Thursday, April 30, 2009

LaVorick Williams back with Aggies

LaVorick Williams' return to NMSU is a big deal for the Aggie football program.

First off, lets go over some background. Williams, a Hal Mumme recruit, left school after Hal was fired. Williams has size, speed and the ability to catch the football. He has talent. He was one player in an Aggie uniform that I was excited to see down the road. It seemed like he was gone.

Obviously, the new NMSU coaching staff didn't hold a grudge and will welcome LaVorick back for this season. The receiver position is thin this year and you have to think that, even as a sophomore, if Williams continues to progress he will get an opportunity to perform.

Marcus Anderson will be a starter. After that, it's wide open. The Aggies have two newcomers making their way in for fall camp — Marcus Allen and Williams Bullock. They're big targets and I think they'll get every opportunity to contribute. Still, who knows what we're getting here.

One thing about receivers: They need a QB to get them the ball. Still, that doesn't take away from the re-addition of LaVorick Williams.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Williams and Richardson sign with teams

I think Chris Williams and Derrick Richardson landed in good places for their talents on the NFL level.

Lets start out with Williams, the top NFL prospect on the Aggies the past two seasons. First off, Chris is small and, in the NFL, it's hard to succeed if you are undersized. Still, we have seen receivers in recent years — Steve Smith, DeShaun Jackson off the top of my head — flourish on the next level. Chris has terrific speed. He will have to catch the ball consistently to be given a shot and also show something as a return man in the special teams game.

One thing the Dolphins don't have is a strong-armed quarterback. Chad Pennington is one of my personal favorite players, but he doesn't get the ball deep downfield. Chad Henne is waiting in the wings. Still, Williams' greatest asset is his speed and his potential to get over the the top of the secondary. The lack of a strong-armed QB could hurt.

Bill Parcells runs the Dolphins and has been known to find late round/free agent steals around draft time. Look no further than former Hawaii and WAC star Davon Bess, who had a very productive rookie season last year in Miami, despite being picked up as an undrafted free agent. In a runaround type of way, this speaks positively to Chris' ability. No stone is left unturned when Parcells is running the ship.

As for Richardson, he was a great Aggie and has such a passion for the game. The Steelers fit his mold — a hard-hitting player who plays with guts. Mike Tomlin is a defensive-minded coach and Dick LeBeau is one of the great NFL coordinators the game has to offer.

Derrick is a sound tackler and loves to hit people. He'll be around some of the best pros in the business and involved with a team that is coming off a Super Bowl championship. I think it's a great spot for him.

As for some other Aggies, Chase Holbrook remains out there. I think we all hope it works out for him.

Vincent Butler is with Tampa Bay. Vince didn't play consistently with the Aggies and was stuck in a tough spot — right when the team transitioned coaching staffs on the defensive side of the ball. Woody Widenhofer brought him in and Joe Lee Dunn was here when Vince finished his career.

Rhyan Anderson is a tree trunk that can run. The kid's built. With size like that, it's no surprise he's getting a shot with the Packers.

Anderson' situation is the same as every other Aggie on this list. They'll have to produce — in some cases go above and beyond their peers — in order to get a legitimate chance to prove themselves in the NFL.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What way should the QB situation go?

I have watched them sporadically this spring, but if I had to go with one over the other, I'd play Trevor Walls over Jeff Fleming at the Aggie quarterback position.

I have been impressed by Walls during practice. He's a big kid, but he has the physical tools and seems to be a more polished passer than Fleming. And, although not as athletic as Fleming, he's underrated in this category. I think he can move just enough and has a good enough feel for the game to stay off the ground enough, and give the Aggie offense a fighting chance.

The Aggies need to play the signal caller who they believe gives them the best chance to win. Forget everything else. The offense will have its growing pains, but steady play from the QB will go a long way. Poor play could sink the ship.

