Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seth Smith

I've been calling it for the last 2 1/2 weeks. Seth Smith is going to have another big year for the Aggies.

Hey, you never know with a player who came out of nowhere — as Smith did last year, rushing for over 1,000 yards on the season. Was it a fluke? You have to ask that when a guy returns for the following season.

This is why I know Smith won't taper off:

• Same guy: For one, he hasn't changed from last year to now. He's the same guy — quiet, humble, hungry. Key ingredients to an athlete's success, and Smith still has the intangibles' package to get it done.

He's running hard, even in fall camp: While other players are nursing bumps and bruises on the sidelines, Smith is charging hard day-in and day-out.

He looks quicker and lighter, but is still running with that same hit-first mentality that made him a standout last year.

This is why I like Smith — he runs hard every play and doesn't tip-toe in there, he takes it on full throttle. His 3-yard runs can be just as devastating as a 20-yard run, because he inflicts punishment on the opposing defense.

One of the most underrated qualities a football player can have? Playing, and playing well, through pain. It's a necessary requirement in a violent game. Last year, Smith proved he could do it — he battled with a separated right shoulder for the second-half of the season and closed the year strong with back-to-back 100-yard games. I almost think Smith likes playing with a little hurt. Such an attribute cannot be overlooked in a player's success.

The offense will be better in 2010: Last year, the Aggies couldn't pass, defenses knew it, gameplanned to stop Smith and he still got his 1,000.

This year, the offense will be different. How?

Running backs will be asked to be more involved in the passing game. Not just catching balls out of the backfield, but also on blitz pickups and quarterback protection. It also looks like the scheme will be more spread out, with three- and four-wide receiver sets and single-back formations.

Will Smith be able to adjust to a new system? Straight-forward, it seems like he's better suited as a bruiser, lining up in two tight-end formations with a fullback. But I still think he'll be just fine.

Who knew about Smith last year at this time? Not many people and he rose to the occasion. It's just a new challenge, and I think he'll surprise people with his ability as a pass catcher.

And, if the offense moves the ball better through the air — and it has to — it will only benefit the running game. Last year, teams knew the Aggies were going to run every down. Logical thinking indicates that a better passing offense will open things up at the line of scrimmage and will give Smith more room to rumble.

And the one rushing touchdown he scored in 2009? Expect that number to go up. With Smith's skill set, he should be a very solid goalline runner, and the Aggies should spend more time inside the opponent's 5-yard line this year.

Turner's presence: Some think Kenny Turner's presence will cut into Smith's production.

If Turner plays and comes as advertised, than yes, this should hold true.

But it will also help Smith to have a sidekick to lighten the load. And that's not a bad thing at all.

Smith rushed for 1,000 yards last year. He proved he could carry the load. If all goes as planned, Turner will be a dynamite complement to Smith in the running game. And that will only help both players flourish....

There you have it. I think Smith will have a great season — again. Now, sit back and watch....

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Captains named

Head coach DeWayne Walker named team captains for the 2010 season.

The winners are quarterback Matt Christian for the offense and cornerback Davon House on defense. Last year, the Aggies went with new captains each week. This year, it looks like Christian and House will captain the team the entire season.

Players and coaches voted on captains for the 2010 season. Christian, a transfer from Palomar Junior College, was named the team's starting quarterback last week. Coaches and teammates have commented on his leadership skills throughout camp.

House is coming off an All-WAC first-team selection in 2009 after tallying close to 70 tackles, 13 pass breakups and three interceptions. The four-year starter also scored two touchdowns last season.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What we can take away from a wild Week 1 of the prep football season

It was a wild first Friday of high school football.
The drama was supplied by the Las Cruces Bulldawgs — beating El Dorado 23-20 in a back-and-forth affair that went down to the final minute. It was a heart stopper.
Mayfield proved to be, well, Mayfield, hammering Chapin 51-6. The Trojans scored 41 points in the first half to rout the opposition.
And the Oñate Knights? Well, they came up short. Way short, actually, falling to Franklin 49-2. Not fun.
But hey, it was Week 1. A lot can happen between now and the end of the season.
Still, here’s what we can take away from the season’s opening games:

