Friday, December 30, 2011

Down the middle: Making sense of the Marvin Menzies experience

Should Marvin Menzies feel the heat? Oh yeah.

Should he feel pressure? Of course. What’s a Division I basketball coach here for, anyway?

Should he lose his job after his team’s 89-69 home loss to the University of New Mexico on Wednesday night? That, folks, is premature talk.

For the sake of talking basketball, and nothing more: Teams have bad games. UNM had a bad game when they lost to the Aggies in the Pit earlier this year. They shot 28 percent from the floor, and surely Lobo fans left the arena that night scowling about Steve Alford’s overrated coaching style and the team’s lack of awareness. These things happen.

Not to say that NMSU wasn’t thoroughly outclassed in every possible way Wednesday. UNM exposed the Aggies’ deficiencies — offensively challenged, a team that plays hard defensively, albeit not smart. And, yes, Menzies was exposed too.

The Aggies were down 40-19 with three minutes left in the first half, and the game was all but over. It’s simple math — with the way the Aggies’ offense was headed, they wouldn’t be able to score enough baskets to overcome a 21-point deficit going into intermission.

By the fourth quarter, the lead was more than 30. A foul call against the Aggies saw Menzies stomping the sidelines, screeching at the officials. At that point, someone on the bench — assistant coach, player — should have helped the head man to his seat. It’s over coach. Just take your medicine.

But back to the original point. Menzies isn’t getting fired now. Whether it should happen is besides the point — it’s not going to happen. Not with Athletics Director McKinley Boston in charge, who hands out — almost defiantly — contract extensions to coaches he’s hired, and doesn’t want to see fail.

After all, the Aggies are 8-5 this year and have split their rivalry games against UNM and UTEP. In Aggieland, this might warrant giving Menzies a lifetime deal for his accomplishments.

In truth, Menzies has found a loophole at the office. He hasn’t been egregious enough to warrant losing his job — a record well over .500 and remaining competitive in a Western Athletic Conference that has somehow managed to regress at the same pace the Aggies have. Nor has he inspired enough to warrant a promotion to another school. As long as he treads water, he’s going to be with the Aggies for a while. Even if some Aggie fans want a divorce.

Take this week for instance. After getting blown out by the Lobos, NMSU will host Arkansas-Pine Bluff for a noon game on Saturday. Then it’s off to Cal State-Bakersfield. Two wins — as empty as they may feel — will give NMSU a 10-5 record going into conference, where they should compete as a top-three, top-four team. Heck, they can win the WAC, which would grant them an NCAA Tournament berth. Yes, this is possible. From this vantage point, that’s a competitive year, even if it rings hollow to some.

And now, as much as the Aggies benefited from their early success, they’re suffering from it in the present.

Their first win against UNM was misleading — again, the Lobos shot 28 percent and the game took place early in the season, before the blueprint was out on how to beat Aggies.

They squashed the Miners at home, and Menzies began talking out of the side of his mouth about how this was a Top 25 team, a special team. But that talk was unfounded, and that early movement painted the Aggies as something better than current reality suggests.

If I were grading Menzies as a coach, on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give him a 5. He doesn’t knock my socks off. He hasn't overwhelmed.

He’s been average, down the middle.

For this current athletics administration, it seems like the perfect match.

Five years of courtship, and that relationship has seldom hummed in such perfect harmony.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Aggies lack of offense — and regression — exposed in blowout loss to Lobos

The New Mexico State Aggies were exposed on Wednesday night at the Pan American Center.

Their opponents, the New Mexico Lobos played very well in an 89-67 blowout win.

They are a good team — it was apparent on Wednesday why they were picked to win the Mountain West during the preseason.

They play together and make sound decisions on the basketball court.

That, and they shot the ball very well from long range — hitting 12 of 24 attempts from 3-point territory on the evening.

The Aggies, well, they're the exact opposite — a limited offensive team that's erratic in ball handling.

They desperately need a consistent 3-point shooter — a 1 of 14 effort from beyond the arc spells out that fact.

Outside of Wendell McKines, they're a roster full of role players and run an unimaginative halfcourt offense — two players on the pick and role, three others standing idle.

Simply put, they couldn't score the ball, not with UNM draining a barrage of jump shots and layups.

NMSU doesn't have enough offense to score to win in a halfcourt game and need their defense to generate their offensive attack — rebounding the basketball and creating turnovers generally translate into easy baskets on the other end of the floor.

That and the Lobos were just better prepared for NMSU this time around.

UNM was very unimpressive in their first game against the Aggies — a 62-53 NMSU win that saw the Lobos shoot 28 percent from the floor and commit 21 turnovers.

That's not how you beat this NMSU team, rather it's by being patient on offense — ball security, ball reversal and a good shot in the halfcourt set, while making rebounding a top priority going into the contest.