What do I think the Aggies are going to do? I wouldn't be surprised to see them go with a two QB attack. Again, they have to do what they think gives them the best chance to win. Whatever that course of action is at this point is yet to be seen.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kicking game; offense/defense

First off, coach DeWayne Walker said that the he felt good with Kyle Hughes as the team's punter in 2009.

Last year, Hughes displayed a strong leg, averaging 42.7 yards per punt.

Walker said who will handle kicking duties is still up in the air.

The punter/kicking combination needs to be scrutinized simply because it's been a problem area in the past. Walker said following Saturday's scrimmage that he valued the importance of special teams, particularly this year. The Aggies will have a young quarterback under center and, really, an offense in transition. The kicking game will be critical for a handful of reasons. For one, if NMSU gets into scoring range, the team will need to capitalize. Secondly, field position will be a battle all season long. Pinning teams deep and forcing them to drive the length of the field could be as good an offense as any in 2009.

Speaking of offense, I had a thought at Saturday's scrimmage. It being, what is more in transition, the defense or the offense? I actually think the defense is going to be much improved this season. Of course I have concerns. The defensive line still could have some holes and I could see the team getting beat over the middle in the passing game. But I think, overall, Walker is going to instill a defensive mindset throughout the team. He will get his players to compete at a high level and the unit should have some spunk to it. At least that's the hope.

Offensively, things could be interesting. Obviously, the quarterback position is going to be in a state of flux. Choosing the right player at QB will be of paramount importance. Really, either way the team goes, they will be extremely young here. The best man should win the job, whoever gives the team the best shot to win. Simple statement, tougher to answer. We'll see.

As for the receivers, the group lost two great players in Chris Williams and A.J. Harris. Wes Neiman was a contributor. And two years ago, it was Derek Dubois and Nick Cleaver. This unit is starting over from scratch. Two young passers throwing to a bunch of unproven targets? And small targets at that. The group has its work cut out.

I think the offensive line could be underrated. There are some returning starters on the roster and the team will run the ball more. That should be music to the O-linemen's ears.

The one area on offense I like? Running back. Marquell can run outside and inside. He's shifty. He just needs to stay healthy. Tonny Glynn was a forgotten man last year. Two years ago, he showed that when used the right way, he was a playmaker. I think both of these guys can do some things and can play well off each other.

The bottom line is that the team is going to look a lot different this season. An offense where the strength is the ground game? And the passing game has some question marks surrounding it? Different for sure.

And the defense could be the bread and butter? I know, I gotta slow down. It's only spring football. Lots of time 'till Week 1. Heck, lots of time 'till fall ball. Lots of time to see how things shake out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hal Mumme to McMurry

Former Aggie coach Hal Mumme confirmed that he is going to coach at McMurry University next year.

We will have a story up shortly but just wanted to get this on the blog early. Felix spoke with him.....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday's practice

Monday's football practice was what most of the Aggie workouts have been this spring. Physical and intense.

DeWayne Walker was in his players' ears all afternoon. He is trying turn a losing program into a successful one. Easier said than done, indeed. The whole staff is vocal and trying to light a fire underneath the team. We've been talking about this during the past couple of weeks, so the atmosphere shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

I think that the secondary is going to be an area of strength for the team this year. First off, Walker is the most hands on with this unit. And there is talent, particularly at cornerback. I think we could see Davon House take the next step this season and possibly be an All-WAC player. I know, it's a lot to ask for, but Davon has grown into his body and he has a knack for the big play. He looks like a player out there and that's half the battle.

Opposite House, it looks like it's going to be Jonte Green. I liked what I saw from Green on Monday. First off, the coaches got on him for a poor tackle along the sidelines. Then, Green responded. He broke up a pass in the back-left corner of the endzone. Good coverage. He then chased Tonny Glynn out of bounds inside the 10-yard line for no gain. The staff was fired up. House called him a great athlete following practice. Two good cornerbacks can go a long way.

