Monday, June 29, 2009

Zach Daugherty

Lots of chatter about Zach Daugherty electing to go to the University of New Mexico over New Mexico State.

My initial thoughts? I was surprised. I thought he would come to NMSU for a few reasons:

1) It's his hometown

2) DeWayne Walker is a defensive-minded coach

3) NMSU needs help at linebacker, giving him a legitimate shot at playing time right off the bat

In reality, Las Cruces being Zach's hometown was a big reason the kid left. He wanted to branch out and get a new experience under his belt. Can anyone blame him for feeling that way? I know I can't.

As for the other two factors, I think they are legitimate. Both NMSU and UNM are going through massive transformations on the football field. If it were the last few years, with Hal Mumme and Rocky Long at the helm of their respective programs, that would be a different story. If Long was still in Albuquerque, it would be the ideal fit. Go to a unique defensive system, to a coach that frankly was able to get a lot of his players to overachieve. That would make perfect sense. Who knows what you're getting at UNM now. The Lobos have just as many question marks as the Aggies, in my eyes. The hope is that, in time, Walker will mold NMSU into a tough-minded defensive team.

Who knows how he would have fared at NMSU. I think Zach will be a solid D-I football player. A middle linebacker? Time will tell where he fits in and in what role. But I do think he will be a factor during his career in Albuquerque.

Moving forward, how does NMSU attract more New Mexico players to its program? That's easy. You gotta win. You gotta beat the Lobos, you gotta beat UTEP, you gotta get a positive buzz surrounding your program. If you do that, kids will come play here. Easy answer. Concocting that winning formula can be a bit more elusive. They'll get another shot at it in two months.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rating the QBs

Tonight I break down the quarterback position for all nine teams in the WAC.

Sure things
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
2008 stats: 208-of-383, 2,849 yards, 22 TDs, 7 INTs; 161 rushing attempts, 1,298 yards, 17 TDs
Team's 2008 record: 7-6 overall, 5-3 in WAC
Kaepernick is a different kind of player. At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, he is anything but a classic drop-back quarterback. What he does do well is move in and around the pocket and can get downfield with his legs. Kaepernick remains a streaky passer, prone to hot and cold spells. His scrambling ability sets up well though in the Wolf Pack offense, which sports a handful of good running backs. The one risk with Kaepernick is injury. His style could lead to big hits and possible missed time. If he went down, the Nevada offense wouldn't be the same.

Kellen Moore, Boise State

2008 stats: 281-of-405, 3,486 yards, 25 TDs, 10 INTs
Team's 2008 record: 12-1 overall, 8-0 in WAC
Moore had a big freshman season last year, fitting in nicely in the Bronco offense and putting up big numbers. Moore was poised throughout the season and perhaps the most impressive statistic was Boise State's 12-1 record and Poinsettia Bowl appearance (the team lost 17-16 to TCU). The bottom line is that Moore put up gaudy numbers, and Boise State continued its high level of play. It spoke volumes about the freshman signal caller from Prosser, Washington. This year, the team loses some weapons on offense, namely running back Ian Johnson and wide receiver Jeremy Childs. The Broncos should have a solid supporting cast once again around the QB, however. One would think Moore should come close or eclipse his numbers from last season.

Simply solid
Diondre Borel, Utah State
2008 stats: 136-of-242, 1,705 yards, 11 TDs, 10 INTs; 179 rushing attempts, 855 yards, 5 TDs
Team's 2008 record: 3-9 overall, 3-5 in WAC
Many are predicting Utah State to be the most improved team in the conference. If the UtAgs are going to become a factor in the WAC race, Borel will need to continue building on his strong 2008 season. He took over the starting job in Week 4 and led the UtAgs to a 3-6 record following his promotion. One of those losses came to BYU. The team was also much more competitive in the games Borel saw extensive action, suffering a seven-point loss on the road at Louisiana Tech and a two-point defeat at home to Fresno State. Borel led the UtAgs in passing and rushing last season. He's a dual threat out of the backfield and seems poised for a big year.

Greg Alexander, Hawaii
2008 stats: 154-of-245, 1,895 yards, 14 TDs, 5 INTs
Team's 2008 record: 7-7 overall, 5-3 in WAC
Alexander started seven games last year for the Warriors, leading them to the Hawaii Bowl. His numbers were impressive, with a nice 14-5 TD-to-INT ratio. Hawaii has lost a lot of its offensive punch since June Jones moved on the SMU, but the team should still move the ball at a nice rate in 2009. If Alexander is the full-time starter for the Warriors, he should be solid once again.

Kyle Reed, San Jose State
2008 stats: 162-of-253, 1,563 yards, 9 TDs, 6 INTs
Team's 2008 record: 6-6 overall, 4-4 in WAC
Reed is borderline on this list, but I think he will have a good year for the Spartans. SJSU will remain a run-first team, built around a strong defense. Reed will be asked to make the occasional big play, execute mistake-free football and be clutch. I expect the Spartans to be solid once again, a reflection of the team's quarterback.