The Lobos turned the ball over 15 times on Wednesday night while they just about broke even on the boards — losing that battle 47-45.

Once again, the Aggies couldn't be counted on from the free-throw line, shooting 22 of 35 while UNM hit 17 of 20 from the stripe.

The Lobos jumped out to a 40-19 lead with three minutes remaining before halftime. At that point, fans could have packed up and left the Pan American Center — with the Aggies offensive troubles, the game was all but over.

Instead, the audience began filtering out of the gym with nine minutes left in the contest, and with the Aggies down 72-44.

“No, I don't think so,” NMSU head coach Marvin Menzies said when asked if he was feeling more pressure after the lopsided loss. “They shot the piss out of the ball.”

True, true.

But there is also this fact:

The Lobos are an improved team since the last time both clubs met over a month ago.

And the Aggies? Well, they've regressed.

And that's where it stands.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thoughts on Wednesday's Aggies vs. Lobos game

First off, this is an important game for the Aggie men's basketball team.

The Aggies beat the Lobos at the Pit 62-53 earlier this season to move to 2-0. Days later they came home to blow out UTEP and a season sweep of their rivals seemed possible — at least a 3-1 record looked like a sure bet.

But the Aggies have leveled off since then — they have gone 5-4 over the past month of the season and slipped up in El Paso against UTEP. A loss to the Lobos — which would mark a 2-2 rivalry record — would be considered a letdown.

As for UNM, the team has gone 9-1 since that defeat to NMSU and stands at 10-2 on the year.

Is Wednesday's game for the WAC championship? No. But a win would show Aggie fans their team is still headed forward — the beginning of the year Marvin Menzies was talking about it being a special season and NMSU received a vote in the Top 25.

The Aggies need this one simply from maintaining the excitement and good play they generated at the beginning of the year because it's leveled off to some degree.

• It will be interesting to see how the Lobos gameplan for the Aggies.

The first meeting UNM looked pretty unimpressive — they shot 28 percent for the game and turned to ball over 21 times, a no no when facing an NMSU team that wants to get into the open floor for easy baskets.

We've said it 100 times on this blog: When facing the Aggies, teams have to make rebounding the ball a priority and play patient on offense — ball security, ball reversal, and a good shot should come during the possession.

And we've also said this a ton: If the Aggies stay focused playing defense and in rebounding the basketball, they can beat anyone on their schedule. This Aggie team plays harder than last year, they just don't always execute.

They have size and athleticism, to go with erratic 3-point shooting and ball handling. They can struggle from the free-throw line — Hamidu Rahman goes 1 for 2 every time he steps to the stripe — and need to take care of the ball themselves.

With that being said they are well-rested, relatively healthy and are at home against a good team. This is a chance for people to see where they now stand going into conference.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Brainstorming for an offensive coordinator

There area a lot of college football coaching vacancies and movement will be prevalent in the near future.

A look at possible coordinator candidates to fill the Aggies coaching vacancy left by Doug Martin. Pure speculation and ideas....

• Nick Rolovich: Aggie fans would be familiar with Rolovich, who was Hawaii's offensive coordinator the past two years before leaving with the recent departure of Greg McMackin. He runs wide a receiver-friendly offense and is familiar with quarterback Andrew Manley, the Aggies third-year quarterback.

• Steve Fairchild: Fairchild was recently let go as head coach of Colorado State. He has NFL experience as an offensive assistant in Buffalo and St. Louis.

• Earnest Wilson: Wilson, a former running backs coach at NMSU, has been a successful offensive coordinator the past two years at Jackson State. While with the Aggies for the five years prior, Wilson built good relationships within the local community and brought some good players to NMSU — Davon House, Robert Clay and Davonte Wallace to name a few.

• Jonathan Smith: Montana’s offensive coordinator used to coach at Idaho and interviewed for the Aggie coordinator job two years ago — NMSU went with the more experienced Mike Dunbar. Still, the Aggies were impressed with Smith.

• Jim Miller: The head coach at Las Cruces High, Miller has built the Bulldawgs into a consistent state title contender while running a fun offense. He also played quarterback at NMSU — he's in the Aggie Hall of Fame — and is a native of Roswell. His hire would be a public relations boon and help sell tickets for a program that needs it.


Aggie head coach DeWayne Walker could interview his next defensive coordinator candidate this Tuesday.


Could the Aggies next offensive coordinator candidate get a raise? Perhaps around $120,000? Lets hope so.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

A Christmas wish list for the upcoming year

With Christmas here, my wish list to Santa for the upcoming sports year in Las Cruces.

• Aggie establishment in the new WAC:
It will be important that New Mexico State establishes itself as a top-tier athletics program in the new Western Athletics Conference, starting this year. So what does that mean? The Aggies should be a top-three football team in the new league and one of the league’s top-two dominant basketball programs. Sports such as softball and volleyball will hopefully win WAC championships. The Aggies will actually be a veteran program in the new WAC — entering their eighth year in the league. Texas State and Texas-San Antonio will join NMSU, Idaho, San Jose State, Utah State and Louisiana Tech to form the conference next year, meaning the door will be open for NMSU to be a top-three athletics program in the league.