I do have questions at the safety position. Junior Fasavalu and Stephon Hatchett have both had decent springs, but are they really going to start this season? It's a lot to ask for from both players. Junior has been hurt and ineffective his first two seasons with the program. In his favor, the coaching staff was very high on him going into his freshman season two years ago. He's a Woody Widenhofer guy.

As for Stephon Hatchett, this guy was switched from receiver to defensive back last season. Now he's starting? For some reason, I do like him. First off, again, he kind of just looks like a football player. And I will say that Hal Mumme was high on Hatchett two years ago coming out of the team's preseason trip to Gallup. Hatchett earned his roster spot two years ago. Some guys are just football players. Maybe Hatchett is one of these guys.

As for the team's backups, the staff is trying to build depth with Alphonso Powell, Chris Buckner, Michael Zant and Ben Bradley. Again, I see some potential here. I think Buckner could do some things. He's an athlete. But there are still question marks and it's not like you can just hide your safeties out there. This is a huge position and guys are going to need to step up for the secondary to reach its ceiling.

Still, I think the DB's as a whole could surprise this year.

The receivers are going to need to step up too. They have good speed guys, but they're all small. Marcus Anderson will still be a big play guy. He had some nice catch and runs on Monday.

The team did seem to take more shots down the field on offense. Fleming seemed to get more snaps with the first team but Walls was out there too. It seems like a wash at this point.

Another area of strength could be at running back. I still like Marquell Colston and Tonny Glynn just got a raw deal last season. He was in the dog house and never was able to break out of it. But I still think Tonny can do some things if used the right way. That is, get him the ball in space and he can take it to the house. He's a big-play guy. I saw it two years ago. Both Colston and Glynn had nice scoring runs on Monday.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday's spring practice

Went to practice today. Here's what I thought....

First off, it was physical. The offense and defense went toe-to-toe and that was the main thing that stood out to me. People were getting hit, the defense was coming up and playing the run and pass aggressively.

"That's what I believe in," DeWayne Walker said. "We gotta be tough and play well in all phases of the game. That's how we'll play."

Alright then. The team definitely is playing aggressively right now and practices are being ran efficiently. There is little or no free time for these guys to dillie-dallie. Everyone's on the move.

The passing game could be a work in progress. I say could be because, lets be honest, this was the fourth practice of the spring. Everything should be a work in progress at this point - you could view it like that as well. But the reality is this: It seemed like Walls got a little more work and played a little more with the first team. I like Trevor. He can throw the ball and has better mobility than people want to give him credit for. Fleming is a bit more athletic, but it seemed like he struggled to throw the ball a little more than Walls. Again, it's just spring ball and there is a lot of room to grow.

Also, the receivers need to step up. The team lost two great players in Chris Williams and A.J. Harris this offseason. And there are holes there now. Julius Fleming, Todd Lee and Marcus Anderson were all getting snaps on Saturday, but they're all small guys. They were snug fits in Hal Mumme's offense. We'll see how they do in this offense. A few big targets: Joe Cordova (6-foot-8, 205 pounds) and tight end Kyle Nelson (6-foot-4, 234 pounds). Offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach said that Nelson was in on 70 percent of the offensive plays on Saturday. And the QBs threw to him.

Seth Smith saw the most carries at running back. Seth was a highly regarded recruit last year but sat out with grade issues.

Here were the defensive players seeing snaps on the "first team." First team is in quotes because, again, it's the fourth day of spring practice and we don't want to go too bonkers over this. But it's still worth noting and storing away...

Defensive line: E.J. Cannon, Ka'ua Adolpho, Donte Savage, Pierre Fils.

Linebackers: Jason Scott (outside linebacker), Ross Conner (MLB), Sam King (OLB).

Secondary: Cornerbacks: Davon House, Chris Buckner; Safeties: Junior Fasavalu, Stephon Hatchett.

Some notes - Jason Scott continues to play good. He's a little small for a linebacker but he just has a nose for the ball carrier. He made a few big hits on Saturday including one where he came off the edge and drilled the running back in the backfield.

