p.m. practice today at the Greyhounds’ practice facility.
ENMU will have 15 practice/scrimmage dates, including the Green & Silver spring game finale at 4 p.m. on April 23 at Greyhound Stadium. All but four of the sessions are scheduled for the stadium.
Seventh-year coach Mark Ribaudo said he anticipates 77 players for the start of spring drills. The Hounds also have intrasquad scrimmages on tap for 9 a.m. on April 9 and 16 at Greyhound Stadium.
“We’ve had some excellent preseason workouts, lifting weights and running,” Ribaudo said. “This group is really coachable. They correct their mistakes quicker than some groups will.”
Ribaudo said the Hounds believe they’re prepared to shore up problem areas from last season. They went 5-6 in 2010, including 3-3 in the Lone Star Conference North Division.
With five Oklahoma schools leaving the LSC, the conference will now play a single-round-robin schedule with nine teams.
“We (coaches) spent the entire month of February analyzing every single play (from last season), so we know exactly what areas we need to improve on,” Ribaudo said. “We have specific goals for everyone where we need to improve.”
The main areas the Hounds are trying to shore up are in the offensive line and in the secondary, each of whom lost three players to graduation.
Both areas, though, have players with experience coming back who will be battling with newcomers for possible starting berths. Seniors Adam Robinson at tackle, Mark Pena at guard and Tanner Streety at center are among about a half-dozen linemen who have started at one time or another in the past, Ribaudo said.
“We’ve got DBs (defensive backs) who have been here two or three years now,” he said. “It’s just a natural process. We’ve also got linebackers and DLs (defensive linemen) who’ve been her for a couple of years.”
The offense returns most of the skill players from a potent attack, including junior quarterback Wes Wood of Muleshoe, who will be a second-year starter.
“I’m excited to see Wes’ progress, (as well as backup) Sawyer Cornelius,” Ribaudo said.
ENMU opens its 11-game slate at home on Sept. 3 against New Mexico Highlands.
3 — New Mexico Highlands, 7 p.m.; 10 — at Incarnate Word, 6 p.m.-x; 17 — at Oklahoma Panhandle State, 6 p.m.-x; 24 — Tarleton State, 6 p.m.-x.
1 — at Angelo State, 5 p.m.-x; 8 — Abilene Christian, 2 p.m.-x; 15 — at Northwest Missouri State, noon; 22 — at West Texas A&M, 5 p.m.-x; 29 — Midwestern State, 2 p.m.-x.
5 — at Texas A&M-Commerce, 5 p.m.-x; 12 — Texas A&M-Kingsville, 1 p.m.-x.
All Times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference games.