• WAC championship for Aggie men’s basketball:
This is very possible, although not as much of a sure thing as it appeared to be a month ago. The Aggies have good size and athleticism but are erratic in ball handling and 3-point shooting. In short, if the Aggies bring focus on the defensive end of the floor and in the rebounding department, they can beat most teams on most evenings. The Aggies should be in the mix for a WAC title, while Nevada, Utah State and Hawaii have also shown improvement over the past month.

• No more coaching changes:
This is highlighted by Aggie football, which lost four more assistant coaches during the offseason. Head coach DeWayne Walker has to hire two coordinators and a defensive line coach, while he’s already found a replacement for the offensive line coaching vacancy. Walker will have to go 4 for 4 at the plate and knock two out of the park during this process — not an easy task. If the Aggies improve going into next year as much as they did last year, they should push the .500 mark and, in turn, push for bowl eligibility. With that being said, when building a program, continuity is an important factor.

• A repeat in high school hoops: Last March, three teams won high school state titles on the same day — Oñate was the first Las Cruces boys basketball program to win a Class 5A championship since 1976 while the Mayfield girls and Mesilla Valley Christian boys were also victorious in the Pit. This year a few more titles could be in store — the Las Cruces High boys have the talent of a state championship contender in Class 5A, while Mesilla Valley Christian is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A. The Mayfield girls are ranked No. 5 in the state in Class 5A.

• No changes in high school football: How much will Centennial High School affect the local programs, particularly state powerhouses Mayfield and Las Cruces High? At least this upcoming year — when Centennial makes its debut — one would think not much. The school, which will be playing a varsity schedule as a Class 4A program, will accept incoming freshman and sophomores, along with select juniors. At least for the upcoming year, high school football in southern New Mexico should be strong once again.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Doug Martin leaves Aggie football

New Mexico State is going to say they hire good assistant football coaches. And that's not necessarily a lie.

Heck, the team hired Doug Martin to begin with to be offensive coordinator.

But him leaving also, well, sucks. I'm not saying I blame Martin or NMSU for him leaving because I don't. He went to a better job — more money at a BCS program in Boston College.

But it still leaves the Aggies searching for their fourth offensive coordinator in four years. And I will stand by this all day: if you want to build a program, continuity is KEY. At least it's preferred.

The offensive players are going to have to learn a new system again — think about quarterback Andrew Manley here for a second.

And it would be nice if, once the Aggies got a good coordinator, they could hold onto him. Again, I don't see how they hold onto Martin here because they couldn't match the offer from a financial or program standpoint. All I'm saying is that it's a blow to lose him.

The Aggies have recruited better and they have some talent at the skill positions.

But that's the key word of the day: continuity. Just wish the Aggies could have some at key positions on their coaching staff.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tale of the tape: an early look at District 3-5A boys basketball

Taking a look at District 3-5A high school boys basketball teams early in the year:

• Las Cruces High: The Bulldawgs have much of what a team could hope for — experience, size, a point guard and talent. The clear favorites in District 3-5A and a possible state title contender.

• Oñate: The defending Class 5A state champions do have some pieces. Freshman Sammy Barnes has the green light to shoot, while Brandon Rosales and Chino Saldivar are back to provide veteran leadership.

• Mayfield: There isn’t a whole lot back for the Trojans which, in a sense, makes them a sneaky team.

• Gadsden: Last season the Panthers finished in last place in District 3-5A.

• Alamogordo: It would seem the Tigers have some talent. The question: will they be organized on the court?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Aggies should invest in product

Look, I realize money is tight.

That and fans don't go to New Mexico State Aggie football games — the program isn't making any money and doesn't have a whole lot extra to throw around.

Look at what the program paid last year's defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey ($70,000) and offensive coordinator Doug Martin ($90,000).

In the football world, that's minimum wage for a coordinator — in a perfect world NMSU could pay such positions closer to between $125,000 and $150,000 annually. Or at least six figures.

• Here's a list from 2010 in terms of WAC schools and their highest paid assistants. Again, this is from the 2010 season, so we're going to include Boise State in the list. This is pior to Martin's hire and Mike Dunbar's for that matter. This is according to a report done by USA Today:

Boise State: Pete Kwiatkowski ($259,520); Bryan Harsin ($259,520)
Fresno State: Jeff Grady ($107,592); Keith Williams ($107,592); Randy Stewart ($107,592)
Hawaii: N/A
Idaho: Steve Axman ($116,604); Mark Criner ($112,320)
Louisiana Tech: Tony Franklin ($175,000); Tony Spangler ($140,000)
Nevada: Andy Buh ($150,000); Ken Wilson ($116,000)
New Mexico State: Dale Lindsey ($70,000); R. Todd Littlejohn ($60,650)
San Jose State: Kent Baer ($125,004); Tim Landis ($125,004)
Utah State: Dave Baldwin ($155,000); Bill Busch ($150,000)

For the full list from USA Today, click here.