Offensive weapons plentiful at Las Cruces High: One had a feeling that the Bulldawgs would have some toys to play with on the offensive side of the ball. The team didn’t disappoint on Friday.
The 23-20 victory over El Dorado couldn’t have marked a better opening contest of the season at the Field of Dreams — particularly from an entertainment standpoint — as many Bulldawgs shined and big plays were in abundance.
For starters, quarterback Jeremy Buurma had a phenomenal game. Sure, some will point to his erratic performance throwing the football — Buurma was wild on a handful of pass attempts, tossing one interception and could have easily thrown another near the El Dorado goalline.
But what people need to recognize is that Buurma is a playmaker who isn’t afraid to take chances. He recorded close to 300 yards of total offense — both passing and rushing yards — by himself. He had a 10-yard scoring run on 3rd-and-10, a touchdown that eventually put LCHS up 14-12 midway through the second quarter. Later in the period, he avoided the rush and hit Tanner Shoemaker on a fourth-down scoring pass from 18-yards out, as LCHS took a 20-12 lead.
Three crucial El Dorado turnovers aside, Buurma was the MVP of the game for the Bulldawgs.
The team is loaded in the running game, with Xavier Hall grinding out the tough yards on Friday. Another player to watch is Daniel Martinez, who broke off an electric 45-yard touchdown catch-and-run on the first possession of the game.
Buurma, Hall and Martinez will shine on the Friday night highlight videos throughout the prep football season.

Mayfield’s resolve: It happens every season.
The Mayfield Trojans seem to be overlooked, take the field and use such a slight to their advantage.
It occurred once again on Friday. There has been a lot of talk about Las Cruces High this offseason, the season gets under way and — boom — the Trojans dismantle another opponent Week 1.
Mayfield scored 14 points in the first 22 seconds of the contest, 21 in the first five minutes and 28 in the first quarter on their way to a 51-6 win over Chapin — in El Paso no less. Are you kidding?
The funny thing is that I wasn’t even surprised.
This is the most motivated team in the area, there’s no doubt in my mind about it. Always organized, always intense and always prepared to play sound, fundamental football across the board.
Lose their starting quarterback? They’ll just plug in a new one. Return three starters on defense? Keifer Payne will return the opening kickoff 88 yards for a score, then Brock Baca will intercept a pass seconds later and race into the endzone from 20 yards out. Both plays happened within the opening minute of Friday’s cake walk.
The Trojans were up 41-0 at halftime!
Mark it down. MHS, LCHS, set for another collision course once again. Can’t wait for it either.

Tough season ahead for Oñate?: Judging from Friday’s 49-2 loss to Franklin, it could be.
But, it is just Week 1. And Franklin is traditionally an El Paso powerhouse program. So lets look ahead.
The Knights’ next contest will come on a short week, their home opener against Americas.
While a shorter window to prepare for an opponent is often looked at as a disadvantage, in this case, it could work to the Knights’ benefit. They need to get that sour taste out of their mouth as soon as possible following Friday’s romp. And they should have a good week of practice — they certainly shouldn’t lack motivation.
We do know that OHS is very inexperienced. The Knights had a solid team last year, but lost virtually their entire core and must start from scratch once again.
They also run the ball every down. That’s OK when you’re up 14-10, not down 49-2. Somehow, the Knights will need to find some offensive firepower to keep opponents honest.
And, I’ve written it before in a Sun-News column: Why is it in football that I’d rather my team lose 49-0 than 49-2? It just looks like the opposition took a knee in the endzone out of pity.
A simple side note following a long week....


Friday’s prep football scores
The Associated Press
Artesia 63, Lovington 49
Aztec 49, Los Lunas 0
Carlsbad 34, Roswell 6
Clovis 40, Alamogordo 0
Clovis Christian 47, Dora 0
Fort Defiance Window Rock, Ariz. 44, Wingate 0
Fort Sumner 32, NMMI 17
Goddard 34, Rio Rancho 3
Hagerman 41, Capitan 13
Hobbs 53, Gadsden 6
Lake Arthur 59, Vaughn 7
Las Cruces 23, EP El Dorado, Texas 20
Los Alamos 40, Pojoaque 0
Marfa, Texas 40, Mesilla Valley Christian 30
Mayfield 51, EP Chapin, Texas 8
McCurdy 41, Navajo Pine 0
Melrose 50, Logan 36
Moriarty 33, Bernalillo 8
Mountainair 60, Gateway Christian 12
Piedra Vista 28, Santa Fe 27
Raton 46, Clayton 20
Reserve 20, Menaul 14
Rio Rancho 47, EP Bel Air, Texas 10
Santa Rosa 56, Estancia 22
Socorro 41, West Las Vegas 0
Springer 46, Floyd 20
Tatum 16, Animas 14
Texico 14, Dexter 0
Tularosa 47, Hot Springs 19
Valley 21, Del Norte 13

Friday, August 27, 2010

The deal at quarterback, including Jeff Fleming's departure

Sorry for the long delay on posts everyone. I have been absolutely swamped at work putting together the football tab and producing a daily newspaper for all to read.

