Sunday, July 31, 2011

More notes from WAC media conference

Some tidbit as to what WAC Commissioner Karl Benson addressed at the WAC media conference in Las Vegas, Nev. this past week.

• As covered before, the WAC will look to add two football playing schools, with talks beginning following the new year. Benson said if a school is added by June 1, 2012, it can play football in the conference for the 2013 season.

“Any current FBS school that's in our footprint, any current FCS school in our footprint, is in our pool of prospects,” he said.

Benson said the goal is to add two more by the 2013 season. It will be a seven-team league in 2012.

“Our football coaches are prepared to operate as a seven-team league in 2012 and there's a distinct possibility that could carry over another year,” he said.

Right now the league stands as a 10-team league, with seven football-playing schools. It sets up for a two-division format — New Mexico State, Texas-Arlington, Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and Louisiana Tech comprising an east or central region; Denver, Utah State, San Jose State, Idaho and Seattle University in the west.

• The 2011 football season will see a penalty assessed to teams for players celebrating prior to entering the endzone on a touchdown.

The touchdown will be denied and the points will be taken off the board. Endzone celebrations will be monitored as well but less stringently.

The WAC will also return to single officiating football crews for the 2011 season.

The last couple years officiating crews partnered with the WAC, Mountain West Conference, Conference USA, Big 12 and the Pac 12.

This year will see five crews work WAC games only.

• After having 16 games the ESPN networks last year the WAC will have somewhere around eight this season — five on ESPN or ESPN2 and two or three on ESPNU.

“We are contacted with them through 2017,” Benson said of ESPN. “They have the rights to re-negotiate. (With the) departure of Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii, they can revise existing contract in place.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Savage, Vaaulu out

Donte Savage and Augafa Vaaulu will likely not play this year because of academic ineligibility.

It goes without being said that these are big losses.

The Aggies need bodies — productive bodies — on their defensive line and Savage and Vaaulu could have been that.

Savage was a senior who was hoping for a bounce-back year after a three-sack performance a season ago and Vaaulu was expected to contribute on the defensive line. He was a promising freshman last season.

NMSU needs good play up front — we all know this — and depth is critical during a year where the team has 13 games on its schedule. Now other players will have to step up, but these are two losses without a doubt.

WAC polls

Well, here they are. The 2011 WAC preseason polls:

Coaches Poll
Rank Team (1st place votes) Points
1 Hawaii (5) 47
2 Fresno State (1) 41
3 Nevada (2) 40
4 Louisiana Tech 31
5 Utah State 22
6 Idaho 21
7 San Jose State 15
8 New Mexico State 7

Media poll
Rank Team (1st place votes) Points
1 Hawaii (18) 292
2 Fresno State (11) 284
3 Nevada (11) 264
4 Louisiana Tech 184
5 Utah State (1) 166
6 Idaho 141
7 San Jose State 85
8 New Mexico State 60

Nothing too surprising coming out of this.

In my mind the league will come down to Nevada and Fresno State but Hawaii has a good team and the best quarterback in the league in quarterback Bryant Moniz. They certainly are contenders.

I think the league will come down to which QB plays better between Nevada senior Tyler Lantrip and Fresno State sophomore Derek Carr. Nevada has a favorable WAC schedule and I believe they will be league champions.

I think Louisiana Tech could be a darkhorse and Idaho could be good, but lost a lot from last year.

Utah State returns Robert Turbin, a fine running back who was injured all of last year.

I think San Jose State and New Mexico State will both be better, although the Aggies will miss defensive linemen Donte Savage and Augafa Vaaulu.

I really think the Aggies season will be dictated by two early games — hosting Ohio Week 1 and hosting UTEP Week 3. If NMSU wins both, a four or five win season is within striking distance. If not, it could be a long year.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A look at the Aggie offense

The other day I touched on the Aggie football team and its defense. Now, lets take a look at the team's offense. As a side note, the Aggies media guide came out the other day. You can view the media guide by clicking here. A depth chart is available on Page 6.

OK, I've been saying it since the spring — the Aggies have some talent on offense and a lot will hinge on the health of their offensive line.

