Saturday, April 19, 2014

What to watch for thought entering tonight's Aggie spring game

New Mexico State football takes the field tonight at 6 p.m. for its annual spring game. Looking for what to keep an eye on when the Aggies face the Aggies? Below is some food for thought:

• Quarterback play: This really goes for one individual, that being junior college transfer Tyler Rogers, who came to NMSU this offseason from Arizona Western College and has gotten the majority of snaps this spring. Rogers seems to have a leg up on the quarterback competition entering fall camp, with the five incoming freshmen who could be in the mix yet to arrive on campus. Rogers has thrown the ball pretty well during spring drills and has also shown some ability to operate in the run game. During last Saturday’s scrimmage he threw some interceptions as well, but Rogers has looked OK overall. One thing is likely: not unlike many quarterbacks, he needs a quality supporting cast, from offensive line protection, to the running game taking off some of the burden, to wide receivers making plays.

• Marquette Washington: This is a wildcard right here, although I believe Washington could supply the Aggies with a necessity entering the season - that is, a big back that can pound the ball between the tackles. A redshirt freshman, Washington showed some potential in last Saturday’s scrimmage and has some size (5-10, 215). Xavier Hall, who's atop the depth chart, performed well last year as a hard runner as well. The team will also bring in two freshmen - Larry Rose and Royce Caldwell - and members of the coaching staff have spoken highly of both players' speed. If Hall can pick up where he left off, along with Washington providing some power and perhaps some big-play pop form a freshman, the Aggies might have something to work with here. Another likely scenario: the ground game will be critical this year for the Aggies, for one to balance the offense and for another to help protect a developing defense.

• Left tackle: The team began spring practices with Matt Ramondo here, although he’s been playing more guard as practices have gone on. Head coach Doug Martin referenced Houston Clemente (a former offensive lineman who moved to nose tackle this spring, and has since returned to offensive line) and Peter Foreman as having a chance at the left tackle spot. He also said Andy Cunningham (a junior who’s played guard and tackle over the years) and Thomas McGwire could be options if need be (both are currently slotted at right tackle). Either way, the Aggies are apparently looking for an answer at left tackle, a critical spot along an otherwise fairly solid unit during spring practices.

• Defense: This is an overall group in transition, and it will be interesting to see things unfold moving forward. From the front-seven to the secondary, new faces are just about everywhere, including at coordinator where Larry Coyer took over this offseason. Expect the team to run a 4-3 defense up front. Coyer’s track record speaks for itself - over 50 years coaching both in the college and professional ranks, he's been through the wars. With that being said, the venerable coach is will build this group from the ground up.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Aggie football notes: Thoughts and observations from recent scrimmage

The Aggie football team had a solid two hour practice last Saturday that featured a lot of scrimmage work. Here’s some observations from Saturday’s session:

• Thought all units of the offense looked adequate to solid.

The team’s offensive line, as we’ve written before, looked good enough for the Aggies.

At running back, Xavier Hall continued to run well, as did redshirt freshman Marquette Washington.

The team’s wide receiver has looked solid this spring. Aggie coaches have spoken highly of players such as Adam Shapiro and Josh Bowen this spring, while Teldrick Morgan made some plays on the outside.

And quarterback Tyler Rogers made some good throws. The Aggie coaching staff is high on Rogers and he showed good arm strength. During this past week of practice, offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon said he was happy with Rogers’ progress in the Aggie run game.

“I think he’s made decent progress,” Brandon said. “He has a good grasp of most of the offense. I think he does a nice job in the run game, play-actions. He’s just got to keep improving and getting better.”

The transfer from Arizona Western College also tossed some interceptions, mainly when he was on the run or under pressure.

Brandon said following Wedesday’s practice that Rogers simply needs to get better taking care of the football, a natural progression for a player making the transition to Division I football. Rogers will be entering his sophomore year of eligibility in 2014.

“He can’t throw that ball back, inside across his body, to nobody,” Brandon said. “What he got away with in high school, what he got away with in junior college, you can’t get away with in Division I. The players are that much faster, that much more athletic, that much better coached. He’s got to understand that. He’s got a little cowboy in him that way.”

One would think Rogers will be the frontrunner for the starting job heading into the season, considering his experience and the fact he’s received the majority of snaps during spring drills. Of course, the team is bringing in five freshmen to compete for the job as well, so we'll see how things shake out.

