Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Davon House story

The former Aggie cornerback being drafted is a great story.

He is a good kid who did things the right way while at New Mexico State — headlines for what he did on the field, not off it. He always worked hard, did what was asked and was rewarded.

And this is the prototypical player the Aggies need to recruit — no scholarship offers coming out of high school, a diamond in the rough who was coached up and found his talent. I think they have a couple more like this on their roster — Robert Clay and Davonte Wallace stand out. I'm sure there's a few others.

It helps NMSU from a recruiting standpoint. Players can come to the Aggies and know they'll be taken seriously by pro teams.

And the Packers are a fine organization — winners of last year's Super Bowl and a team that has built itself through the draft.

A good story all the way around.

Thoughts from the Aggie spring football game

A few things stood out during the Aggie spring football game.

• Victor Johnson could play a role in this year's Aggie offense.

He's a big running back that can be utilized as a ball carrier and a blocker.

• I'm still concerned about the team's linebackers, who are undersized. They'll need something this year from junior college transfer Alexander LaVoy who will be here in the fall.

In general the defense looked slow off the ball. That's why the perimeter of the defense was hurt on Saturday, because the defense is slow. If the Aggies want to be better this year their defense is going to have to be better and it starts on the front seven.

• I thought the defensive line outplayed the offensive line during the scrimmage but I also think it was an aberration. If the Aggies offensive line stays healthy — a big if — they'll be OK.

• Andrew Manley was up and down at the quarterback position.

He was off on some deep throws and on target on others.

Andrew showed a propensity to run hot and cold last year. He needs to be more hot than cold for the Aggies to be better.

I thought Matt Christian played OK on Saturday.

I still think the Aggies have a nice one-two punch there.

• I think Doug Martin has done a good job implementing his offense considering he's been at NMSU for just over a month. And it's a fun offense.

He has found a home for the certain players as well — i.e. Taveon Rogers and Kenny Turner.

The offensive playbook is basic. Will it expand as the season gets closer?

• Taveon Rogers had a good game and is the team's No. 1 receiver.

He was double teamed last year down the stretch of the season. Manley was looking his way often on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

District 3-5A high school baseball

After sweeping Alamogordo last night the Las Cruces Bulldawgs are truly in the driver’s seat for a District 3-5A championship in baseball.

LCHS now needs to sweep OƱate in a Friday night doubleheader — something that should be done — and the league title is theirs.

Coming into the year Mayfield was the most talented team in District 3-5A. If Cruces wins district, both the Trojans and Bulldawgs should have home playoff games next weekend in the first round of state.

Gadsden is also a state-tournament team this year and Alamogordo is a bubble team.

Sixteen of the 21 teams from Class 5A make the state tourney.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Davon House, NFL bound

Former Aggie cornerback Davon House will be selected at some point in the NFL Draft.

Davon has the size — 6-foot-1, between 190 and 200 pounds — and speed — a 4.35 40-yard dash time — to run with NFL wide receivers.

He needs to work on his strength and physicality in order to tackle your Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall’s of the world.

I spoke with Davon today and he said he expects to go somewhere in the third round this weekend. It gives Aggie fans further reason to watch the Draft.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Aggie running backs

The Aggies should have some depth at the running back position this season.

Junior Robert Clay is back and he brings a tough style, good strength and adequate speed. Robert should be in for a good 2011 season.

Germi Morrison is coming in and expected to get some snaps in the backfield.

And don’t forget about Kenny Turner, who will still get some carries despite his newfound H-back position.

Will the Aggies focus more on the pass this season than the running game? They will pass to set up the run.

They do have some talent back there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two key games for the Aggies

When I look at the Aggies 2011 football schedule two games come screaming off the page.

Hosting Ohio and UTEP are the most critical contests of the year, in my eyes. And neither game will come easy.

The Aggies home opener against Ohio is as close to a must-win as you could have in Week 1 of the season. The Bobcats are a solid MAC program and went to a bowl game last year. They’ll play a tough, gritty style under head coach Frank Solich.

But nothing would be better for the Aggies than a Week 1 win at home. It would create a positive buzz that the team desperately needs and would get the 2011 season off on the right foot — which is also of critical importance.

And NMSU needs to beat UTEP in Week 3, pure and simple. The Miners have beaten NMSU soundly the past two seasons and it’s time the Aggies respond. Getting blown out isn’t the answer.

Both games are tough, but they’re also winnable. I really think the Aggies can win four or five games this year, but they have to win these two above.

Both will give Aggie fans an idea of where the team stands right out of the chutes in 2011.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Trevor Walls

There is a good story coming out of Aggie football camp this spring.

Trevor Walls, the former quarterback, is getting snaps at tight end, and is showing he can catch the football.

The truth is that Walls could be a tackling dummy at practice and it would be a good story.

We’re talking about a kid who came here from Ohio to play quarterback in Hal Mumme’s offense. We all know what happened there.