Last year the line was ravaged by injuries — guard Sioeli Fakalata was injured early with a broken leg; tackle Dwayne Barton had an injured back never played; reserve guard Robert Rodriguez had a busted ankle.

This year the unit goes six deep. Fakalata is listed as the team's starting center, in front of Mike Grady. I think this is debatable because I like Grady as a player — a four-year starter, smart player and potential leader of the line. He was out during spring ball while recovering from right-foot surgery to remove scar tissue. Either way Fakalata is the Aggies best lineman and should shine at guard or center. He's hard working, agile and a power-blocker in the running game.

The guards are Maveu Heimuli and Andrew Kersten while the tackles are Davonte Wallace and Aundre McGaskey.

If Wallace puts on weight from this past year he has the potential to be a special Aggie at left tackle. He was solid as a true freshman a season ago.

McGaskey is good enough and has a pedigree — he was originally recruited by Texas and was part of a National Championship team at Blinn Junior College.

If this unit stays healthy, it will be fine. If guys go down — like last year — it's going to be tough.

Sophomore quarterback Andrew Manley needs time to throw the ball — he has a big arm but won't be able to avoid the pass rush. I like the quarterback position though — Manley supplies intrigue and upside, while senior Matt Christian is a solid player, a leader and someone who I believe knows how to win ballgames. So there.

Running back Robert Clay looks to be in for a big year — Robert looked good late last year as a starter. He's tough, hits the hole hard and has just enough speed.

H-back Kenny Turner will get carries and catches. He has a lot of talent and ability and can rip off the big play.

Taveon Rogers and Todd Lee return as starters at wide receiver. Rogers looked good during spring ball.

Trevor Walls is an inspirational story at tight end and has the right attitude to succeed.

But it starts up front. I've been saying it since the spring.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Prep football capsules

Prep football practice opens Aug. 1, and once again we have the usual suspects who look to be in contention in District 3-5A.
Are Mayfield and Las Cruces High ever going to have a down season?
Maybe one of these years, but it won’t be in 2011.
These two clubs are sure to be loaded — in a wide-open state no less. It seems that all bets are off for a 2011 District 3-5A champion.
With fall camp opening in less than two weeks, we take a look at our local teams and what to expect.

Mayfield Trojans
The skinny: The defending state champions are back at it, not looking to rebuild but simply looking to reload. This will be one of the top teams in the state once again.
Quarterback keeper: Quarterback Axten Franzoy looks to be in for a big year. He came on strong down the stretch of last season and during the playoffs, performing flawlessly in the Trojans 69-42 state championship victory over Manzano.
Hitting the hole: Running back Ricky Milks returns to the Trojans after a big second half of the 2010 season. In summary, Milks has top-end speed, which makes him a gamebreaker every time he touches the ball.
In the trenches: The Trojans are traditionally strong on the lines of scrimmage and this year there are some prime candidates. Linebackers Isaac Ramirez and Mundo Gonzales and defensive linemen Jesus Olivas, Heber Escamilla and Cayman Greene are all names to keep an eye on.

Las Cruces Bulldawgs
The skinny: This is a talented team that should contend, with weapons on offense to go along with a precocious defense.
Running man: Quarterback Devin Perez proved he could do the job last year, inserted for an injured Jeremy Buurma and leading the Bulldawgs to an undefeated record in District 3-5A. Perez is a running quarterback who will need to throw the ball more effectively in 2011. With that being said, head coach Jim Miller and coordinator Mark Lopez know what it takes to build an offense, and a quarterback.
Artillery: Is running back Xavier Hall the best in the state? He’s certainly in the mix and will do big things if healthy. Another intriguing piece is the tight end combination of Geoff Segovia and Kamryn Dixon, who can both provide a matchup nightmare in the passing game. Troy Honeycutt anchors the offensive line.
Young and restless: The Bulldawgs defense is young and aggressive.
Defensive linemen Taylor Tisby and Jacob Banegas are two players to watch going forward.
Segovia and Dixon will also be in the mix up front while cornerback David Baca will be a key piece once again.