Nathan Enderle, Idaho
2008 stats: 184-of-339, 2,077 yards, 20 TDs, 17 INTs
Team's 2008 record: 2-10 overall, 1-7 in WAC
Enderle appeared in all 12 games for the Vandals, tossing 20 touchdowns in the process. Enderle managed to do it without the benefit of a true No. 1 receiver, although H-Back Eddie Williams (54 catches, six TDs) was reliable once again in his final year with the Idaho. Enderle is streaky, throwing 17 interceptions as well. He will benefit from a strong running game behind him, although still lacks a true No. 1 and will play behind an offensive line that will be a work in progress. The team brought in junior college QB Brian Reader and freshman Taylor Davis, so there will be competition.

The great unknown
New Mexico State
Jeff Fleming, Trevor Walls, Tanner Rust
Team's 2008 record: 3-9 overall, 1-7 in WAC
This threesome is extremely unproven and a timeshare at the position seems like a distinct possibility. Fleming is more mobile than Walls, although Walls seems to be a more natural thrower of the football. Rust will be raw as a freshman, although he's a great athlete who could see the field as the season progresses. NMSU needs solid play from this position, whether it be a two-headed monster, a freshman stealing the show or another alternative. There is inexperience and potential here.

Ross Jenkins, Louisiana Tech
2008 stats: 92-of-174, 1,155 yards, 7 TDs, 3 INTs
Team's 2008 record: 8-5 overall, 5-3
Jenkins was solid down the stretch, leading Louisiana Tech to a 6-2 record in the team's final eight games and an Independence Bowl win over Northern Illinois. Jenkins will have to do it again, this time as the team's unquestioned starter in 2009. The team doesn't have exceptional targets in the passing game - Phillip Livas is a great player but is more of a specialty receiver. One WR to keep an eye on is Cruz Williams, who has a ton of potential after sitting out the 2008 season. Jenkins will need to have a solid year for La. Tech to reach its full potential.

Fresno State
Ryan Colburn, Ebahn Feathers, Derek Carr
Team's 2008 record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 in WAC
There is a lot of inexperience here as well, although whoever wins the job steps into a good situation - strong running backs, solid receivers and a offensive line that has notoriously held up under coach Pat Hill. Colburn, a junior, seems to be next in line, although Carr - younger brother of former Fresno State standout David Carr - could make some noise. Either way, this is a position of intrigue for the Bulldogs.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nick Paden

From my understanding, Aggie middle linebacker Nick Paden will not play this season.

Nick has been battling knee injuries which will cause him to drop football.

Paden played in 12 games last season, recording 107 tackles. He also had two sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble.

Polo Gutierrez

Just wanted to let everyone know that I spoke with Polo Gutierrez about his tryout with the Buffalo Bills.

Polo sounded optimistic about the audition, saying that he displayed some of the quickest feet out of all the lineman present. The one thing Gutierrez didn't have on the other players was size. He said that all the linemen “towered” over him, but that he was right in the middle of the pack weight wise. Polo stands at about 6-2, 300 pounds.

One thing we talked about was the competition he went against. He said that the other linemen were from Oklahoma, Stanford and UCLA. He had a shirt that read “Aggies” and the group assumed that he was from Texas A&M. That's not exactly the support we're looking for here.

But he did sound very optimistic about his performance, saying that he had a “great day” in Buffalo. I think the Bills would be a good fit for him. They like hard working, tough, blue-collar lineman in Buffalo. Polo fits the bill. Hopefully he gets the shot that he deserves.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Conference tournament in Las Vegas

So, if you didn't hear yet, the WAC basketball tournament is headed to Las Vegas for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Some will disagree but, if I may be perfectly blunt, I don't like the idea. I like playing the tournament on college campuses. The only problem I have with that format is that roughly four colleges will get the tourney and the rest will be left blowing in the wind. That's not fair.

In my perfect world, the tournament would rotate between each school in the conference. How great was it when the tourney was in Las Cruces? I think every WAC town should experience the excitement. From Ruston, Louisiana, to Moscow, Idaho, to Honolulu, Hawaii. That would really build the fan bases in your respective college towns. And it would help bring out the personality of the WAC.

Obviously this isn't going to happen, and at least with a neutral court, you level the competitive balance. The Orleans Arena appears to be a nice facility, and no, I don't think having the Mountain West Tournament at the same time will hurt the WAC all that much. The reality is, how big do you think the crowds will be anyway? At least when you had the tournament at home sites, you knew you were going to get some sellouts when the local team took the floor. I would say that the crowd situation comes into question for me. So, we'll see. Time will tell on this one.

Here's what some of our conference coaches are saying. They're all happy with the move:

Marvin Menzies-New Mexico State men
"When we went to Las Vegas, we had the opportunity to look at the facilities. Fans are going to be pleasantly surprised with the true basketball environment that is presented there. I think it will be a great event and I know the West Coast Conference had a phenomenal tournament. I look forward to it, and moving it out of anyone's home turf is good for the conference in general.

Steve Cleveland-Fresno State men
"The Orleans is a great facility and the opportunity to compete at a neutral site in Las Vegas will generate excitement among the student athletes and the fans."