Obviously the news of Jeff Fleming transferring was surprising. Or was it?

Fleming was essentially demoted to No. 4 on the quarterback depth chart. The team named Matt Christian the starter and said that Rust and Manley were battling for the No. 2 spot. Fleming would have special packages in the offense according to head coach DeWayne Walker. Would he play QB? Maybe some, maybe some wide receiver too. Obviously that's not the same as being the starting signal caller in the offense.

News that Christian was named starting QB shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone. The offense was abysmal last year. Was it all Fleming's fault? Of course not. The entire unit has a hand in it because that's what the game's all about.

But the bottom line is that Seth Smith did run for over 1,000 yards and the offensive line played as well as it could have. The blocking up front wasn't terrible, it was actually serviceable and better than in some recent years past.

The passing game was unbearable to watch and of course a lot of the blame will fall at the quarterback's feet. It's the most recognizable position on the field and carries the most responsibility. The Aggies couldn't, and often times didn't try to, throw the ball downfield in 2009. Playcalling was a factor, certainly quarterback play was as well.

Christian has come in and seems like a leader, which the team badly needs.

“He comes in, he's very vocal, he's confident,” wide receiver Todd Lee said. “Everybody wants to play for him.
“We all rally around him when he starts talking. When he starts talking, that's when you shut up.”

I have concern about Christian's health. He has had collarbone issues in the past, including sitting out some of spring ball because of the injury. He sat out recently at fall camp with a sore elbow.

“I'm feeling all right,” Christian said. “I banged up my elbow....Just treatment every day....Getting extra work off the field and watching it on the field. I got this little (protective) sleeve (on his right throwing elbow)....It's all right. It hurts every once in a while, it aches every once in a while but, again, it's a part of football. You just gotta work through it.”

Some injuries a player can work through, some force a player to the sideline. The Aggies need competent quarterback play for all 12 games this season.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Storylines going into Aggie camp

Are you ready for some football?
New Mexico State University is, opening fall practice today at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Practice runs from 3-5 p.m. today and is open to the public.
The highlights entering fall camp? Easy.
The team is entering the second year of the DeWayne Walker era, new coordinator Mike Dunbar hopes to jumpstart the team’s punchless offense and the defensive unit is primed to take another step forward in Walker’s system.
That, and a handful of other story lines are present with the new season right around the corner.
The following are five things to keep an eye on heading into NMSU training camp, and throughout the 2010 campaign.

1) New offense in place: Last year, the Aggies weren’t just bad on offense, they were unwatchable.
Enter Dunbar, a veteran coach of over 20 years who will look to get the unit up and moving.
Don’t expect NMSU to look much different in style — the team will be multiple in formation, similar to last year, and will run an assortment of looks, from four-wide receiver shotgun sets, to two tight-end, two running back packages.
Last year, the running game was fine — starter Seth Smith barreled for over 1,000 yards — and should continue to hum with the addition of speedster Kenny Turner and the return of injured fullback Brandon Perez.
The passing game is another story....

2) The passing game: Make no mistake, while Dunbar was brought in to resurrect the offense, his top chore will be getting the passing game — one of the worst in the nation last year — off the ground.
It starts at quarterback, where it appears the competition has come down to last year’s starter Jeff Fleming and junior college transfer Matt Christian.
Both bring different styles to the table, with Fleming a mobile athlete who can create outside the pocket and Christian more of a pure passer from under center.
Redshirt freshman Tanner Rust and true freshman Andrew Manley also figure to be in the mix.
The wide receiver position also needs a boost. Marcus Allen flashed his talent during the spring and could be the team’s No. 1 target entering his senior season. Todd Lee is small — 5-foot-9, 161 pounds — but has speed to burn, while newcomer Taveon Rogers is expected to come in and be top-four on the depth chart.