• Back to the Aggies...

One would think whoever take's over for Lindsey — his contract won't be renewed for next year — will make closer to what Martin made a season ago.

And hopefully Martin will get a slight raise of his own — at least above $100,000 — as he did a nice job last season and was a main reason for the Aggies improvement.

But herein lies the issue for NMSU with a low or limited pay scale: they're field of candidates is limited, one could even make the argument that it's limited to leftovers.

The school can get an up-and-comer at the position, with in all likelihood no experience running a defense — an entry-level defensive coordinator position, if you will.

If such a coach does a good job, they'll eventually be gone for a better — and one would think a better paying — position at another school.

If they're not good, they'll be leaving the Aggies for other reasons.

You can also get a coach in the final years of their career — something similar to Lindsey.

Or you can get Timm Rosenbach.

Or Mike Dunbar.

Or Martin — the third offensive coordinator at NMSU in the past three years who was ready to go and coach high school football before the Aggies came a calling.

Again, Martin did a very good job last year and was a main reason the team improved but lets also call it what it was when he was hired last March: he had nowhere else to go on the college level. It ended up being a very good hire for the Aggies, but they were also lucky to a degree such a coach fell in their lap.

If head coach DeWayne Walker's new coordinator can do with the defense what Martin did last year with the offense, it will be a great hire once again. And it will require some luck. Oh, and then if he is good NMSU will have to hold onto him — which likely means paying him anyway.

Again, I realize money's tight. But I also think the Aggies have to invest more in the product. It could make the difference in a handful of games on the schedule in any given year.


Here's a name to keep an eye on for the Aggies defensive line coaching position. Just speculation. Todd Howard coached with DeWayne Walker at UCLA and last year at Washington State. The Cougars just hired Mike Leach as their new head coach and he will bring in his own coaching staff. Click here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reaction to Christian Kabongo suspension

Well, the New Mexico State Aggies have suspended Christian Kabongo indefinitely following an incident at the Don Haskins Center when he made an inappropriate gesture toward the UTEP crowd after consecutive second-half 3-pointers.

First off, I think this was the right thing to do.

I also think it comes at a convenient time in the schedule — NMSU plays Western tonight, followed by games next week against Southern and McNeese State. We'll see how long the suspension lasts, the Aggies have a huge game in late December at home against New Mexico.

As written previously, Kabongo is a tough player to account for. He's tough, he's feast or famine if not unorthodox, he attempts — and also knocks down — low-percentage shots and can shoot you to a win or a loss depending on the evening. Very interesting….

I do think this is a good chance for other players to step up and this is an opportunity. All I need to point to is Aggie football — Andrew Manley got injured, Matt Christian stepped in and played exceedingly well. Now some players might have a little more rope and can take advantage of their chance.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Looking back, and ahead at local high school football

It was business as usual for the local high school football scene in 2011.

Both Mayfield and Las Cruces High were top-four teams in the state during the regular season, and the Trojans advanced to the Class 5A State Championship, falling to Cleveland 48-28.

But what awaits both programs in 2012 — with a new high school in town?

What about Oñate, and the rest of District 3-5A?

And lets not forget Class A state champion Mesilla Valley Christian.

A look back at the past year in high school football, and some questions that lie ahead:

• Will the local powerhouses remain strong? The answer should be yes, at least for the immediate future.

Of course Centennial High School opens its doors next year — their impact should eventually be felt, but one would think Mayfield and Las Cruces High will each remain in good standing next year.

Both are more than just good teams — they’re good programs that consistently reload.
Head coach Jim Miller and the Bulldawgs have a core of players coming back — minus star running back Xavier Hall, of course, but perhaps a more balanced attack in return.

At Mayfield, the Trojans will always be solid under the leadership of the Bradleys — Mayfield will lose some horses but also seems to have talent in their stable just about every year.

• Where will the Knights stand? Still a couple years away from contention.
Head coach Caleb Hull will be in his second year at the helm of Oñate and needs to build his program in just about every sense — starting with retaining players who are already with the team.

The Knights could also use some experienced assistant coaches on their staff and an improved defense — that particular unit that was dreadful last year.

Perhaps more important to the Knights than anything else, however, is a more realistic and softer schedule. OHS ran a gauntlet of games at the beginning of the year. When playing equal teams last season they were competitive and fun to watch.

The Knights do seem to have some young talent in the program as well — their freshman team was a good one in 2011.

• Will the bottom of District 3-5A improve? It would be nice if it did.