Oñate Knights
The skinny: This team will be better than a season ago, but will it show in the win column? A new coach is on board and OHS features arguably the district’s toughest schedule.
New sheriff: The Knights needed a new voice in their locker room and got one when they hired Caleb Hull to be their new head coach this offseason. Hull is young and brash, looking to make an impact and change the brand at OHS. Offseason reviews have been positive for Hull and his young coaching staff. Will the honeymoon last into the season?
Some talent: Were the Knights better than it appeared last year, finishing with a 2-8 record while featuring a rock-solid schedule? Possibly. Some holdovers remain. Look for Raymon Carbajal to make an impact at quarterback and Caesar Chavez to perform at running back. Shaquille Pettes and Moises Ibarra look to be leaders on the offensive line.
Multiple look: The Knights will have different philosophies on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, OHS is going from a run-first, second and third attack to a more spread-out approach. Think Las Cruces High — Hull’s previous stomping grounds — with a bit more passing.
Defensively, the Knights will switch from a 4-3 base to an aggressive 5-2 or 3-4 alignment.
In theory it should be more fan friendly from a season ago. Of course, the most fan-friendly brand of football is a competitive team.

Best of the rest
Gadsden High School
Expect Gadsden to be an improved team in 2011.
Will they contend for a District 3-5A title? Don’t bet on that.
But the Panthers could very well push for third place in the league.
This is head coach Jim Hite’s fourth year with the program and, despite losing standout running back Matt Minton, the Panthers should have talent.
Don’t sleep on this South County program.

This team simply hasn’t been a threat and don’t expect it to change in 2011.
The Tigers are young and inexperienced after pocketing two wins a season ago.
A tough schedule also awaits — of course Las Cruces High and Mayfield are on the docket along with Clovis, Goddard, Hobbs and Carlsbad.
Don’t expect much from the Tigers in 2011.

Mesilla Valley Christian

This local Class 1A school could very well win the District 3-1A championship and possibly a state title.
The SonBlazers have had two successful years under head coach Charles Gleghorn, qualifying for the state playoffs last year.
They're fun to watch and will put a ton of points on the board this year.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Aggie football media guide released

The New Mexico State football media guide has been released. Click here to view this year’s guide online.

The depth chart is on Page 6 and one thing stood out — on the defensive side of the ball.

With head coach DeWayne Walker entering his third season, many of his recruits look to play bigger roles on this year’s defense.

Stephen Meredith is listed as a starter at defensive end, a raw and athletic freshman. Sean Brown is listed as backup defensive end.

Walter Taumoepeau, David Mahoney and Augafa Vaaulu are all in the tackle rotation.

At linebacker, sophomore Anthony Joyner and Dylan Davis are listed on the two-deep as is Alexander LaVoy. I believe all three will have to make an impact at their positions.

And three of the four listed starters in the secondary — sophomore Darien Johnson and safeties George Callender and Donyae Coleman — have been recruited by the current coaching staff.

For the Aggies to be better there defense will have to be the backbone of the team. It will start up front — on the defensive line and at linebacker. The front-seven is going to have to play better than a season ago. Mahoney will have to play better along with Pierre Fils and Donte Savage. The Aggies need a better pass rush and have to be able to beat one-on-one blocking up front.

I think at linebacker that LaVoy will push for a starting job and that B.J. Adolpho has the potential to be an impact player on the defense. And, again, it would be nice to see Joyner and Davis play well.

I think it takes longer to build a quality defense and it will continue to take time. But as the coaching staff enters its third year the personnel continues to fill out.

And, yes, I will continue to break down the depth chart in the coming days.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Worth noting....

The list of players to attend the WAC Football Media Conference next week in Las Vegas came out and who’s representing NMSU?

One is Pierre Fils, a senior defensive end. This isn’t a huge surprise.

The other is sophomore quarterback Andrew Manley, who will enter training camp with the label of starting QB.

The Aggies need identifiable players for the fan base and program to rally around and Manley is the ideal candidate.

He’s one of just a few underclassmen to be representing their respective programs at next week’s conference. Here’s the full list of players....

