Monday, April 28, 2008

spring game

A few things stood out from New Mexico State's spring game the other night.

First off was the punting and kicking from Kyle Hughes. Hughes booted his first kickoff out of the endzone and had some booming punts that had solid hangtime and distance. I promise, just better special teams will ensure another win or two for NMSU this year.

The young receivers exploded and should be immediate contributors. They're all very fast. This offense is based around the play of its receivers. The quarterback gets the receivers the ball and they're asked to turn it upfield. It's simple. This is a deep unit. I just wonder why one of them can't be moved to corner. Seems like that group needs a little help.

Defensively, hard to accurately call it because of their competition. This was not the first-team Aggie offense so there is no need to jump through hoops over this one. Some things that were apparent though? For one, the group will try to be active. They will blitz, they will come to the line and drop off at the last second. They will try to disrupt the timing, rhythm and mindset of the offense. And you do that by disturbing the backfield, namely the offensive line and quarterback. That's going to be their motto. We'll see if it works.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spence signs on

New Mexico State locked up Darin Spence for another three years and possibly a fourth to coach the women's basketball team.

Spence needed this deal. NMSU improved greatly last year and should be solid again. Spence was not a McKinley Boston hire originally but has payed dividends none-the-less. The women had a great 1-2 punch up front last year in Anikia Jawara and Sherrel Neal. Both of them will be gone but Maddi Spence is back at point guard and other players will fill in around her.

NMSU had to show Spence some sort of loyalty. He has seen the program improve in his time and produced in a season when there was pressure from up top to get some wins. Not bringing him back would have reflected poorly. Frankly, they had not choice. Gotta take care of your people if they're winning you games.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Woods injury

NMSU head football coach Hal Mumme said that cornerback Chris Woods will need shoulder surgery and will be out for the start of the 2008 season.

Mumme said he was unsure when Woods would return but it seems doubtful he'll be back for the start of the year.

The loss of Woods is significant, simply because he was a starting player at a position that seems to lack depth. Davon House and Vincent Butler have seen playing time so far this spring and the team has also been working Marvin Betts into the cornerback rotation.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring scrimmage

I realize this is way past deadline but I wanted to state some things about NMSU's spring scrimmage the other day.

First off, I mentioned LaVorick Williams on a previous post and he absolutely torched the Aggie secondary on his long catch and run for a touchdown. He looks to be a possible stud in the future at NMSU.

The defense was bad. You hope this ends up being an afterthought and just the first scrimmage of the year. I'm sure that had a hand in it. But the D needs to play well if the Aggies are going to make noise. Forget playing well, just hold the opposition every once in a while. They are learning a new system, sure, but the defense needs to play better if they want to go anywhere.

A few things of note:
The running back position is deep. I'm excited to see Marquell Colston come in as well. I've heard good things about him. They have talent back there and though people think running back is meaningless in the Air Raid, that isn't entirely true. The backs do see the ball often. Holbrook will often do a forward lateral to a runner out of the backfield and they'll call it a pass completion. But it might as well be a handoff. They are deep in the backfield.

I don't think they know who they will trot out on defense yet. Some positions are set in stone, but many are not. It's early and they are learning but it would be nice if some semblance of unity was out there. They have about 20 receivers on this team, can't one or two play defense? Just a question, it seems like the secondary could use some help.

I do think the team can make some noise this year. I said that last year too, maybe I'm just too optimistic. But they were alright last season until players started going down. Again, defense needs to hold other team to under 30 a game. If they do that, I think six wins is possible. A stretch, but certainly possible.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Answer to a question

A blogger (GS) on the last Wendell McKines post stated some interesting things he heard regarding the basketball team.

The first had to do with the McKines transfer, the second with Gibson possibly leaving and the third regarding Pope and Young. Here's what I have to offer.

I heard during the year that McKines was possibly going to leave. I didn't believe it. Wendell got solid minutes last year for a freshman and filled a role on the team. His future looked bright. Well, it happened so I should have known better.

I also heard that Gibson would go. Again, I didn't believe it. Jonathan got good minutes too and had a decent year. I for one thought he was an enigmatic player, one who could shoot you into a game or right out of it. I didn't know if playing him as much as they did was the perfect move. He seems like he could use a heavier hand guiding him to being a very good scorer on the college level. But still, for what it was, he had a pretty decent year and it seemed like Menzies gave him the freedom he coveted on the court. Do I think he's going to go? No. But I said the same thing about Wendell and look what happened. Where is Johnathan going to find a better situation than NMSU? Hard to see him winding up in one. Who knows about this kid.

As for Pope and Young, again, I heard they were going to go. I think a lot here has to do with Chris Pompey. If he stays, it increases the chances of these kids staying. If he goes, I think you can kiss Pope, Young and Chris Cole out of town.

Do I think it's smart that these kids go? It really depends on the player. Jonathan Gibson, you're at NMSU. You're going to be a junior. You're going to see major minutes next year. He should stay in my eyes.

Herb Pope? He took a chance on coming to Las Cruces to begin with. And, personally, I think he regretted it. He was highly touted coming out of high school and last year was somewhat of a letdown. Herb has talent. I could see him rising in the future. If he's really not happy, I think he should go.