We already went over Oñate’s struggles, while Gadsden didn’t win a game in 2011.

Alamogordo was a playoff team, but that doesn’t mean they were competitive against Mayfield and Las Cruces High.

October is typically a lost month for both the Trojans and Bulldawgs, as they’re essentially taking the field in glorified bye weeks during district play.

Such lopsided affairs can’t help either team come playoff time and it can’t be easy for the fans to watch either.

An improved bottom-half of the league would be better for everyone involved.

• Is northern New Mexico closing the gap? In Rio Rancho — the suburb just north of Albuquerque — it would seem so.

Cleveland High School won the state title and its neighbor Rio Rancho High School was a state semifinals team.

There’s talent in that region and it’s a two-horse town that’s put an emphasis on producing winning football programs.

Something looks to be brewing on the northern New Mexico gridiron.

• Where will Mesilla Valley Christian go? Two questions face the SonBlazers going into the offseason.

For one, will head coach Charles Gleghorn return after guiding the team to a state championship — the fourth in his career after a successful run at Hatch Valley High School previously.

The Centennial position is open, and there is also a coaching slot available at Hobbs High School.

After that, will Mesilla Valley move up to Class 2A?

The program toyed with 1A competition this past year and looked better suited for a higher division.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Best way to describe Aggie basketball team? Frustrating

The New Mexico State Aggies are a frustrating basketball team.

At least they were on Sunday in a 73-69 loss at UTEP.

This is a team that has the pieces to be good, but they lack discipline.

Lets go through some examples from Sunday night:

• In falling behind 18-3 and 24-6 to start the game, the Aggies looked unprepared.

Did they underestimate a UTEP team they beat 89-73 at the Pan American Center last month?

“Yeah. I think that's quite possible,” head coach Marvin Menzies said. “I know the coaching staff didn't. We knew they'd be an admirable foe once they clicked.”

There really isn't an adequate excuse for how this game began on NMSU's side.

• If there was a Most Frustrating Aggie Award, it would go to guard Christian Kabongo.

Kabongo is a feast or famine player who's unorthodox — he can look great one trip down the court and then make you scratch your head the next.

But this is what it boils down too: he's an immature player and seemingly a tough one to coach.

Kabongo scored nine points on Sunday, and after two second-half 3-point shots he appeared to make an obscene gesture toward the UTEP crowd.

“He grabbed his crotch after he made the first, then the second one he did it again,” said Felipe Truax, who had a front-row seat next to the Aggie bench.

“Yes,” Truax added when asked if it was a distasteful move.

Menzies said he didn't notice the action as it unfolded.

“I'll look at the film and address it if that's the case,” the head coach said.

Kabongo played some point guard for the Aggies in the first half.

This is a puzzling position for a player who has had issues taking care of the basketball.

Perhaps his best position — at least for the time being — would be on the bench.

• Wendell McKines gets his first shot attempt with 12:10 to go in the game?

McKines took seven shots total, which was less than Kabongo (10), Bandja Sy (nine), Tyrone Watson (eight) and the same amount as Hernst Laroche.

Not for nothing, but McKines is the Aggies best player. UTEP denied him the ball, but running some offense in his direction wouldn't hurt — he's not a role player.

“In the first half I was waiting for us to make the proper adjustments. We didn't do that until the second half. I have to sacrifice my scoring for us to compete,” McKines said.

“Just making me a part of the offense a little bit. Stuff like that happens.”

• Both teams shot very poorly from the free-throw line — the Aggies were 17 of 32 from the line (53 percent) while the Miners were 14 of 27 (51 percent).

NMSU entered the contest shooting 67 percent from the foul line.

In truth, the Miners — who really aren't a very good team — helped the Aggies a lot with a long second-half scoring drought, missed free throws and turnovers.

The Aggies had a five point lead with seven minutes remaining but couldn't close the deal.

It was a frustrating game on Sunday night.

Coming from a frustrating Aggie team.

Friday, December 9, 2011

To the offseason: Aggie football faces new questions — and expectations

Another season is over for the New Mexico State Aggie football team — a 4-9 campaign that was somewhat successful.
The Aggies showed improvement and, for the most part, competed better.
For the first time in some time, there’s a base for optimism amongst fans.
Now, the program faces a big offseason.
Here are some questions for the team, with the 2011 schedule officially in the books.

1) Andrew Manley’s health: This drop-back QB with a big arm tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a Week 3 loss against UTEP. It’s a serious injury — a full tear of the ACL and a partial tear of the MCL — that can sideline a player anywhere from six to 10 months. With that time table, Manley’s availability for spring practices could be in question.
With a healthy Manley and Travaughn Colwell, the Aggies would appear OK at quarterback next year. An unhealthy Manley, however, and the position becomes a question mark.