• We knew entering spring ball that the Aggie defense would be a major work in progress and it certainly looked that way during Saturday’s scrimmage work.

The Aggies will need to find a pass rush from a defensive front-seven that lost some major pieces this past offseason. Clint Barnard is a returning player, moved from middle linebacker to left defensive end, and he can be solid for the team. On the defensive line, one would think the Aggies will also rely on redshirt junior Stephen Meredith, who suffered a torn ACL at the end of last season and remains out of spring practices. Kalei Aulua is another returning player from last season on the defensive line.

NMSU is hopeful Rodney Butler will continue his progression at middle linebacker after having a nice freshman year in 2013 (39 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a pass breakout). Ditto for Dior Moore, a junior college transfer from Butte College who got some experience from last season.

Saturday’s scrimmage saw the Aggie secondary have two converted quarterbacks getting plenty of work - Travaughn Colwell at free safety, King Davis III at cornerback. For his part, Colwell looks like he could have potential at the position - standing at 6-foot-3, he has the athleticism and range to possibly play a role entering his senior season.

A couple other returning players from last season in the secondary will be Kawe Johnson (he actually showed some playmaking ability last season at safety, with two interceptions and four passes defensed), Thomas Warren and cornerbacks Kadeem Thomas-Davis and Lewis Hill (who’s been out this spring with a shoulder injury).

The team also is bringing in a handful of freshmen for fall camp that will compete for playing time.

“No question,” defensive backs coach Will Martin said. “And that’s what we’re doing here, we’re allowing these guys to compete to see what they can do, so when the freshmen come in we know exactly where they’re at. And then we’ll give those freshmen a chance.”

When asked if the Aggie defense is still working primarily on fundamental football this spring, coordinator Larry Coyer said, “Absolutely. We are for the next two years. We’re not fundamentally very good right now.”

•••

The Aggies will hold their annual spring football game on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium. Admission to the game is free.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Catching up with former Aggie, current Green Bay Packer Davon House

Former New Mexico State Aggie cornerback Davon House will be entering his third season in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers.

House has been a contributor the past two years in Green Bay, both as a starter and as a reserve. Standing at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, House has the tools to continue getting better on the pro level, as he enters the third year of his four-year rookie contract signed following the 2011 NFL Draft.

The past two years has seen House make 70 tackles, record an interception, a sack and break up 15 passes.

House put on a kids clinic in Las Cruces this past Saturday, and took a few minutes to catch up during Aggie spring practice.

How has the journey been thus far?
"It's been good. A learning process. I feel like I'm getting better and better every year. I still feel like I haven't reached my full potential."

Obviously every year there's new goals. What are your goals for this season?
"My goal this year is to solidify myself to start and keep my job. And prove that I'm not just a fourth-round pick from New Mexico State. Show everyone that I'm an elite player."

Talk about your playoff game against San Francisco, going up against players like Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. How did you feel you did?
"I think I did really good. I think I maybe left one or two plays out there. Numbers wise, it was really good. They targeted me nine times, they completed three balls for, like, 30-something yards. I had, like, three pass breakups I believe. So, it was good. I feel like that's just a stepping stone. I feel like I could have done better than what I did, but I feel like I still had a good game."

Give fans an idea of what it takes on the professional level, staying on top of your game season after season?
"Every year, they're bringing in guys to replace you. It is a job….That's how you provide for your kids, and yourself. Every year I've got to find a way to get better."

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Friday, April 11, 2014

King Davis III moves to defensive back for Aggie football

King Davis III’s stay at running back didn’t last long.

The former quarterback, who was moved to running back this spring, has been moved to defensive back according to Aggie coaches.

Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer and secondary coach Will Martin said they’re excited about the move for Davis. They cited his athleticism - which is impressive - while Coyer mentioned the fact that as a player with quarterback experience, Davis understands the game.

Coyer spoke of another former Aggie quarterback, Travaughn Colwell, who similar to Davis is playing defensive back this spring. While Colwell will be a senior player in 2014, Davis is entering his sophomore year of eligibility.

“They know situations, they know how to study tendencies," Coyer said. "They know all that. They’re both good guys.”