Kerry Rupp-Louisiana Tech men
"I'm very pleased that the WAC tournament will be moved to a neutral site in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a great city and the Orleans Arena is a great venue which will provide for a spectacular weekend of championship basketball to showcase this event.'

Greg Graham-Boise State men
"I think moving the WAC tournament to Vegas is a great opportunity for not only us, but the rest of the teams in the conference. We are not only excited about the opportunity to be playing on a neutral court in an exciting environment, but think Vegas will be a great place for the fans to get excited about going. It's a good move and will make for a great conference tournament."

Bob Nash-Hawai'i men
"Moving the tournament to Las Vegas makes great sense competitively, geographically and financially. It's certainly a natural fit for Hawai'i and I know for a fact that our fans will enjoy having the tournament there. Most importantly, it's a neutral site, which provides a level playing field and should make for some great basketball."

George Nessman-San Jose State men
"The Orleans is a fabulous venue. Playing in Las Vegas provides a neutral court setting for all WAC teams and a fun destination for many fans. The WAC has made an outstanding move that will generate more interest in what is already a premier athletic event."

David Carter-Nevada men

"I am very excited about the WAC Tournament moving to a neutral site. It will be very good for our conference and our teams. Our fans have supported the tournament so well on campus, and I am sure they will turn out in force to enjoy everything that the Orleans and a neutral site like Las Vegas has to offer."

Jon Newlee-Idaho women
"I am really looking forward to the neutral site move. I believe it gives everyone a fair and equal chance to compete and advance to the NCAA Tournament. It brings the WAC in line with the rest of the major conferences in the country and will really give us that 'March Madness' feel. Great move!"

Adrian Wiggins-Fresno State women
"We are excited that the WAC Tournament is moving to the Orleans Arena. It is a great venue that will provide an excellent college basketball atmosphere. This will be a great opportunity for our conference to showcase the great basketball talent we have in the WAC."

Pam DeCosta-San Jose State women
"This is a great move for our conference. Playing at a neutral site gives any team a chance to win the tournament. In the two years I have been in the conference, the home crowd has given the home team an advantage and made them the favorite to win. With this change, every team at the tournament now has a chance to win and extend their season."

Jane Albright-Nevada women
"I was very impressed with the Orleans Arena when we toured it in the spring. The people there have made a huge commitment to the WAC and I believe this move is very positive for our conference."

Raegan Pebley-Utah State women
"Moving the WAC tourney to the Orleans in Las Vegas is a great opportunity to enhance WAC student-athletes' and fans' experiences. What a fun week that will be. Great basketball and great fans combined with a great facility and city. We appreciate Karl Benson and his staff as well as all of the university presidents and administrators support in moving the WAC basketball tournament to a neutral site. While Reno and Las Cruces have been excellent hosts, this move is something that both coaches and student-athletes felt important in creating a quality event for all parties involved."

Teresa Weatherspoon-Louisiana Tech women
"I think it's a great idea to have the tournament at a neutral site. It puts all nine teams on an even playing field. Everyone has to travel and everyone is taken out of their comfort zone. There will be no home court advantage for anyone. This is a great opportunity to showcase our league on a neutral court."

Season ticket sales

Some have been asking about where season ticket sales stand for the Aggie football team.

Well, I called the NMSU ticket office yesterday and got some answers. And, frankly, I'm impressed.

It seems like the school is expecting a rise in season ticket purchases this year. According to NMSU ticket manager Patrick Kennedy, the Aggies are on pace for a 95 to 98 percent renewal rate on the 7,300 season tickets sold last year. Kennedy also said that the box office has sold 800 season tickets to new buyers. In other words, it looks like there will be over 8,000 season ticket holders, and it's only late June.

Kennedy went back to the 2000 season, his first year at NMSU, and went over season ticket sales. They go as followed:

2000: 3,003
2001: 3,712
2002: 4,236
2004: 4,073
2005: 5,000
2006: 6,612
2007: 6,277
2008: 7,313
2009: Possibly over 8,000

That, to me, is a respectable climb when one considers that the program has not been successful. They haven't had a winning record. They've been through three coaches. Yet, season ticket sales are climbing.

A few reasons, in my opinion

1) Season tickets are dirt cheap and have been lowered. Not by much mind you. The 2006 and 2007 seasons saw NMSU charge $114 for its most expensive season ticket. This year, that same season ticket can be bought for $108 (other season ticket prices are $70, $50 and $42). In 2000, the most expensive season tickets at Aggie Memorial Stadium were $71 for five home games. The cheapest that year were $20.

2) I think the NMSU administration has done everything it can to sell tickets to football games. It has been an uphill battle, but certain people have been put in place at NMSU to try and wrap their arms around the issue of selling tickets. Promotions have been put in place, in some cases as a sense of desperation. Remember last year when tickets were sold for $2 apiece for the Aggies final home game against Louisiana Tech? Again, you're not going to find a cheaper ticket for a college football game anywhere in the country.