2) Areas of need: The Aggies will have to replace their entire starting secondary — cornerbacks Jonte Green and Courtney Viney along with safeties Donyae Coleman and Ben Bradley. Coleman was a first-team All-WAC selection, while Green made the second all-conference team. The secondary was the strength of the defense and at least gave NMSU something to hang its hat on.
Head coach DeWayne Walker has talked about the need to upgrade the entire front-seven on defense, and the team just needs more lineman period — both offensive and defensive — to provide depth and give them a fighter’s chance each week in the trenches. The entire right side of the offensive line — tackle Aundre McGaskey, guard Sioeli Fakalta and center Mike Grady — will have to be replaced going into 2012.

3) Coaching changes: Well, you knew this was coming. The Aggies must find a defensive coordinator, defensive line coach and offensive line coach after three assistants left the program earlier this week. It’s doable, although the Aggies could use an experienced and versatile teacher to run their defense next season. Finding such a candidate can be hard for a school that paid former defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey $70,000 last year — well-below market value for a Division I coordinator. Walker was able to grab such a coach last offseason, however, when he hired Doug Martin to lead the offense.

4) Kicking game: We hate to pile on, but we’ve also said it 100 times — the Aggies have to be good in this area and they simply weren’t good enough last season.
Something happened to kicker Tyler Stampler, who was consistent within his range two years ago but struggled badly in 2011. In all likelihood, those struggles became an internal issue for the kicker. In any event, the Aggies need to hit makable field goals — and extra points.
As for punter Jake Capraro, he was inconsistent. One week it would look like he was getting it, the next he would hit a 9-yard flubber out of bounds. It didn’t seem like the Aggies won many field position battles.

5) Continued improvement: Again, 2011 was a somewhat successful year — and also was a year that could have been more.
While a four-win season exceeded the expectations of many, there were also four additional winnable games — vs. UTEP, at San Jose State, vs. Nevada, vs. Utah State — that the Aggies lost. Winning all four would have been a tall order, but splitting them would have given the Aggies a 6-7 record — which surely would have qualified as a stunner.
The truth is, if the Aggies make as big of a jump this offseason as they did last year, a six-win mark in 2012 is very possible in a reinvented Western Athletic Conference.
The one thing we can say is this: Where it stands today, the Aggies face yet another big — and busy — offseason.

2011 season
A game-by-game look back at the past year’s 4-9 Aggie football team:
• Week 1 vs. Ohio (L, 44-24): Aggies are beaten soundly by solid Bobcats team.
• Week 2 at Minnesota (W, 28-21): Nothing short of a shocker, and a signature win in the DeWayne Walker era.
• Week 3 vs. UTEP (W, 16-10): In a game the Aggies should have won, UTEP pulled a fake-punt out of their hat.
• Week 4 at San Jose State (L, 34-24): A game the Aggies could have won.
• Week 5 at New Mexico (W, 42-28): Twenty-one first-quarter points puts the Aggies on top for good, over a miserable UNM team.
• Week 6 vs Idaho (W, 31-24): Travaughn Colwell leads second-half offense, defense makes goal-line stand.
• Week 7 at Hawaii (L, 45-34): Aggies are competitive in what’s usually a house of horrors.
• Week 8 vs Nevada (L, 48-34): A tale of two halves — NMSU up 27-20 at intermission, outscored 28-7 from there.
• Week 9 at Georgia (L, 63-16): Bulldogs score 42 second-quarter points as Aggies fall to SEC foe.
• Week 10 vs. Fresno State (W, 45-41): First win in NMSU’s history over Fresno State, this one coming in a shootout.
• Week 11 at BYU (L, 42-7): Cougars score 14 points in final 3:30 of the first half, run away from Aggies in the cold.
• Week 12 at Louisiana Tech (L, 44-0): When it rains it pours — Aggies lose awful game in Ruston.
• Week 13 vs. Utah State (L, 24-21): Aggies play hard, fall short to bowl-bound Utah State.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Should Aggies consider a 3-4 defensive front?

The reason a 3-4 scheme would seem to work at NMSU is because it can be hard to get quality defensive linemen at the school.

The 3-4 — which features three down-linemen and four linebackers — would ask the Aggies to get big, tough pluggers along the defensive line and good athletes at outside linebacker.

NMSU has run a 4-3 the last three years — four linemen, three linebackers.

It should be pointed out that NMSU ran a 3-4 under defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer a few years back and than a 3-3-5 under Joe Lee Dunn in 2008 — and weren’t particularly successful doing either.

Head coach DeWayne Walker said he wanted his new defensive coordinator to be multiple in approach.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Walker interview on

Some interesting stuff coming from DeWayne Walker’s interview on the Aggie sports website

He talks about the defensive coordinator position, some recruiting news and expectations going into next year. Click here to read. Good stuff.....

Some highlights from the Q&A:

• Walker talks about what he wants out of his new defensive coordinator: “Whatever coordinator I hire, we just want to be more creative, kind of getting back to doing things we did my first year in terms of more pressure and just having more of a variety of schemes to make it a little bit more fun for our guys and run around and these guys can make more plays.”