Similar personnel moves could follow for the Aggies going into the 2014 season. The team is in fact bringing in five freshmen quarterbacks for fall football, yet one would think not all will remain at the position entering the season.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Aggie football: Spring practice notes

Yes, I realize we’ve been harping on the offensive line here in recent days, although it's for good reason.

This is a unit of utmost importance, perhaps most important when constructing a football team. And while the Aggies do have questions at a handful of positions on this year's spring depth chart, the offensive front is one that continues to look good during workouts.

It was evident during last Saturday’s spring session, when the Aggies broke into the Oklahoma Drill and players along the offensive line stood out. Senior center Valerian Ume-Ezeoke looked good in run-blocking, and the coaching staff is high on a handful of young players on the unit. Head coach Doug Martin and offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon have both mentioned Thomas McGwire as a player they believe has a bright future. Brandon also said Peter Foreman has played well during spring practices.

And, as mentioned last week, the team returns Ume-Ezeoke, flanked by last year’s starting guards Abram Holland and Isaiah Folasa-Lutui. Andy Cunningham will be back in the fall and is a player the Aggies have started at guard and tackle over recent seasons.

The one area the program must get solidified is left tackle. While Matt Ramondo started spring practices atop the depth chart at that spot, he’s also been playing at guard during spring drills.

“If we’re going to turn this thing around, it starts up front,” Brandon said following last Friday’s practice session.

Certainly that’s a good place to start building a foundation.

•••

The other good spot to start building a football foundation? That would be quarterback, of course.

The Aggies have in fact moved King Davis III from QB to running back on their spring roster, and he has been playing there during recent spring workouts. That leaves junior college transfer Tyler Rogers taking plenty of snaps this spring.

Rogers, who’s listed at 6-foot-3 on the Aggie roster, has looked fine making many throws during practices - showing a quick release and nice touch.

Of course, there’s certain intangibles that are difficult to quantify at the present time. One of which is, how will a quarterback hold up against a pass rush - a quality that separates many QBs from the rest of the pack. Also, the Aggies are practicing a large amount of zone-read in their running game, indicating the quarterback will have to do some things with his legs to help the team’s effort in the rushing attack.

Rogers started one season at Arizona Western before transferring to NMSU. He will be entering his sophomore season of eligibility, while the team is also bringing in five freshmen this fall to compete for the quarterback job.

•••

Speaking of former Aggie quarterbacks, as written previously, Davis has been taking snaps at running back during recent spring workouts.

He certainly is a terrific athlete, and could be used in the role of H-back or slotback - perhaps not necessarily a 30-carry per game runner, but one the team looks to get in space and to the second level of a defense.

•••

And, again, speaking of former quarterbacks, Travaughn Colwell is lining up at safety for NMSU during spring workouts.

It’s astounding that Colwell is already a senior, as he’s truly played all over the field during recent years. From quarterback his first two seasons with the team, to running back/wide receiver last year, and now to defensive back this spring.

Colwell is also a tremendous athlete and has some physicality to his game. He’s listed at 6-foot-3 - he can run and has range - meaning he has the attributes to play in the defensive backfield. With that being said, he’s also never played the position before, at least not on the college level.

During a recent practice, Colwell put a big hit on a ball carrier, as teammates and coaches gathered around him in celebration. Certainly one would figure Colwell would be eager to get on the field this season, after experiencing such a sporadic and ever-changing role during recent years.

•••

Wide receivers coach R. Todd Littlejohn said the team is hopeful that Greg Hogan can supply some big-play pop at the wide receiver position. He also said Teldrick Morgan, who will be a redshirt sophomore in 2014, also has the potential to fill such a role.

“I think if those two come around, now you’ve solidified the group in general,” Littlejohn said last weekend.

He would continue on Hogan, “He’s got kind of a combination of different things. He can make people miss in the open field. He has the ability to take a simple play on the long run. He can also stretch the field. He kind of gives you a little bit of everything that way.”

Here’s a story that appeared in Sunday’s Las Cruces Sun-News on Aggie wide receiver Adam Shapiro, and the entire unit in general.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Monday, April 7, 2014

PODCAST: Breaking down Aggie hoops, NMSU spring football

We sit down with Bleedcrimson.net to talk all things Aggie sports at the outset of April. Click here to listen.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

VIDEO: Teddy and Brook Show (4/4)

LCSN duo start off with NMSU spring football, followed by baseball and softball at the college and prep level, and finish with some talk on the Final Four: