The passing game has been on target the last two practices I have attended.
Wednesday the unit showed a spark and the play of Jeff Fleming and Tanner Rust stood out to me.
Fleming has thrown the ball better downfield this spring and it showed on Wednesday. He went up top to Marcus Allen for a 43-yard pickup along the right sideline. Allen beat Davon House up the field and got separation on the deep ball to haul it in. Nice play on both sides.
Fleming also dropped a ball in over the middle to Spencer Diaz, who made the grab between three defenders for a 15-20 yard gain. It was a good throw that was placed in traffic.
Rust could be the darkhorse to win the starting job. He threw some touchdown passes, hitting Julius Fleming from 25-plus yards out for a TD during 7-on-7 drills and then firing to the back of the endzone to Ronny Torres for a TD during redzone drills. The offense was fired up.
I think this is Rust's biggest attribute, is his leadership abilities. He's a feisty guy who will speak his mind and plays the game with toughness. NMSU needs that from the quarterback position just as much as anything else.
Last week, Rust got on Allen after the receiver was slow to get back to the huddle after an incompletion downfield. Wednesday, after hitting Torres, he was one of the first players in on the celebration, jumping on the tight end's back and slapping his helmet. Nice to see a little fire!
There were bumps in the road as well. While the offense played well during redzone work at the tail end of practice — Rust's TD to Torres, Allen caught a TD as well — it came against the second-string secondary. So we'll take it with a grain of salt.
The receiving corps had problems with drops during 7-on-7 but got better as practice wore on. Joe Cordova had a drop early, but came back and made two nice grabs to the delight of coach R. Todd Littlejohn. Allen also had a good practice, beating House up top and then catching a TD later. That came after he missed a scoring catch earlier in the day.
“It's expected,” head coach DeWayne Walker said of Allen. “He's a go-to guy for us and a returning player at that. He has to make plays if we want to go places.”
There's been a lot of talk this spring about junior cornerback Jonte Green, who started all 13 games last season for the Aggies.
“I'm telling you man, Jonte Green's coming on,” Walker said. “He's going to be a player for us.”
New secondary coach Will Martin spoke about Green as well, and also talked about incoming safety Shamar Gaines, a New Jersey native who's transferring in from College of the Sequoias in California.
“He's going to be a contributor. He's going to push guys back there,” Martin said.
Martin came to NMSU after being defensive coordinator last season at College of the Desert. He met Walker seven years ago, when the Aggie head coach held a defensive backs camp as an assistant with the Washington Redskins.
“I interned with the San Diego Chargers, I've coached at a lot of different places, so this is nothing new for me,” Martin said. “I am happy about being here though. It's a good opportunity.”
Walker said that Martin is adjusting to a reduced role in terms of responsibility. For four years he was defensive coordinator at College of the Desert, as well as the school's recruiting coordinator from 2006-08.
“It's long overdue to be perfectly honest with you,” Walker said of Martin's chance to coach Division I football. “He did a good job on the high school level, a good job on the junior college level and we think he can do a good job here.
“He remained patient,” Walker continued. “He went to clinics, he networked and he deserved the opportunity. Hopefully he will be able to continue from here and keep building on his career.”
Offensive lineman Patrick Blount was seen walking around practice with a cast on his right foot.
Walker said Blount has a broken foot. Last year, in his junior season, Blount played in just two games, hobbled by plantar fasciitis.
He was listed as a starter on the spring depth chart at right tackle.
“He's a big body that could help us,” Walker said. “We've got to figure out a way to keep him healthy though.”