3) Linebacker: In Walker’s system, the front-four needs to apply pressure and clog running lanes while the secondary requires pure cover corners on the outside.
The linebackers need to be workmen, pure and simple.
And while last year’s linebacking corps — Jason Scott, Ross Conner, Jahmar Cotton and Sam King — were all senior leaders who played hard week-in and week-out, the coaching staff believes it’s upgraded in this department for 2010.
The jury’s still out, however.
Frank Padilla was brought in from College of the Sequoias and has nice size — 6-2, 248. He will step in and start along the strongside.
B.J. Adolpho was the team’s top practice squad player last year and will step in at weakside linebacker. Adolpho is a missile who throws his body around with reckless abandon, but he lacks experience.
In the middle, Boyblue Aoelua goes from strictly a special teams player to MIKE linebacker in Walker’s system. It will be a big responsibility.
Behind the starting three, depth is a concern.

4) Special teams: The Aggies were much improved in the kicking game last year. They’ll need to be again.
Punter Kyle Hughes could never get his grades together and will not be back in 2010. Normally it wouldn’t be a problem, but Hughes had an NFL-caliber leg and played a huge role in two of the Aggies’ three wins last year. He also was the team’s primary placekicker.
Tanner Rust, who’s listed as a quarterback on the depth chart, and newcomer Jake Capraro will compete for the punting job.
The team brought in Tyler Stampler this offseason to be the primary placekicker.
The return game started strong in 2010 before tailing off down the stretch.
Wide receivers Marcus Allen and Todd Lee returned kicks last year as did defensive back Donyae Coleman. All three should be in the mix to do so again, along with receiver Taveon Rogers.

5) Injury free: Last year, NMSU kept most of its heavy artillery on the field. They can only hope to be so lucky in 2010.
Running back Seth Smith played half of 2009 with a separated right shoulder, but remained solid throughout the season. His physical style not only pounds opposing defenses, but it also results in big hits on the 5-foot-8, 207-pound back.
Starting defensive ends Pierre Fils and Donte Savage played virtually every down last year, and turned in productive seasons. They’ll have to do so again, with limited depth to relieve them.
All three starting linebackers need to remain healthy, as does the secondary and offensive line. Good luck with that.

Aggie fall practice schedule
* Practice sessions are free and open to the public. The team will start practicing in full pads on Aug. 15. Preseason practices will continue throughout next month, leading up to the team’s opening game on Sept. 11, at home against San Diego State.
August 11th, 3-5 p.m. (Helmets only)
August 12th, 3-5 p.m. (Helmets only)
August 13th, 3-5 p.m. (Shells)
August 14th, 3-5 p.m. (Shells)
August 15th, 3-5 p.m. (Full pads)
August 16th, 9:15-11:30 a.m. (Shells); 3:30-5:30 p.m. (Full pads)
August 17th, 3-5 p.m. (Full pads)
August 18th, 9:15-11:30 a.m. (Shells); 3:30-5:30 p.m. (Full pads)
August 20th, 3:50-5:50 p.m. (Full pads)
August 21st, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Scrimmage)
August 23rd, 3:50-5:50 p.m. (Full pads)
August 24th, 3:50-5:50 p.m. (Full pads)
August 25th, 3:50-5:50 p.m. (Full pads)
August 26th, 3:50-5:50 p.m. (Full pads)
August 27th, 3:50-5:50 p.m. (Full pads)
August 28th, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Scrimmage)

By the numbers
8: Players on the current Aggie roster from New Mexico. Three players — kicker Zach Diaz, wide receiver James Hall Jr. and tight end Spencer Diaz — are from Las Cruces.
21: Years of coaching experience for new Aggie offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar. Dunbar began his career in 1987 as the head coach at Central Washington University. Most recently, he was offensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota.
13: Pass breakups last season by Aggie cornerback Davon House. House also intercepted three passes and recorded 68 tackles, making first-team All-WAC in the process.
4: Quarterbacks vying for the starting job at the outset of Aggie fall camp today. Junior college transfer Matt Christian and last year’s starter Jeff Fleming appear to be the front runners, with Tanner Rust and Andrew Manley also in the mix.
0: Bye weeks for the Aggies this season. The team will start a week later than most programs — Sept. 1. NMSU will play every weekend from there on out, wrapping up its season Nov. 27 against Hawaii.