I can't wait for football season. I had so much fun covering the team last year and being at the signing day press conference today got my blood going again.
A few things of note. First off, the team has two big holes at the two tackle positions on offense going into spring ball with the depatures of James Farrelly and Mike Martinez. Patrick Blount surprised the Aggies last year during spring ball and heading into the season but never saw the field. He could be a starter. But they brought in two JUCO guys, David Norman and Joe Suder. Suder is a house - 6-foot-6, 330 pounds. O-line is so important, particularly at tackle when you pass just about every play. They'll need good play there, the question is, who starts? Nobody talked about the O-line last season, but they were pretty solid considering how many times the team threw the ball. Check that, they were above average and much improved from the year before. That will be a key unit all year and one to keep an eye on.
Linebacker got beefed up some. Dante Floyd is gone, so they need some help in the middle. Three of the four starters from last year are back though and they brought in three newcomers as well. Joe Lee Dunn runs a defense with five linebackers in its base formation so obviously having a lot of bodies here is important here.
A little concerned about the secondary. It doesn't look like they have anybody really new here and the corners - Chris Woods and Davon House - got thrown on last year. House showed flashes but he was a freshman. He got picked on too. When I think of Woods, I think of the Nevada game. Stopping on one play because he thought the receiver stepped out of bounds and watching the Wolf Pack go in for a score and giving up the game-winning completion from 30-yards out with a minute remaining. That game was a gut-wrenching 40-38 affair that really nailed home NMSU's season. I'll never forget the press conference after that game. The team was beat down physically and emotionally. Football is a tough sport when you're not winning. Harder than any other when you're not winning I believe.
Offensively, when this team is healthy, points will not be a problem. It makes for exciting football. For those who don't watch the team often, you're missing out on some fine receivers, particularly Chris Williams who can flat out fly. If Chris is on the field all year, he will get 20 TDs. I really believe that, look at last season, he would have gotten it if he didn't break his collarbone. Chase Holbroook is a leader and can chuck it. Tonny Glynn is always interesting because of his rare abilities as a runner in the open field. And they have other pieces too. Everyone will score if this team is healthy.
But we all know the key is defense. How much better will they be? Can they win a 17-14 game where the D steps up in the fourth quarter and puts the opposition away? That's how you win consistently. With a stout D. Who knows? That's the beauty of the new year. Optimism is high. And I can't wait to find out how it will go down.