JY? He can score the ball. I think he should stay as well. He could be a top scorer in the WAC in a few years if all works out. He should stay.

These are just rumors. But again, when I heard Wendell would go, I laughed. And then it happened. Now, I don't count anything out.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Wendell McKines

When I heard about Wendell McKines leaving NMSU, I was somewhat surprised.

Let's face it, the team seemed somewhat dysfunctional as times last year. Wendell was someone who could be relied on for consistent play and was a bright spot. A freshman, a Menzies guy, who patrolled the court and did the dirty work while providing some ruggedness to the lineup.

Luster, Jones, we expected that. Wendell, not so much. At the end of the year, I said that I wouldn't be surprised if a handful of players left. Wendell was on the lower half of the list. Again, a bright spot last season. Someone that could grow in the Menzies era. Those were things he signified from the 2008 season. Unfortunately, that will be the only season.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Man in the middle

Lots of talk of Nick Paden coming in at middle linebacker. Lets look at that position.

Paden is expected to replace Dante Floyd as the team's starter in the middle. Floyd was a leader for the team last season. Although it was a dismal performance by the defense in 07, Floyd was a bright spot. He made over 100 tackles on the year, got in the backfield often and created turnovers.

He was also a ball of fire on the field. He had a motor mouth that didn't stop moving and often got the team fired up even in the most trying of circumstances.

Will Paden be Floyd? Obviously not identical. He will have to bring certain intangibles to the lineup however. He will have to play tough against the run. Floyd was a bit undersized last season and we all know how NMSU defended the ground game. Paden will have to step in and bring a certain toughness to the middle and be stout against the point of attack and blocking. He will also have to be adequate in coverage assignments. Will Paden be asked to blitz a lot this year. It seems like everyone will. But there will be times he'll be asked to drop back and provide help in the secondary.

Replacing Floyd's leadership and fiery nature will be difficult. Paden will be asked to fill big shoes. No one said playing middle linebacker was easy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kicking game

The NMSU kicking game has been wildly inconsistent the last couple of years. The question now is, will that change?

The key for this whole thing to work will be Kyle Hughes, who was academically ineligible last season. Hughes was connecting well the other day in practice. He was knocking balls inside the 5-yard line on kickoffs. Last year, the team gave the opposition the ball on the 35 or 40, it seemed, on every possession. Little squib dump kicks that went nowhere. My Lord, what a painful experience that was last season. Watching that kicking game wallow in mediocrity.

Well, Hughes could make a difference. I spoke with NMSU golfer Travis Reid who is actually trying out for the NMSU football team as a kicker as well. I asked Reid about Hughes and his exact words were, "that guy's awesome." In other words, Hughes can boot the ball with accuracy as well as deep. There are still questions as to whether he will be the full-time kickoff man but I don't think there will be a question as far as field goals are concerned. Hopefully, he will have his head screwed on straight and booting balls come September.

As for the defense, people want to know about how things are coming along. Again, I've been to two practices. One, the defense looked a little behind the learning curve, but what do you expect? This team is trying to learn a new system and a drastically different one at that. The other practice I went to, Dunn was running them ragid. The best way to find out how the defense is doing? Go to the scrimmage on Saturday and see for yourself. Or check back in here afterwords and I can fill you in. Whatever works best for you, the readers


Monday, April 7, 2008

Spring Practice

Went to spring practice today. A few things stood out.

First off, it was a good day to be out there. People seemed to be in good spirits and the weather was perfect.

I didn't see the defense with the ball once. Now, I was only there for about 45 minutes and I watched some offensive drills as well. But when I watched the D, Joe Lee Dunn was putting them through heavy running and cardiovascular drills. He worked them hard. And I don't think that's a bad thing at all. This is football, more than any other sport, you need to be in great physical and mental shape in order to succeed. The game is unforgiving. NMSU needs a hard edge on D this year. Last season, there was no edge at all. They need to play mean and tough. It looks like they'll certainly toughen up under Dunn.

LaVorick Williams is big and tall. He doesn't look like your average freshman. Williams will play receiver this year for NMSU and I think he'll play a big role. They've talked about his speed. He has ability too. I saw him make a tumbling grab in the endzone today. No one was on him but the ball was badly underthrown. Williams made a shoetring grab and was praised by some coaches and teammates as he maintained possession. It caught my attention for sure. Keep an eye out.

I tried to look closely at Nick Paden, who is expected to see action at middle linebacker this year. It was tough to really get a feel for him though as he ran around with the rest of the defense under the direction of Dunn's whistle. Nose guard E.J. Cannon is seeing some action this spring. D-lineman Rhyan Anderson is huge. Still waiting for production from there though.

Check out some practice if you're bored. It's an easy way to kill an hour.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Holbrook's a warrior

Through all the tough times endured by the Aggie football team last season, Chase Holbrook was someone who remained relatively consistent.

Holbrook slipped statistically last year compared to the 2006 season, but he had a respectable campaign nonetheless. He had strong games against Nevada and Fresno State late in the year when the roster was hurt by injury. He torched Idaho and played banged up for some of the season as well.