He did get snaps under center in Timm Rosenbach’s system, which wasn’t meant for a drop-back passer like Trevor to begin with. The entire offense wasn’t good in 2009, quarterbacks included.

Last year he didn’t play and was moved to tight end.

He’s still at New Mexico State, however, and he’s still trying to help this team get to where it needs to be.

Trevor has also been a factor at spring practices. How many players would have stayed at the school and continued to work hard despite things not going the way they envisioned upon arriving at campus four years prior?

Good things happen to good people, and this will pay off for Walls. There would be nothing better than for him to be a factor this season at a brand new position.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Aggies will be better in 2011 if.....

The New Mexico State Aggie football team will be improved this year if....

This team needs to get better production from its front-four. It’s been written about, blogged about, tweeted about. The Aggies need Tommy Stuart and David Mahoney, two junior college transfers a year ago, to produce. I do think defensive tackle Augafa Vaaulu will be a good player at NMSU if he continues to develop — he showed flashes last season at defensive tackle.

Obviously defensive ends Donte Savage and Pierre Fils need to give the Aggies more. They were adequate in 2009 but were invisible last season.

The Aggies have a few new faces on the line this year, but the players back from last season have to play better. I don’t think the Aggies necessarily have to be gangbusters up front, but they need to have a presence. They need to be a threat. If not, the defense won’t be any better this year.

Flipping it around, NMSU needs its offensive line to stay healthy. Is guard Sioeli Fakalata fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered last year? If so, he’s the Aggies best lineman and a force on the right side.

Last season Davonte Wallace played well at left tackle. He’s undersized for that position but he was a standout freshman for the Aggies and should be all right playing there again.

Mike Grady is a veteran center and junior college transfer Andrew Kersten was brought in to play, in this case at the other guard spot opposite Fakalata. Aundre McGaskey started all of last season at right tackle.

Isn’t this always the problem at NMSU? Depth, size and production along the offensive and defensive lines? Yes.

Another key? Andrew Manley’s continued development at quarterback, where he has the potential to be a difference maker at the position.
If the Aggies get positive results on the three things listed above, they’re going to be better — much better. Four wins is a realistic target for the team this season and they’ll get there if the factors listed above work out.

Will they work out?

I think the O-line will be OK and while Manley will have his growing pains he’ll be all right too. I have greater concerns about the defensive front, which needs to get much better in a hurry.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Offensive line

The Aggies have six offensive lineman that they think are reliable players.

That being starting tackles Aundre McGaskey and Davonte Wallace, starting guards Andrew Kersten and Sioeli Fakalata and center Mike Grady.

Backup Maveu Heimuli is also in that mix.

The key for NMSU will be getting two more that can be adequate backups.

Players like Jake Swenson or Dejuan Yates.

They also have a handful of freshman who could develop.

Last year the Aggies were injury riddled along the offensive front.

The general belief is that if they get better play along both lines of scrimmage than they should be an improved team in 2011.

I think the offensive line will be better. The bigger question in my eyes is the defensive front four.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The linebackers

Someone asked me on a previous post about the Aggie linebackers so I decided to start a thread.

I think the linebackers have a lot to prove this year.

Last year they were hurt by the defensive linemen's inability to win one-on-one matchups. Opposing offensive linemen could run free and swallow the Aggies undersized linebackers in the running game — the team gave up 207 yards per game on the ground.

That and the fact that weakside linebacker B.J. Adolpho and middle linebacker Boyblue Aoelua were sophomores last year. They're still developing.

The truth is that Adolpho could be a good player here. He loves football and goes all out all the time. He was raw last year but with more experience he will get better. I think Adolpho is a key player in DeWayne Walker's defense and could be in for a good season.

Boyblue was good between the tackle box last year and good enough against the run. He was a step slow in pass coverage and suffered on the perimeter of the defense. Some of that could be due to knee injuries.

He will be pushed by junior college transfer Alexander LaVoy.

There is a hole at strongside linebacker. Bryan Bonilla could play there and the team is also talking about playing defensive linemen Donte Savage and Stephen Meredith there. It's an evolving position.

Will Dylan Davis and Anthony Joyner step up? They were freshman last year and it would be ideal for them to get more playing time in 2011, in my eyes.

The Aggies will blitz more this season.

The play of the defensive front-seven this year will determine if the Aggies get better.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Aggies hire Mark Trakh as new women’s hoops coach

I thought the Aggies did good by hiring Mark Trakh to be their new women’s basketball coach.

Trakh has been in the head-coaching business for 16 years, at Pepperdine from 1993-2004 and USC from 2004-09. He has a 289-187 career record and has been to postseason play eight times — five of which were NCAA appearances.

The point is that Trakh understands how to win as a head coach. I thought NMSU would go the assistant-coach route with little experience, a rookie in a sense. I have nothing against that, but it’s also nice to have someone in that position that has been through the wars.

Perhaps Trakh is suited for a mid-major program like NMSU and he’s had success at one before as well.

Trakh has recruiting ties in California.