3) Entering the WAC has clearly helped. In the team's first year in the new conference, season ticket sales jumped to 5,000. Now, it's up to 8,000. The WAC is a better football conference than the Sun Belt with bowl-eligible teams coming into town on a regular basis, the occasional opportunity to see a Top-25 opponent and wide-open offenses throughout the league. More fans have come out since the school stepped up in leagues.

4) You gotta give DeWayne Walker and his coaching staff credit for this particular year. Kennedy was excited about the number of new season ticket holders at this stage of the summer. Walker stepped into a tough job. Simply speaking frankly, the community was down on the program, particularly during the second half of last season when Hal Mumme was on his way out of town. The team wasn't winning and selling tickets was becoming problematic. Walker has come in and has endeared himself to the community. I spoke with Mayfield High School offensive line coach Brian McCartney today, he was very impressed by the new Aggie coaching staff. The staff has come out and has made its presence be felt around the community and at the local high schools. Having new season ticket holders after last season, a lot of that is a reflection as to how the community has responded to Walker.

I will have a story on this in the next couple of days, just wanted to get it on the blog for some chatter.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chuck Taylor

It seems that the Aggies have lost an experienced offensive lineman.

Junior Chuck Taylor said he was transferring from NMSU. Chuck, a 6-foot-3, 345-pound guard, came to the Aggie program two years ago and saw the field right off the bat. The old coaching staff was high on Taylor when they recruited him and made every effort to get him some playing time from Week 1 of his first season. He started 25 straight games for NMSU, including every game last year which should be considered an accomplishment considering how banged up the team was along the offensive line.

I think any time you lose a durable starter along the offensive line, it's a big deal. You knew what you were getting with Chuck. It also hurts the team depth-wise. Players inevitably get hurt — we all saw it last year along this very same unit. Still, if there is one area of the Aggies that goes pretty deep this season, the offensive line would be it.

The team still has Kyle Smith, Mike Grady, Joel Buschmann, Patrick Blount and Joe Suder. The team also added JC transfer Dwayne Barton. If the unit stays healthy, which is a big “if” in football, they should hold up fine.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The bottom three

I think the Western Athletic Conference has five, six teams that are either very good, solid or pretty good. The bottom three - NMSU, Utah State and Idaho - have struggled since coming into the league four years ago.

The reality is that the last two years the Aggies seemed primed to separate themselves from the UtAgs and Idaho. And they did in an abstract sort of way. The Aggies put up gaudy offensive numbers at times and had some legitimate talent on their team. They had an explosive element with the likes of Chris Williams, Chase Holbrook, A.J. Harris, Derrick Dubois and Nick Cleaver that were legitimately tough to defend. They also beat UTEP the last two years, won in Reno and gave some other solid conference teams some legitimate scares during that period.

Alas, they also lost to Idaho last year, Utah State the past two seasons and at times have looked awful. While for people who saw them every day it seemed like they were close to turning the corner, for passive followers of the program and general followers of the league, they were packaged with the UtAgs and Vandals.

Here's what I'm getting at. The league needs these three teams to do well. The past four years the three have formed a soft underbelly for the conference. Many are saying that Utah State should be better this season. They have some pieces, they still have some holes. It starts on their home field, where they host Nevada, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and Boise State. If the UtAgs can take two of those games and steal and conference game or two on the road, that's a major step, maybe even steps in the right direction.

I've said it before, I think NMSU will be a good home team. To see it through, they need to beat USU and Idaho at Aggie Memorial. If they can upset Nevada or Fresno State when one of those teams visit Las Cruces, yes, it would help the individual program and the WAC.

Idaho as well. There home conference schedule features La. Tech, Fresno State, Hawaii and Utah State. Get a few upsets in there. Battle in the other ones. It will be a shot in the arm.

These teams having success will help the WAC, as it will bring further legitimacy to the conference and push the top tier teams each and every week they take the field.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

10 keys to success

Looking at the landscape of the New Mexico State Aggie football team, I thought I would break dow 10 keys to NMSU seeing success on the football field as the 2009 season approaches.

1) Marquell Colston — It looks as if Colston will be the feature back for the Aggies this year. Assuming that is the case, his production will be key, as NMSU will pound the ball on the ground a lot more under the new coaching staff. Colston will run against a lot of defenses geared up to stop him, putting the extra man in the box and looking for the ball carrier. He has that certain “shifty” speed that's needed to thrive in such a situation. Last year his problem was staying healthy. This year, he needs to stay on the field and be physical. He will get the ball a lot and he will be hit a lot.

2) Quarterback play — Obviously, this is an important piece to the team, an area that really wasn't worried about all to much the last three years with Chase Holbrook under center. Now, it's back to square one at the position. The question is, who should run the offense? Jeff Fleming, Trevor Walls and freshman Tanner Rust all figure to be in the mix. Will it be a two-man show? The running game should be better, but the team needs to throw the ball to ease the burden on the backs and O-line. If the team gets just decent and consistent play from this position, it will help a great deal.

