New Mexico Lobo fans need to enjoy this football season because things are going to get worse before they get better.
Since the day he was named head coach just about a year ago, Bob Davie has said loudly and often that rebuilding the program was a three-year project. The Lobos look much better this season with their 4-5 record, which is a vast improvement over the 1-11 they were each of the last three seasons.
But this is fool's gold. While New Mexico has taken a giant step forward this season, it will take a moderate step backward next season, and Davie knows that.
The reason is simple - Davie is leaning heavily on players recruited by Rocky Long this year. He starts five seniors on offense and six on defense who are seniors. When they leave, he has to depend on players from the Locksley era, and there is a big difference.
Oh, Locksley brought in some talent during his three seasons as head coach of the Lobos. But it doesn't compare to what Long recruited and what Davie is adding to the roster now. Recruiting is always hit and miss. Every coach makes recruiting mistakes. But Locksley made more mistakes than most, and some of the talent he did sign left when he got fired.
Gone next year will be key players like quarterback B.R. Holbrook, who might be done for this season with a shoulder injury. If UNM does try passing the ball next year, gone will be receivers Ty Kirk and Lamaar Thomas. Gone from the offensive line will be Korian Chambers, Lucas Reed and Chris Biren.
On defense, the Lobos particularly will miss safeties Freddy Young and Matt Raymer. Also gone will be cornerback Destry Berry, leaving UNM with one starter in the secondary. And Joe Stoner will be missing at the linebacker spot.
Every team loses seniors every year. It is a natural part of the process. But the Lobos don't have the experienced juniors to step in. Losing the seniors from the 2013 team won't be nearly as painful as losing this class.
Davie has freshmen spotted throughout his two-deep chart. He's got a few sophomores. He has four juniors starting on offense and three on defense.
The bottom line is that the talent level will fall off for UNM next year. There is a real possibility, even a probability, that the Lobos won't be as good in 2013 as they are in 2012. The offense will be built around a quarterback who can't pass, assuming Cole Gautsche can play again. But he won't have many experienced receivers to throw to if he does try to pass.
And the secondary will be put together piecemeal, making UNM even more vulnerable to the pass.
If one of the two quarterbacks can play again, the Lobos still could win seven games this year. UNLV, Colorado State and Wyoming are all pretty bad. But they are probably setting a standard this season that they won't be able to match next year.