• Walker talks about hoping to bring in a junior college quarterback for spring football. For the record, there was talk of this before the season ended and before reports surfaced that Cole Gautsche switching his verbal commitment to New Mexico. Part of the reason could be the health of quarterback Andrew Manley, who’s recovering from a knee injury.

• Walker says that offensive coordinator Doug Martin will contribute in the hiring of an offensive line coach. “He’ll definitely have a hand in it,” Walker said. “We’ll sit down and look at resumes.”

• Walker talks about recruiting, adding that the team has its sites set on a punter.

• Lastly, Walker talks about next year’s schedule, which will also feature an FCS school in Sacramento State and a money game at Auburn.

Again, plenty more on

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Lenzmeier, Lindsey, Williams: Gone

The New Mexico State Aggies lost three football assistant coaches on Monday — defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey, defensive line coach Jesse Williams and offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier.

In my opinion Lenzmeier will be the toughest of the three to replace.

He is a good coach with recruiting ties in New Mexico and Texas.

Wide receiver Austin Franklin is one player he recruited and reports now have Cleveland High quarterback Cole Gautche planning to go to the University of New Mexico instead of NMSU — where he originally verbally committed to.

The Aggies tried to keep Lenzmeier but him leaving seemed like a no-brainer also.

It's like CC Sabathia — the Brewers tried to keep him and made him an offer they thought was fair, but they were going against the Yankees. More guaranteed money in a place he wants to be — he is a Lobo and so is his wife, they have family there. Tough to say, but it also makes sense.

Lindsey was a good coach too — tough, straight-forward and old school, he played at Western Kentucky from 1963-64, played for the Cleveland Browns from 1965-73 and then began his coaching career in 1974 with the Browns. In other words, he's been around football forever.

Perhaps not the best fit anymore at NMSU either, however. Again, he was older and coaching college players is different than coaching the professional ranks. That and the defense wasn't very good either.

NMSU head coach DeWayne Walker wants his unit to look more multiple next year and perhaps a new voice leading the way isn't a bad thing.

Initially, letting go of Williams came as a surprise.

He did what he could with a unit that was hit hard with two academic casualties and an injury to defensive tackle Tommy Stuart at the start of training camp. All three players — Stuart, tackle Augafa Vaaulu and end Donte Savage — were projected starters and their losses were obviously a huge blow to the group. I thought the defensive line played up to its potential this year — albeit that ceiling wasn't very high.

In the end, I think Lindsey and Williams can be replaced.

Lenzmeier can be too, although that will be tougher. Him going anywhere would hurt, him going back to UNM hurts even more.

We'll see how things transpire from here.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Lindsey, Williams gone

Release from NMSU today...

Walker Announces Staff Changes for the 2012 Season

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- New Mexico State head football coach DeWayne Walker announced Monday morning that defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey and defensive line coach Jesse Williams will not return for the 2012 season.

"I am appreciative of Coach Lindsey’s and Coach Williams’ efforts and their service to New Mexico State University and the Las Cruces community," Walker said. "We will move quickly and efficiently in order to bring the best coaches possible to our football program. I continue to have great expectations for this program and I will bring in coaches that can help us reach those goals."

A national search for a defensive coordinator and defensive line coach will begin immediately.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Aggies fall to Utah State in season finale

The New Mexico State Aggie football season is over as the team fell to Utah State 24-21 on Saturday.

The loss dropped NMSU to 4-9 on the season — Utah State is 7-5 overall and will play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho later this month.

This was a tough loss for the Aggies and they really could have won the game.

NMSU was leading 21-17 but couldn't put things away.

The team didn't do anything with the ball at the six minute mark of the fourth quarter and punted back to Utah State, which went 83 yards on 13 plays for the winning TD with 35 seconds left.

NMSU got the ball back but immediately threw an interception — quarterback Matt Christian looked deep on the first play of the possession and was picked off.

The Utah State offense was very unimaginative — the team ran the ball 73 times for 392 yards.

Quarterback Adam Kennedy completed 12 of 16 pass attempts for 123 yards and three TDs — his first was a 21-yarder to running back Robert Turtbin on blown coverage by NMSU and the final one was the game winner from 8 yards out to Matt Austin. Freshman QB Chuckie Keeton is healthy but the team continues to ride Kennedy, who's won five-straight games as the starter.

Still, this game featured Utah State running the ball — really, I thought NMSU held up OK in run defense. Utah State didn't break off any huge runs during the game, they just chipped away on the Aggies.

There's a lot of talk about Turbin — an NFL-caliber player — but his running mate Michael Smith is a really fine player as well as is backup Kerwynn Williams. Smith led the way on the ground with 121 yards, while Turbin added 98 and Kennedy had 95.