Fresno State, Logan Harrell, Sr., DT
Hawai‘i, Bryant Moniz, Sr., QB
Hawai‘i, Corey Paredes, Sr., LB
Idaho, Brian Reader, Sr., QB
Idaho, Tre’Shawn Robinson, Sr., LB
Louisiana Tech, Matt Broha, Sr., DL
Louisiana Tech, Lennon Creer, Sr., RB
Nevada, Tyler Lantrip, Sr., QB
Nevada, James-Michael Johnson, Sr., LB
New Mexico State, Pierre Fils, Sr., DE
New Mexico State, Andrew Manley, So., QB
San Jose State, Noel Grigsby, So., WR
San Jose State, Keith Smith, So., LB
Utah State, Bobby Wagner, Sr., LB
Utah State, Robert Turbin, Jr., RB

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Aggie men’s hoops schedule

Wrote a story on this for the paper and wanted to get people’s thoughts.

Coach Menzies’ first year here it was too tough — at Duke, at Louisville and in a neutral-site tournament against Texas and West Virginia. Tennessee was also present but the Aggies didn't face them.

This one is a bit too light — Western and Northern New Mexico on the home schedule? Of course the SWAC is coming to town. Arizona here is very exciting — clearly one of the highlights. Bad timing on the two rivals visits — UTEP right before Thanksgiving break, UNM three days after Christmas. How many fans will come to the UNM game on Dec. 28th?

The Aggies need wins and more fans in the seats. Sometimes these things go hand-in-hand, other times they haven't. It seems like fans generally get up for the UTEP and UNM games and depending on how the Aggies fare dictates a lot on attendance from there on out.

The question is — what would be your ideal Aggie men’s hoops schedule?


2011-12 NM State Men’s Basketball Schedule
Date Opponent Location
Nov. 2 Eastern New Mexico (Exh.) Las Cruces
Nov. 12 at Northern Colorado Greeley, Colo.
Nov. 16 at New Mexico Albuquerque, N.M.
Nov. 19 UTEP Las Cruces
Nov. 24 Central Michigan% Anchorage, Alaska
Nov. 25 UC Irvine/Southern Miss% Anchorage, Alaska
Nov. 26 TBD% Anchorage, Alaska
Nov. 29 Arizona Las Cruces
Dec. 4 at Southern Miss Hattiesburg, Miss.
Dec. 11 at UTEP El Paso, Texas
Dec. 14 Western New Mexico Las Cruces
Dec. 19 Southern Las Cruces
Dec. 21 McNeese State Las Cruces
Dec. 28 New Mexico Las Cruces
Dec. 31 Arkansas-Pine Bluff Las Cruces
Jan. 2 Cal State Bakersfield Bakersfield, Calif.
Jan. 7 Louisiana Tech* Ruston, La.
Jan. 12 Utah State* Las Cruces
Jan. 14 Idaho* Las Cruces
Jan. 19 at San Jose State* San Jose, Calif.
Jan. 21 at Hawai’i* Honolulu, Hawai’i
Jan. 26 Nevada* Las Cruces
Jan. 28 Fresno State* Las Cruces
Feb. 1 Cal State Bakersfield Las Cruces
Feb. 4 Louisiana Tech* Las Cruces
Feb. 9 at Idaho* Moscow, Idaho
Feb. 11 at Utah State Logan, Utah
Feb. 14 North New Mexico Las Cruces
Feb. 18 ESPNU BracketBuster Las Cruces
Feb. 23 Hawai’i* Las Cruces
Feb. 25 San Jose State* Las Cruces
March 1 Fresno State* Fresno, Calif.
March 3 Nevada* Reno, Nev.
March 7-10 WAC Tournament Las Vegas, Nev.
% Great Alaska Shooutout
* Conference game

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Oñate to have a new look — and other high school football ramblings

High school football is right around the corner and it's never to early to get the ball rolling.

We'll start at Oñate, where the Knights needed a new voice and hired former Las Cruces High assistant Caleb Hull as head coach.

Hull is young and brash. He has instilled a new attitude at Oñate and has received positive reviews this offseason. Games are obviously won in September and into the fall, however.

The Knights will have a new look on offense this year, similar to Las Cruces High where they will spread the field and throw the football. Raymond Carbajal looks to make an impact at quarterback along with running back Caesar Chavez.

Will the Knights win? I think it will be hard in 2011. They have yet another tough schedule and are still a step behind Las Cruces High and Mayfield in talent.