3) Stopping the run — This is something that, frankly, the team has been terrible at in recent years. Good defenses stop the run, and I believe it will be DeWayne Walker's top priority for this unit. It seems like Branden Warner will be an Aggie. This will be a huge addition to the team. Good defensive tackles are hard to come by, yet can anchor a defense. If this kid suits up with the Aggies, it will be a huge shot in the arm for the club. Stopping the run is a team effort and it starts in the middle of the field. D-tackle, middle linebacker and the two safeties need to play aggressively and make an impact.

4) Nick Paden — Last year Paden, the team's middle linebacker, put up huge numbers — 107 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 pass breakups and a forced fumble. It seems like he will have to do it all over again. Joe Lee Dunn's system funneled the ball carrier to certain players and Paden seemed to benefit. This team will win and lose on the defensive side of the ball in 2009 and the senior MLB will be key.

5) Marcus Allen, William Bullock — Again, there is a shift in philosophy on the offensive side of the ball. Small receivers with breakaway speed are not in vogue anymore. The offensive staff wants bigger players on the outside with a physical presence. It seems like Allen (6-foot, 187 pounds) and Bullock (6-3, 205) will get opportunities immediately. Again, it will be an adjustment for Aggie fans. The last few years saw Holbrook work with Chris Williams and A.J. Harris, forming great chemistry as a passing unit. Brand new faces make up this part of the team and a new personality will develop. Hopefully, Marcus Anderson will still play a big role in the offense and Mumme holdovers Julius Fleming and Todd Lee can develop. Allen and Bullock, however, will get a lot of looks.

6) Davon House — Walker played defensive back and coached defensive backs. This is his bread and butter and I expect House, a cornerback, to have a good year. He's actually been a mainstay on this unit — he's started since his freshman year — and has displayed a nose for the ball. In spring ball, Davon looked like he added muscle to his frame. Walker will ask his cornerbacks to play man-to-man coverage a lot. He will lean on House, as well as fellow starter Jonte Green.

7) Starting safeties — I could have lumped the secondary together as a whole, but I actually see cornerback being an area of strength while the safety position is a question mark. How could it not be? During spring ball, Stephon Hatchett and Junior Fasavalu were getting serious looks here. Hatchett is a former receiver who stuck on the roster after impressing Mumme during the team's annual trip to Gallup two years ago. He saw limited action at the position and eventually was moved to defensive back. Fasavalu was a Woody Widenhofer recruit, someone that the team was high on during his freshman campaign two years ago. He tore his ACL in Week 1 against Southeastern Louisiana, ending his season. He's back now. Still, this is an area of unknown for the team.

8) Offensive line — I think this unit could perform well this year. One can only hope that's the case, as a big chunk of the team's offense will rest on its shoulders. There is a lot of experience returning. Michael Grady had a good season last year, playing in all 12 games and splitting duties between center and tackle. The experience should help Grady in 2009. Chuck Taylor is a big individual who could be a difference maker along the line's interior. Patrick Blount, Joel Buschmann, David Norman, Joe Suder, Kyle Smith, all these guys played last year when the line was ravaged by injuries. Leaders will have to emerge. The team lost two this offseason in center Richie Bolin and guard Polo Gutierrez. Two years ago, it was bookend tackles Mike Martinez and James Farrelly. There is depth and I believe there is talent here.

9) Jason Scott — Last year, Scott was a tackling machine, thriving in Dunn's scheme despite being undersized at linebacker. This spring, the staff moved him to safety and then back to linebacker again. He needs to be productive in the new system that Walker brings over. Dunn did a good job with limited resources last year, but his defensive system catered to such. ‘Tweeners like Scott found success playing under him. That success needs to continue.

10) Special teams — This is important no matter the team. Kicking the ball well, getting good field position and knocking the ball through the uprights are all critical to a team's success. Last year, the Aggies' special teams played better. Kyle Hughes was serviceable as a kicker and punter and supplied a big leg. Williams was electric as always on kick and punt returns and Anderson showed promise. The team is also adding Donyae Miller, who returned kicks last season at Compton College. Hughes looks like he will punt while the kicking duties remain up in the air. This team will lean on its defense. Good defensive teams need their special team's units to play with them side by side.

That's it folks. Feel free to leave comments.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Raymond Carter

There have also been rumblings of UCLA running back transfer Raymond Carter coming to NMSU. Well, Carter is going to Colorado State.

The article also includes Branden Warner coming to NMSU this summer.

I should also add that someone posted this on my blog on the Warner post directly below.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Branden Warner

Just spoke to defensive tackle Branden Warner again today.

He said that he has not decided if he would come to New Mexico State or not, even though an L.A. Daily News blog indicated that he was.

“No,” Warner said when asked if he was coming to NMSU. “I'm just not going to UCLA anymore.”

Warner said that he still has options at other schools.

Mixed messages for sure, although Warner was quoted by the Daily News as if he were coming. Why he would say yes one day and no the next is anybody's guess, although I believe he will be here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What can a new coach do for a program?

It always amazes me the optimism that surrounds a team when a new coach takes over.