Holbrook asked coach Hal Mumme this offseason if he could be more involved in drills and conditioning with the team during spring workouts. Last spring, the quarterback took it light along with much of the first-team offense. Not this year though. Is Holbrook a superstar quarterback or a product of the system? Hard to say right now. But he is a leader. And he can throw the ball with deft touch. He is what the Aggies need under center this year. A leader, who will play under most circumstances while taking some heat without complaint.

I've said it many a time. With a healthy offense, this team will score a ton. And Holbrook should have a nice year once again.

WAC football

It seemed to be a down year in WAC basketball in terms of play, last season.

I'm going to say that the same goes for the conference in football too.

Really, this has to do with the top teams just not being head and shoulders about anyone else right now. We all know who Hawaii lost - basically their whole passing game and passing-oriented head coach. Sounds like a transitional year there.

Boise State seems to be the front runner but only based off of experience. The Broncos have not nailed down a competent QB yet although Bush Hamden should win that job. One QB that has impressed in Bronco spring camp is Prosser Wash. native Kellen Moore.

Fresno State should be good, solid, but great? I don't think so. Them and Nevada though will be those two teams that come knocking on the door and make some noise. Louisiana Tech should continue to improve. NMSU could win some games this year if things fall the right way.

Utah State will be a team that continues to struggle but a few scrapiron wins will highlight their schedule. Idaho looks to be be a possible disaster.

When healthy, is NMSU comparable to a Utah State and Idaho? I don't think so. I think the Aggies have more talent. They're not on that level. They're definitely not on the level of Nevada and Fresno State though either. NMSU will need to beat one of these teams on the road this year if they are serious about a bowl bid. Tall order for the Aggies.

Two of their more winnable games are both on the road at Idaho and Utah State. NMSU needs a sweep here. Harder than some may think.

Boise is still the class of this conference. They return a deep RB corps and WR group. Look out for Jeremy Childs. He is an explosive talent at wideout for the Broncos, a player who will open eyes this year across the conference.

La. Tech is going to be a surprise team. The Bulldogs have talent and a new QB in place. They should be a darkhorse.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Fox update

Just updating the previous post, Andy Katz of is reporting that former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery is getting the nod at Cal. Looks like Fox will stay on board after all at Nevada if this rings true.

As long as Fox is in Reno, Nevada will remain competitive at the least.

Fox hitting the road?

Mark Fox is being recruited by California as a possible replacement for their coaching vacancy.

Fox could very easily go. A Pac-10 school that can knock Nevada off in the financial gain. It sounds like the time may have come where he leaves.

Then there is JaVale McGee, who went on to the NBA Draft. I think McGee is an enormous talent. He would have been dynamite had he come back this year. But the NBA is a stretch. He seemed to play in spurts last season.

Regardless, it leaves the Wolf Pack with a hole in the middle. The team would have leaned on McGee as a pillar in 2008-09. He was built to throttle the WAC next season. Big loss. And then, what about Fox? If they lose him? Foundations are built from the ground up and Fox has constructed many teams in the past. The big man is gone and the architect could be next. So what's next for the Pack?

The frontcourt is supposedly thin heading into next year. The team lost, not only McGee, but also Demarshay Johnson David Ellis, two frontcourt players as well. Their recruiting class is also supposedly guard heavy. Every team faces questions in the offseason. Nevada has some big ones at the moment.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Things to watch for

There are a few things of interest for me as spring football plays out.

1)Running backs - I want to see the running backs perform. I like the talent here. Tonny Glynn was a very good runner last year until he got hurt. Sure, he might not bang in between the tackles all that much, but you don't have to in this offense. He's a good fit and he should put up good numbers this year. Big yards per touch averages here.

I also think they will have some guys behind him to that will step up. I like this position here heading into spring ball.

2) Offensive tackles - There is not doubt that this is a huge spot here for this team. People can say whatever they want about the team, the offense, good or bad, whatever you feel. But everyone needs to recognize the importance of the two starting tackles. Joe Suter and David Norman will suit up and probably be the bookends. The team liked Patrick Blount a lot last year and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the mix as well. But people forget how bad the line played two years ago and how improved it was last year. The line was probably the most improved unit of the entire team last season. And they had two seniors - Mike Martinez and James Farrelly - who were pretty steady. Ya gotta pass protect in this offense. Hope all is well here.

3) Defense - This is pretty obvious. What will this defense be this year? Will it be better? I don't want to say it won't be. But I certainly don't want to say that it will be either. They changed up the coaching staff here. They have a new system. Are they going to be better? That is the season right there. This team needs to get to the QB up front. They will blitz and have some decent athletes at outside linebacker. They will need good play in the secondary. They will need a replacement for Dante Floyd in the middle. Both of those are pretty big ifs. This defense needs to hold people to under 30 points a game. It seemed like they gave up 50 every game last year, even though that wasn't true. But they need to hold teams to under 30 points every time out. And if they do that, the Aggies will honestly win 5-6 games. No joke. Because, when healthy, the team can score. What about the D?