Fasavalu and Hatchett at safeties? Wow. Fasavalu hasn't played a whole lot in two years and Stephon used to be a backup receiver. Actually, both came up and made some hits during drills. Who knows?

And along the offensive line.....

David Norman, Chuck Taylor, Joseph Palmer, Joel Buschmann and Dwayne Barton.

Great to have football back.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Nevada hires David Carter

Nevada has a replacement for Mark Fox. Here's the AP story

Carter is Nevada’s new basketball coach
The Associated Press
RENO, Nev. — Nevada athletic director Cary Groth says longtime assistant David Carter will replace Mark Fox as basketball coach.
Fox told reporters during the announcement of his hiring at Georgia on Friday morning that he expected Carter to get the job. Groth made it official at a news conference in Reno that afternoon.
The 42-year-old Carter has been an assistant at Nevada since then-coach Trent Johnson hired him in 1999. He was elevated to associate head coach in 2004 when Johnson was hired by Stanford and Fox took his place.
Carter also served as an assistant at Eastern Washington and Saint Mary’s, his alma mater, where he played in the late 1980s and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame.

Farnham, a leader on NMSU

Rocky Ward called Jeff Farnham the Aggie baseball team's "cornerstone." Very rarely do you hear a coach use such words for an individual player. Unless, of course, it's just a basic fact and no egos will be hurt by such a remark. Clearly, Ward feels this way.

A catcher on a baseball team needs to transcend clicks in the clubhouse. Ward spoke about Farnham's ability to relate to each player on a personal level and be a sounding board for both pitchers and regular players, a divide on many clubs.

“He's the type of person, the minute you meet him, you feel comfortable,” Ward said. “He's the type of guy you can trust with your life.”

Those are bold words. But it's clear NMSU has a real leader at the catcher position.

Looking ahead to their series against Sacramento State this weekend, NMSU should handle the Hornets. I really don't know how good the Aggies are. Their competition hasn't been standout by any stretch. And the WAC is pretty decent on the baseball field. Ward and the team talk about their improved pitching and defense. That will be the ultimate test. Offensively, the team has some pieces. But can they hold down the opposition? This has been the program's weakness for some time.

Again, I like them this weekend against Sacramento State. Next weekend they go to Fresno and the following weekend they go to Nevada. We'll learn a lot more then.

Fox hitting the road

The news of Mark Fox leaving Nevada has to come as good news for NMSU fans. How could it not?

Love him or hate him, Fox put good Wolf Pack teams on the court year in and year out. They were chief rivals with NMSU for some time. From a basketball standpoint, it actually might hurt, simply because Aggie-Wolf Pack games were always filled with piss and vinegar and Fox had something to do with that. Hopefully, his departure won't put out the fire that comes with the annual clashes.

David Carter could be in line for a promotion on the Wolf Pack sidelines which I think could be a good move. Carter was hired by current LSU coach Trent Johnson as an assistant for Nevada in 1999. Finding a good replacement for a program with high expectations is easier said than done. Fox leaves the team with a career 123-43 record as coach of the Wolf Pack.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thursday's practice

A poster on one of my last entries asked if the intensity level was up this year at Aggie practice. After watching Thursday's spring session, I can confidently say yes.

Look no further than the defensive line, where coach Jesse Williams ran his unit through an assortment of drills. Williams was riding his players at every turn of the way. In on the action were Donte Savage, E.J. Cannon, Kawika Shook, Chris Romero and Dejuan Yates, among others. Williams didn't accept anything less than maximum effort and execution. He was loud, enthusiastic and in their faces. I just wonder about the D-line. It's Williams' job to be tough on them, especially at this point in time. But last year, this unit was a major problem area on the team. It was young and undersized. Improvement here is a necessity.

Defensive backs coaches Mike Rutenberg and R. Todd Littlejohn are both fiery. And Walker has been very hands on with the DBs. This could be an area of strength as the season develops.