Just look at NMSU. This program has not been good and struggled mightily during the Hal Mumme ere. DeWayne Walker is here and the entire attitude has shifted going into the new year.

First off, a new coach brings a breath of fresh air and a new perspective. What will he bring? A bowl bid? There is a newfound excitement.

It takes a special type of coach to turn around the situation that NMSU finds itself in. Is Walker the right man? Time will tell. Judging from the comments by Aggie fans, many believe, or at least are praying, that he is.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How the WAC will line up

I began working on my WAC preseason poll on my flight the other day. Here's how I think it will shake out as of right now. I want to state this right off the bat and I can't reaffirm it enough: THIS POLL IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE! It's only June and media days are a full month away so I can change my mind from now until the beginning of the season. There are still some tricky spots to navigate through here. There are others I feel comfortable with.

1) Boise State: To tough to pick against the Broncos although there are some teams that I think can make some noise. Louisiana Tech and Nevada both come to mind. But at the end of the day, you gotta pick the Broncos. I think it's important to point out that I picked BSU to win last year when the chic pick was Fresno State. BSU prevailed.
Pros: They have a great quarterback in Kellen Moore; They have an intriguing running back in Jeremy Avery; They have a great secondary; And they have the tradition of excellence that's hard to top. Simply put, they don't lose in conference and it will be tough for anyone to knock them off their thrown. Until that happens, I'll stick with them.
Cons: They have to lose eventually and everyone is gunning for them. That target on the Broncos' back gets bigger and bigger each year.

2) Louisiana Tech: This team will make noise, just wait. Last season I selected them to finish high when many didn't give it any thought. They were strong after all and ended up going to the Independence Bowl, where they won. Again, I pick them to surprise. Second to some might be high but I don't think so. They run the ball, they stop the run. They play hungry and coach Derek Dooley is all business. They also get Boise at home this season and I smell an upset in that one. It's a Friday nighter on ESPN.
Pros: Strong on defense and special teams; Good D-line anchored by tackle D'Anthony Smith and end Kwame Jordan.
Cons: They need a good year out of QB Ross Jenkins, who hasn't done it yet; I like Daniel Porter as the feature running back, but can he carry the load? He will get a lot of carries; Wide receiver Phillip Livas has been an Aggie killer during his tenure at La. Tech. Outside of that, this unit is unproven.

3) Nevada: I respect Fresno State a lot but I also think highly of the Wolf Pack. I expect Chris Ault to coach this team with his usual hard-edged attitude. They will run the ball with authority. That's what happens when your best runner is your quarterback, and signal caller Colin Kaepernick is special. He is erratic throwing the football, but with his legs, he can get the job done and he opens things up for the other running backs on the team. RB Vai Tua had a monster season last year, simply because Luke Lippincott went down with an injured knee. Lippincott is back now, and I expect him to be at full force, giving Nevada the best ground game in the conference.
Pros: Best team in conference at running the football; Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a difference maker and the toughest single player to defend in the WAC.
Cons: The Wolf Pack love their receiving corps going into the new season, but the unit has to prove it. Two players to watch are junior Chris Wellington and redshirt freshman Brandon Wimberly; Same deal on defense. Word is that the secondary is improved and it better be. The last two years this team has lived and died in shootouts on the scoreboard.

4) Fresno State: The Bulldogs will always play with an attitude and I mean that in a good way. I do think losing quarterback Tom Brandstater to the NFL will hurt — he went to Denver in the draft. They will be able to run the ball as always and will be strong along both the offensive and defensive lines — as always. I also would keep an eye on wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, who was explosive last season. I like them, just not as much as the top three.
Pros: A stable of running backs led by junior Ryan Mathews; Play with an attitude along both lines; I expect them to be nothing short of solid defensively; Ajirotutu has the size and ability to be an elite WAC receiver.
Cons: They lose key offensive pieces in quarterback Tom Brandstater and tight end Bear Pascoe. It's tough to replace talent and leadership.

5) San Jose State: It's hard for me to pick the Spartans this low. I like quarterback Kyle Reed and respect their defense tremendously — they had three defensive players drafted this year with Chris Owens and Jarron Gilbert each going in the third round. They also lose their top receiver from a season ago in David Richmond — he's in Bengals' camp if anyone's interested. One intriguing piece will be wide receiver Kevin Jurovich, who had a big year in 2007 but was injured for all of last season. Ultimately think this team will score just enough points and play just stout enough defense to win games. They will be a respectable fifth-place team in the conference.
Pros: The Ihenacho brothers — Carl (defensive end) and Duke (safety) — not only make a cool story but also form a strong 1-2 punch; Quaterback Kyle Reed is dangerous and I believe underrated.
Cons: Do they have enough weapons on offense?; Can they sustain the loss of NFL-quality players on their usually-strong defense?

6) Hawaii: I am not in love with this team and the only reason I'm putting them here is because their homefield advantage is so strong. I could see them dropping and the more I look at it, I think the bottom-four spots in the WAC are wide open. Another way to put that is that they're weak. QB Greg Alexander quietly put up good numbers here last year, with 14 TDs and just five picks. I've always liked running back Leon Wright-Jackson, but he hasn't produced. Wide receiver Greg Salas is gritty. The days of June Jones are over.
Pros: Great homefield advantage. Nobody travels well the The Islands.
Cons: Defense has some holes; I question overall talent of team.

