A poster on my last entry (Chilero) asked if I would do a midseason report card for the team.
Here are my grades for the Aggies at the midway point of the year
Quarterbacks: The passing game's struggles have been well documented this season and, fair or not, a lot of this falls on the QBs shoulders. Both quarterbacks — Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls — have been up and down. Hands down the best game of the year for this unit was at New Mexico. Walls led the team to 13 first-half points and Fleming came in when the offense sputtered down the stretch and ended up throwing the winning touchdown pass with under a minuted remaining. On the other hand, three of the team's six games this year, the Aggies have failed to throw for 100 yards. That's not good at all. I would like to add that both players have been good soldiers being swapped in and out of the lineup and the team is 3-3. So they get some extra credit in that respect.
Running backs: This group, and a lot of Seth Smith, has carried the offense thus far. Smith has been a battering ram out of the backfield, something the team desperately needed. His steady style has allowed the team to hold onto the football and eat up the clock. Marquell Colston was having a decent year as a backup until this past week. Tonny Glynn has been under-utilized, although it seems like he'll get his chance now. I was expecting more big plays out of the backfield. Although the group has been solid none-the-less.
Offensive line: I think this has been the most underappreciated and most steady aspect of the offense to this point. Walls wasn't sacked last week, something that was overlooked. Opposing defenses also know that the Aggies are going to look to run early and often, yet the team has been able to stick to its gameplan as the line continues to hold up. There have also been injuries — tackle David Norman missed some time and starters from last year, Kyle Smith and Patrick Blount, haven't played this season. That, and the unit went from pass blocking every play to a more physical style this season. Gotta give credit to the boys up front.
Wide receivers: This group needs to share responsibility with the quarterbacks for the poor passing attack. Todd Lee has had a nice year. Marcus Anderson has had a good year as well, but much of that has been because of his performance on special teams and his clutch catch against UNM. Lee, Marcus Allen and Anderson lead the team with 16, 15 and 13 catches, respectively. Tight end Kyle Smith has a touchdown catch but, besides that, has been invisible. Donyae Coleman and Williams Bullock continue to try and find their niche.
Defensive line: I really think this group has overperformed this season. Week 1 against Idaho, I was concerned, as little pressure was generated and the Vandals did what they wanted in the ground game. Now, the unit is playing much better, despite using the same two defensive ends for most of the season — Pierre Fils and Donte Savage — and rotating bodies at defensive tackle. Fils and Savage have five and four sacks, respectively, this year. Tackles Kawika Shook and Chris Romero have one apiece. This unit has held up and deserves credit.
Linebackers: What did we say at the beginning of the year? The top four on this unit need to stay healthy for it to be effective and, so far so good. Middle linebacker Jason Scott leads the team with 47 tackles and strong side backer Ross Conner is right behind him with 46. Again, this unit has gotten better as the season has gone on, particularly Scott who racked up 14 tackles and broke up a pass last weekend against Utah State. The team continues to rotate Sam King and Jamar Cotton on the other side, with Cotton getting the start this week. Coach DeWayne Walker said on Thursday that the hot guy will continue to get the majority of playing time at that position. It should be mentioned that King, in a reserve role, recovered a fumble on special teams against Utah State. Still, depth remains a concern here.
Secondary: Overall, this group has been good as well. Really, their worst performance of the year came against Idaho, when Nathan Enderle dropped back and tore them apart through the air. Things have gotten better though and I've been impressed by the units ability to tackle. Davon House leads the team with 23 solo stops and last week safety Alphonso Powell had 12 takedowns. Jonte Green seems to be getting better. Stephon Hatchett had a good start to the season. He'll be someone to keep an eye on down the stretch.
Special teams: This unit has been huge this year with the remains of last weekend's win still fresh in the minds of many. Kyle Hughes has been Mr. Everything to the kicking game but has done it well. As of now, his range has been between 40-to-45 yards on field goals. The kid can handle kickoffs and can flat-out punt the ball when he's on. Big year for him. Marcus Anderson wasn't spectacular on punt returns until last week against Utah State, but he blew up in that one. Without him, the Aggies score 10 points and lose. Tonny Glynn has also been good on kickoff returns for the team. Look out for Donyae Coleman in the second half of the season, as he could get worked into the return game more often.
Coaching: This Aggie team has bounced back behind head coach DeWayne Walker. I don't know how talented the group is but they play hard and seem to overachieve. That's not a knock, it's actually a compliment. The whole seems to equal more than the sum of its parts and that's a direct credit to the coaches and players alike. The defense is completely better under Walker and the assistance coaching staff's guidance. Special teams has been a strength of the Aggies this year — without them they don't beat New Mexico or Utah State. Again, the offensive line has turned it around and the running backs have adjusted to a much different system. This team has done better than most people thought and believes in the system. Great job here.
First half MVP: I gotta give it to Seth Smith, who has been a workhorse for the team this year. The Aggies are 3-2 since he's been inserted into the starting lineup and he fits into what the team wants to do on offense — pound the ball, pound the ball, pound the ball. He's physical and tough. His 2- and 3-yard runs add up at the end of the game and he can break loose occasionally too. Also in the mix are Dwayne Barton (LT), Joe Palmer (LG), Mike Grady (C), Seioli Fakalata (RG), David Norman (LT) and Joe Suder (backup), offensive lineman that have contributed to this year's team. They deserve a big piece of the MVP pie.
Best kept secret: The team's remained injury free, for the most part. That has been huge. I think just about everyone thought that if the Aggies weren't bit hard by the injury bug this season, they would be competitive. So far, that's been just about true. Hopefully, the Aggies can hold up for the remainder of the season.