The one question I have about Trakh are his assistant coaches. For a number of years he leaned on ace assistants Jody Wynn and Derek Wynn, a husband-wife combination that are now at Long Beach State, with Jody as the 49ers head coach and Derek as an assistant.

Trakh will need to find adequate people for those jobs. If anyone is wondering, the Aggies will have three assistant coaches on staff, with the top making between $60-$70,000 and the next two making between $30-$40,000.

Trakh will make $135,000 annually for five years, with bonuses and incentives to be determined.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cruces/Mayfield baseball game

After tooting Mayfield’s horn, I thought I’d give Las Cruces High some love after they knocked off the Trojans on the baseball field, 5-4 in extra innings on Tuesday night.

I’ll give Las Cruces High credit for coming back in this one. The Bulldawgs have a grind-it-out team — not perfect by any stretch, but blue collar.

The Trojans went up 4-0 and then went on auto-pilot. I think Mayfield has a talented team, but they need to get mentally tougher if they want to win a state title. They were taking care of business, began coasting, and before they knew it they were in a dogfight.

The MVP of the game was Bulldawgs reliever Goody Ruiz, who pitched seven innings of scoreless relief. Ruiz doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he found a way to get guys out.

It was a good win for the Bulldawgs and should make things interesting when these two teams meet again on April 21 for a district doubleheader. Top-to-bottom Mayfield has a more talented team. But that means less in this rivalry.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Aggie quarterbacks

Considering the question marks in the New Mexico State Aggie football team’s lineup, the quarterback position provides depth and upside.

I think the team would do fine with either guy in there and could certainly do worse than either Matt Christian and/or Andrew Manley.

But who should start? Certainly if Manley develops and can play, he should.

He’s the younger of the two and has a ton of potential. Andrew has a nice arm and could be a difference maker for Aggie football in the present and future.

And he’s the people’s choice. I think most fans would want to see Andrew get the starting nod, simply because he provides hope and intrigue. He’s a reason to go to the stadium, just to see how the young QB develops.

It’s not a knock on Matt — he’s a serviceable player and wasn’t a weak link last year. He could play and be fine.

In all actuality, the Aggies will probably need both anyway at some point this season. It never hurts to have two guys at that position. But you do want a clear-cut No. 1 as well.

Before I wrote that the Aggie pass rush is the key to the team’s season. Well, it is, and the development of Manley. Both of those are the No. 1 keys, as it stands now.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

KT to HB

Some news coming out of the first week of spring football practice is that running back Kenny Turner will be moving to H-back in Doug Martin's new offensive system for the New Mexico State Aggies.

Turner led the Aggies on the ground last year, rushing for 461 yards and two touchdowns — he averaged 4.0 yards per carry. He was third on the team with 25 receptions for 203 yards.

Turner played in 10 games last year and sat out some games late in the season with a knee injury.

He was considered one of the few gamebreaking-type players the Aggies had on offense last season.

Turner is now 100 percent healthy and is playing a new position.

In Martin's offense, the H-back is reserved for a versatile playmaker. Turner will still line up as a traditional running back and get carries, but will also be put in motion and line up outside or in the slot, asked to turn into a receiver.

One of Turner's adjustments to H-back will be route running on intermediate pass plays — 5-to-15 yards from the line of scrimmage.

If you head out to spring practice, it's worth keeping an eye on.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mayfield baseball a quality team

The Mayfield Trojans have a legitimate shot at challenging for a state baseball championship in 2011.

The Trojans have an above-average pitching staff, which is a requirement when challenging for a state title.

And the team's defense is very solid, particularly in the outfield.

The biggest surprise has been Mayfield's lineup, which has produced offensively while displaying a nice mix of speed and power.

The Trojans are the best team in District 3-5A this season and will play Las Cruces High this Tuesday night at Apodaca Park.

The state appears to be wide open this year as well.

The Trojans should win District 3-5A and will be in hunt for the state championship this year once the tournament rolls around.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

How important is the pass rush?

How important is it that the Aggies get to the quarterback this season?

I think it will be the difference between having another terrible year or a better one.

Last year the team had nine sacks, No. 119 out of 120 FBS teams.

Two years ago, the team had 21.

Expanding off that point, NMSU needs better play from its front-seven, period — defensive linemen and linebackers.

The team brought in a few new faces during the offseason but will also need certain returnees to step up, particularly defensive ends Donte Savage and Pierre Fils.

Part of the problem is that the Aggies are traditionally undersized on the defensive front and it’s no different here. Savage and Fils could conceivably be outside linebackers in another program but are forced to play as down-linemen at NMSU.

I do think the Aggies have potential in their secondary but those players can only do so much covering when there is little-to-no pressure applied in the backfield.

In a perfect world, the Aggies would get 30-plus sacks this year. I don’t think that’s going to happen but getting in the mid-20’s would certainly help the defense and the team as a whole.

I think it will be the difference between one or two wins, or three or four.

In other words, it would make a big difference for the Aggies.