7) New Mexico State: The Aggies are here, which is better than where many are picking them. I see the team scratching and clawing their way to wins under Walker and I also like the way their schedule works out. They host Utah State and Idaho and I think they will win both of those games. I think the Aggies will be a tough team at home. I also see them upsetting either Fresno State or Nevada when those teams visit Las Cruces. They will surprise one of them.
Pros: The Aggies will be a good rushing team, with Marquell Colston, Tonny Glynn and whoever else they give the ball too; Defense will be better. I think the secondary will play better; DeWayne Walker will bring a fresh attitude.
Cons: As of now, the team is thin in talent; Quarterback remains a major question mark. Whoever plays best between Jeff Fleming, Trevor Walls and Tanner Rust deserves the chance to lead the team. From afar I like Walls but a lot will be dictated this fall heading into the season.

8) Utah State: I wrestled with Utah State, simply because I think they are going to be a better team this year. They have some talent here, along with one of the more underrated offensive players in the league in quarterback Diondre Borel. He made their offense explosive at times last year and is a scary player to defend with his run/pass abilities. I also think the defense will be respectable with Paul Igboeli leading the charge. New coach Gary Anderson is a defensive guy. They host Nevada, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and Boise State. I think they can upset two of those teams in Romney Stadium this year.
Pros: Exciting quarterback; Underrated defense; I expect them to be a tough home team this year at Romney, particularly when the weather gets rugged.
Cons: They are used to losing; Road schedule takes them to Idaho, NMSU and Hawaii, three teams they could beat at home but will have trouble with away.

9) Idaho: It pains me to say it, but I do not think the Vandals will be much improved this year. This team has failed to compete under coach Rob Akey, with the one shining moment for the program in his tenure coming when they beat NMSU in Moscow last season. I do see a few winnable WAC games — at home against Hawaii and also at home against Utah State. This team will forever play hard under Akey. The talent level just hasn't been there.
Pros: Idaho has an underrated quarterback in Nathan Enderle; I also am a fan of running back Deonte Jackson, who was a WAC monster two seasons ago and faded a bit last year. I think he'll be back and form a nice 1-2 punch with RB Princeton McCarty; If a team goes into the Kibbie Dome dozing off, the Vandals can ambush them; Look out for offensive tackle Matt Cleveland.
Cons: One has to question the team's talent level; Will the defense hold down the fort?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Going on vacation

What's up people?

Just wanted to let everyone know I am going on vacation. Actually, I am officially on vacation as I type right now. I won't be posting until Tuesday. Didn't want anyone to think I had fallen off the map, just getting a chance to recharge the batteries. In good ol' Tennessee. See ya.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quarterback Tanner Rust

Tanner Rust will be a freshman quarterback at NMSU this season.

He comes with a good reputation, a good athlete who can run. Check out what he did on the baseball field this past weekend.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I don't think the Aggies....

....will finish last in the Western Athletic Conference in football.

I have been doing some preseason reading. And everything I pick up at the newstand/glance at on the internet, has NMSU finishing in the basement. OK, a few publications has them better than Idaho.

I think the Aggies will definitely be better than the Idaho. Maybe, possibly, this is because I cover the team and my view of them is distorted. But really, I believe that NMSU will have a better record than the Vandals. They have them at home, and I think this is going to be a football team that plays hungry under new coach DeWayne Walker. I won't look at NMSU's win-loss record necessarily, I will look at how they compete on the field. And I think they are going to surprise people with their fight. I think they will fight themselves out of the basement and might even knock off a few teams they shouldn't in the process.

After that, who knows. Utah State is actually a team that intrigues me a bit. First off, they have an exciting player at quarterback in Diondre Borel. He is a tough guy to defend and could make their offense explosive at times. New coach Gary Anderson is similar to Walker - a defensive guy. I like that. Again, I'm not talking bowl here for USU. But I could see the team gutting out 3 or 4 wins. Why not? One of these former Sun Belt teams has to make a move in this conference eventually. Right? Hopefully.

Hawaii could be down. The one thing they will always have going for them is their homefield advantage. The Aggies go to Honolulu this year.

But you know, I think the WAC is tough. Again, maybe this is because I cover the conference and I overate it in my head. But I look at the teams we got here. Boise State speaks for itself. Nevada is going to be a monster this year, particularly if its pass defense pans out. Fresno State is Fresno State. Always solid, no matter the roster. So they will be tough.

This is a big year for Louisiana Tech. Two years ago they were improved. Last year they were solid. They went to a bowl game, they won the bowl game. Where do they go this year? I want to say they keep getting better. But they aren't going to sneak up on anybody anymore, those days are over. Look out for tackle D'Anthony Smith, who is a WAC Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He can move along the interior.