Mark Fox, gone from Nevada

Mark Fox is going to the University of Georgia.

This story just came over the AP News Feed

By Chalres Odum
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA — In a surprise move, Georgia has hired Nevada’s Mark Fox to replace Dennis Felton.
Georgia will announce the hire at a news conference on Friday morning, a person with knowledge of the hire confirmed on Thursday night.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the hire has not been officially announced.
The announcement is a surprise because Georgia athletic director Damon Evans left Athens on Thursday for the Final Four in Detroit, where he was expected to interview candidates.
Fox led Nevada to a 21-13 record this season. The hire comes after Georgia was unable to hire Mike Anderson, who instead agreed to a new deal at Missouri on Tuesday.

Sports poll

On the lcsun-news web page along the left-hand column. It's on spring football. If you haven't participated, now's your chance....

I voted on quarterback play. Defense and special teams are neck-and-neck. I don't get as fired up for newcomers in spring ball. Once the fall rolls around, that's always fun. But hey, that's just me.

Lucio Luttrell, All-State 2nd Team

Las Cruces High guard/forward Lucio Luttrell won the Gatorade Player of the Year yet wasn't on the all-state first team.

The top squad consisted of guards Michael Maya (Valley), Ronnie Daniels (La Cueva) and Mark Tenorio (Manzano) along with forwards Jaye Crockett (Clovis) and Alfonso Hubbard (Gallup).

Team two was Luttrell, Highland guard Marcus Franco, Alamogordo guard Travis Geiger, Rio Grande guard Gabe Sanchez and Highland forward Chad Adams.

There were some eyebrows raised when Luttrell pocketed the award. The theory was that there were other standout players who put up monster numbers who may have been more deserving. I'm not saying I felt this way - I support the local guy getting the honor - but there were rumblings going the other way on the issue.

A number of factors are considered when making the Player of the Year decision. Basketball is not the only element, although it is the major one. I do think when the winner of the award doesn't make the all-state first team, the critics will come out all the more.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Theus mentioned as possible replacement to Calipari

This was at the bottom of a Memphis Commercial Appeal article. Reggie was actually the last name mentioned as a possible replacement for John Calipari.

On a side note, UTEP coach and former Memphis assistant Tony Barbee was mentioned as a possible replacement too.

Reggie seems like a long shot, but you never know. He is known to surprise, i.e., getting an NBA job straight from NMSU. Just thought this might generate a little chatter. Here's the link.

Spring football thoughts

After attending spring practice on Tuesday, here are some tidbits that I took away from the session.

First off, DeWayne Walker and his staff are very hands on. I stood by Walker tutoring his cornerbacks for roughly seven minutes the other day. He was teaching them the ins and outs of the position, how to read receivers' breaks, how to read what the quarterback was going to do at any particular time, from the signal caller's movement under center, to his drops, to his eyes. There was a lot of enthusiasm out there.

Timm Rosenbach was in constant communication with the quarterbacks and the other assistant coaches were very enthusiastic. It was nice to see.

The quarterback position is one of intrigue. Both Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls are big kids who can throw. Although it's just one drill at one practice, the offense seems to be predicated around short passes, a version of the West Coast offense. This isn't a huge change from last season, as the Aggies seemed to throw short more often than not in 2008. Walls stood out to me. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, he's built like a brick house. And he's redshirt a freshman.

At receiver, Marcus Anderson and Julius Fleming were getting snaps. The team also has Darrius Preston on the roster. Preston was recruited by Hal Mumme and last year's staff was excited about the Florida natives ability. He redshirted and it seems like he is still on the club. Todd Lee is also back. I think there could be some sleepers on the depth chart here.

Davon House had an interception. We've all been following the cornerback since his freshman year when he returned an interception back 100-plus yards vs. Idaho in his first career start. He continues to develop as a player. Under Walker, he could be ready to take the next step as an elite cornerback in the conference. "Could" is the key word in that sentence.