Are you ready for some football?
Hopefully, you are, as the Aggies are set to kick off spring practice a week from Monday.
Here's what I'll have an eye on as spring ball gets under way in Las Cruces.
• Marquese Dunn: Yes, I am excited to see Dunn run the ball during spring practices. We heard a lot about Dunn from the coaching staff at the tail end of last season. The freshman greyshirted in 2009, although he is expected to be part of the backfield picture this season, even with the return of Seth Smith and the arrival of Kenny Turner.
The question I have is, where does Dunn fit in? From my understanding, he's similar to Smith, a hard-charging running back with power. Turner should play the role of backfield burner, a player who can get outside the tackles and make plays on the fringe of the defense. And after a 1,000-yard season last year for Smith, one would think he's still in line for 15-to-20 carries a game if his performance does not drop off from a year ago.
The backfield depth is good for a couple reasons. For starters, I believe if Smith was the lone horse, he would have gotten hurt eventually. Last year he took a pounding, especially after Marquell Colston was dismissed from the team midway through the year. Smith's does not shy away from contact — he really can't, as he's effective banging into the line and running with authority. He almost looks to lay the hit on the defender, not the other way around. Dunn could be another hammer out of the backfield. And Turner? Who knows, but if it works out according to plan, he can be a big-play threat this offense needs. Turner will not be in spring camp, however. Dunn and Smith will be. Looking forward to this.
• Mike Dunbar: What Aggie fan isn't going to be watching Dunbar and the offense this spring?
The new offensive coordinator comes to town and needs to get the Aggies on track. Last year, NMSU ranked last, No. 120 in the nation, in total offense (229.31 yards per game), scoring offense (11.46 points per game) and No. 118 in passing offense (87.77 yards per game). The Aggies were No. 66 in the country in rushing offense (141.54 yards per game). So, what it boils down to is that the Aggies couldn't throw the football, which put a halt on everything else.
Dunbar comes in with a track record of having offenses that could move the ball through the air. This could be the toughest job of his career.
The Aggies will go into the season with more options at quarterback. Tanner Rust was a redshirt last year, although he'll be thrown into the mix in 2010. The team will also bring back Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls, who both started last year. Fresh recruits are junior college transfer Matt Christian and true freshman Andrew Manley. Both are expected to compete for playing time.
Wide receiver is still a question mark. The team lost Marcus Anderson in the offseason. Todd Lee returns. This unit needs to step up as does the tight end position, which gave the Aggies nothing last year. One thing that will help the wideouts: R. Todd Littlejohn will be coaching them this year. His fire and tenacity should give them a needed boost.
Can Dunbar turn it around? I do think the Aggies have something at running back and a solid offensive line. The passing game needs to get off the ground.
• Pierre Fils and Donte Savage: The defensive ends had good years in 2009, combining for 13 sacks, 103 tackles, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
They could use some backup help too, and I'll be watching their health closely during the season. In the spring, I'm just excited to see them play and see how they developed from a physical standpoint. Both are entering their juniors seasons.
• Davon House: Coming off a season where he made the All-WAC team, the senior cornerback should be walking around with a swagger.
House has improved every year with the Aggies and I would expect to see it continue going into his final year with the program. Just as much from a leadership standpoint, as House is recognized of the top cornerbacks in the WAC, not just among his conference mates, but within his own locker room as well.