And I think that San Jose State will always be a solid team under Dick Tomey. They will play defense, and they will be able to run the ball. Keep an eye on big-play running back Brandon Rutley, who is always looking to break off a run.

But I think the Aggies are going to be better than people realize too. It will be hard to make a dent this year in the conference. As written above, there are good teams, tough travel and the league goes pretty deep. I believe the overall mentality of NMSU will be better and they will be a tough home team. I think they will be a team Aggie fans can look at with a sense of pride.

Some recruiting news

I spoke with Compton College defensive tackle Branden Warner today.

Warner, who, from my interpretations, verbally committed to UCLA, said that he is still exploring his options as far as colleges is concerned. It has been reported that Warner could be on his way to NMSU. He was non-committal about it over the telephone.

“Not right now,” Warner said when asked if he wanted to comment on the Aggies. “I still got other options. Nothing's definite, I'm not sold, not yet.”

Warner seems like a big-time prospect. According to he had offers from Florida, Arizona and Washington State. You have to go to Page 5 of the ESPN document to view his information. Very interesting stuff.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Solid Aggie football preview....

Will Boise State ever slow down?

Last year was supposed to be a down year. It wasn't. The Boise State Broncos are now supposed to be a top-flight team once again in 2009.

This program continues to bring out blue-chip talent. Last season, the concern was at quarterback. Freshman Kellen Moore made sure to put those concerns to rest, having a standout season.

People said the defense would struggle. Wrong again. The unit gave up over 17 points just twice last year.

Going into this year, some will point to the loss of Ian Johnson. But the Broncos still bring back a team rich in talent. Moore will be better than before. And the loss of Johnson will open things up for Jeremy Avery. He's explosive and will make big plays all season — barring he stays healthy.

The team continues to roll out the weapons offensively. Wide receiver Austin Pettis, tight end Kyle Efaw and center Thomas Byrd are top-notch players in the WAC.

Defensively, this team will have a solid tandem at cornerback in Kyle Wilson and Brandyn Thompson. Jeron Johnson is a big-time safety who will make the secondary the conference's best.

BSU has an interesting schedule this year. They host Oregon to start the season on ESPN. Last year, the Broncos beat the Ducks in Eugene. Oregon's going to be a much different team this year, but having a PAC 10 program come to town is still exciting. They host Miami of Ohio, then get conference play under way, on the road at Fresno State, another ESPN affair. That game promises to be hard hitting. They go to Hawaii, they go to Tulsa, they go to Louisiana Tech. This has been a top-tier program for some time. Those are some tough tests away from the blue turf. But BSU always seems to respond.

Regardless, the Broncos will be strong. Look out for Moore. He's going to have a monster season as he enters Year 2 in the offense.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Money games; Polo Gutierrez

With the Aggies getting $925,000 for going to the University of Georgia, we take a look at money games.

I, for one, don't have a problem with it. I am not talking about the fact that a school can throw around hundreds of thousands of dollars during a time when many people are struggling to make ends meet. I do have a problem with that. I'm talking about NMSU playing in them. I don't have a problem with that.

First off, I think it's good for the Aggies to play the big schools because it puts them on the map. Some would say that it puts them out there, but not in a good way. They could lose by a ton. But they could be competitive as well. When they went to Auburn a few years ago, the team battled in the first half. The second half, things turned ugly. But there were factors surrounding that defeat.

I also like seeing how NMSU does against the nation's elite. Going to an SEC school, maybe the Aggies can battle. That says a lot about a team. Even if they're competitive, you know they're going to get some national attention. And at a school like NMSU, that's nothing to take for granted. Again, it's a two-way street. If they get pummeled, they will get attention also, just not the way one would hope.

It's also good, in my opinion, to have a variety of competition on your schedule. Just take a look at how things are shaping up for the Aggies. Go to San Diego State. That seems about even. Prairie View A&M. Favor the Aggies. New Mexico and UTEP. Just about a wash if you ask me, particularly with the new coaching situations at UNM and NMSU. And then at Ohio State. You get a little bit of everything. And I like a mix in that respect.

Overall, I don't have a problem with the money game. As long as it's a close one. That sure makes it a lot better to watch.


Congrats to Polo Gutierrez getting a tryout with the Buffalo Bills. It's tough not getting a change when you think you deserve at least a look. And Polo is now getting that look.

He's athletic for a lineman and might be able to stick. Polo's pretty versatile and Buffalo likes blue-collar, under-the-radar types. This is the change he's been waiting for.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Robb Williamson

Pierce College defensive end Robb Williamson is coming to NMSU in the summer of 2010.

Williamson said that DeWayne Walker was a huge reason he selected NMSU. He was a sought-after player by a handful of colleges, but the Aggies were willing to be patient with him and wait until next summer to see him on campus.

I have heard that the Los Angeles area is very high on Walker and that NMSU is a topic of conversation. How big of a topic, I'm really not sure, but there is some chatter. And I like the way he is building the team. Williamson is a front-seven player and it seems like Walker is a big believer in establishing good play up front.

Williamson, who stands at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, had 12 sacks last season, 40 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.