They will be a fun team worth watching however, if for nothing else because of Hull's new outlook and the new style they will bring to the table. They will be more fan friendly — last year their run, run, run offense was tough to watch from the stands. With practice opening on Aug. 1, keep an eye on the new-look Knights.


Will Mayfield or Las Cruces High find a way to a down year? Maybe one of these years, but it won't be in 2011.

These are very well run, established high school football programs.

Mayfield — the defending state champions — will be tough once again.

Quarterback Axten Franzoy came on down the stretch of the season and into the state playoffs. He was flawless in the team's state championship win over Manzano. Franzoy returns, now knows what it takes to be a state champion and should have more confidence and swagger. I expect a big year out of him.

The Trojans also return running back/cornerback Ricky Milks who was a strong contributor during the second half of last season.

Mayfield is traditionally strong and tough up front. Some names to keep an eye on: linebacker Isaac Ramirez; defensive tackle/linebacker Herbert Escamilla; linebacker Mundo Gonzalez; and center/defensive tackle Caymen Green.

At Las Cruces High, there is talent as usual.

Xavier Hall will be one of the top running backs in the state in 2011.

If quarterback Devin Perez can play at a high level, this team will be dangerous. Perez is a runner and led the Bulldawgs to an undefeated district record last season. His continued development will be key for LCHS if they hope to win a District 3-5A championship.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Interpreting Lieberwirth’s departure

What does golf coach Scott Lieberwirth’s departure mean for the Aggie athletics program?

This is how I interpret it: he had a better opportunity — a better working situation, perhaps — at UTEP.

How do I come to this conclusion? Because who leaves NMSU for UTEP? Only if it’s in the best interest for himself and his family. It’s a personal decision to leave. Nothing more, nothing less.

Lieberwirth left money on the table to join the Miners — he will make a base salary of just over $50,000 at UTEP. But there will be other avenues to collect money — incentives and a strong booster club to name a few.

It should act as a wakeup call for NMSU. Right in line with Mike Dunbar deciding to “retire” and the football team asking for snacks a few years ago.

It just doesn't look good. Obviously.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

UT-Arlington joins WAC

This conference is abysmally bad.

Can anyone even name the mascot of UT-Arlington? Honestly, I just had to look it up, it’s the Mavericks.

It’s sad because this conference realignment business is all predicated off of money. The WAC was a competitive league — now it’s borderline Division I. Can that change down the road? Sure, but there are no guarantees and the schools that have been added are in wait-and-see mode.

When NMSU went from the Sun Belt to the WAC it was a boost. People were excited to face Fresno State, Boise State, Hawaii and Nevada. This has an entirely different feel.

I will say this — geographically it makes sense for the Aggies. If they're not going to be in a major D-I conference, at least have some regional opponents that can alleviate travel problems and take NMSU to areas where they can recruit.

And here’s the overriding key: the time is now for the Aggies to make a move in the league standings. Their athletics program is under question and they need to have success. The four premier athletics programs in the WAC — Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii — are either gone or will be gone after this year. NMSU has to jump to the top of the pack and needs to have success in football. The door is open.

Is the new WAC a good thing for the Aggies? If they win, yes. I really think the fans of the Aggies just want to see them be successful. They’ll support them if they win.

The new WAC is a time-will-tell league with a lot of new, unproven programs and leftovers who had nowhere else to go. The time is now for the Aggies to make a move in the standings.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Aggies hire Tony Delk as assistants move on

I want to say this right now: I think Tony Delk was a good hire for the Aggie basketball team. He was a fine college player and had a solid career in the NBA. It helps having a guy with NBA pedigree on a college basketball bench.

Is it concerning the Aggies lost two assistants this offseason? I think so. Assistants move on in the college game, but the Aggies have had too much turnover and not enough consistency during the last four years. Their leading scorers don't come back. Two assistants leave this offseason. I think the team will miss Mick Durham, who's shining moment was leading the team to a comeback victory at UTEP two years ago when Marvin Menzies was thrown out of the game in the first half.

And what do the Aggies really need on the bench? First off, they need a tough coach who's hard on the players and garners their respect. Good coaching staffs have a good cop and a bad cop and I don't think the Aggies have had a bad cop on their bench. They also need a coach who has technical expertise when it comes down to X's and O's. Perhaps Delk can bring one of these traits to the table.