The final drive saw Utah State facing a fourth and 1 from the Aggies 12-yard line. Kennedy went right and slipped — a handful of players slipped in that area of the field during the game — and his knee came down close to the first-down spot. The official spot got him the first — it was a very close call that could have gone either way. If it went the Aggies way, they would have had win No. 5.

Robert Clay actually got in the game — he hasn't had an offensive play in what felt like forever — and ran well in the first half. I thought the Aggies could have gone to him on the goal line just before halftime — instead they ran a quarterback sneak on second down and then — with 16 seconds left and no timeouts remaining — they elected to pass the ball. A Utah State linebacker came through, Christian was pressured and his pass to the left for Bateman was intercepted. BIG play in the game.

Running back Kenny Turner also had a fumble in the first half at the Utah State 35 — both of those turnovers took away promising NMSU drives as the Aggies went into the locker room down 14-7.

Utah State also missed some chances — twice in the first half USU moved the ball inside the 10-yard line only to come away without any points. NMSU's goal line and short-yardage defense was good on Saturday.

Bateman did have a 50-yard touchdown, beating safety Chris Harris on a post-route. Harris slipped — on that part of the field again — and Bateman was able to catch the ball and get in.

The play was set up by a forced fumble — Kennedy was hit by NMSU safety Ben Bradley — that was recovered by David Niumatalolo.

Senior cornerback Jonte Green had his second interception in two weeks. They're also the first two interceptions of his Aggie career.

Some of the tackle numbers in this game were outrageous.

Donyae Coleman led the way with 23. Niumatalolo had 17, Ben Bradley had 14 and Boyblue Aoelua finished with 12.

I thought the Aggies tackled pretty well on the day and a handful of times a single tackle saved a big run for Utah State.

The announced attendance was 13,631 is payed attendance, not people actually at the game.

That's good, because it's a joke. That number couldn't have been farther from the truth — there were easily 10,000 less people than that at the game. We all know NMSU has to make attendance requirements, and it would at least seem they did that.

For those that are interested, that number, according to NMSU's sports information staff, puts the Aggies over the 15,000 average attendance mark for the year. On Thursday the school put out a release saying the Aggies needed more fans to come out to the game or they would fall short of 15,000 — and be without bowl eligibility for next season. In turn, their standing in the FBS could have been in jeaporady as well. Don't really know what to make of this — or why they would send out such a release to begin with, two days before the game no less.

That release sure didn't get more people to come out. Maybe it helped them sell another ticket or two. Maybe.

When it's all said and done, it appears NMSU had a contingency plan in place to get above that threshold anyway.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Predicting Mayfield vs. Cleveland game

One thing about today’s Class 5A State Football Championship game — it’s a tough one to predict.

In comes Cleveland High, the prohibitive favorites over the Mayfield Trojans — on paper at least.

They’re undefeated at 13-0, and come in with a high-octane passing attack led by quarterback Cole Gautsche, wide receiver Reece White and running back Rommel Jordan.
They match up well with Mayfield, who’s had trouble this season defending the pass — really, Mayfield’s defense just hasn’t been very good.

But I will also say this — picking against the Trojans in this game is a scary proposition.

First off, they’re hitting on all cylinders and have been as hot as a pistol offensively for the past month.

This is a team with tradition and a great coaching staff. They get the Storm at home, and they flourish as the underdog.

There have been plenty of Mayfield miracles in the past — a 1971 state championship victory, 24-20, over West Mesa; in 1995, a 13-12 state title win at Clovis; a 13-7 victory over Roswell-Goddard in the 1998 championship game; and last year’s 21-17 win over La Cueva in the state semifinals.

Speaking of last year, the Trojans won the state championship in 2010 as a four-loss team. Were they the most talented program in the state? Not likely. But they won the games that mattered.

And that’s what it boils down to — the Trojans are winners and champions and will come into this one with a sound gameplan.

Cleveland has been pushed only in a small-handful of games this season, and haven’t played in a state title contest before.

They’re leaving at 5:30 this morning, coming down to Las Cruces, and are playing a Bradley-led team at the Field of Dreams. Call me crazy, but when Jim Bradley is on a Trojans coaching staff, I have a hard time going against them.

The weather could be poor — cold, windy and wet could all be part of the forecast — which is the perfect storm for the Trojans.

Yes Cleveland is the favorite — on paper.

But in my mind the Trojans have the edge in intangibles.

A tough one to predict, and points will be scored.

But my call on the game? Another Mayfield miracle.

My prediction:
Mayfield 35, Cleveland 34

Five keys for Aggies vs. Utah State

• Christian’s status: Aggie senior quarterback Matt Christian — who’s been in and out of the lineup with injuries — is expected to start today against Utah State. Christian’s been a catalyst for the Aggie offense and the entire unit needs to play well today — from the QB, to the wide receivers, to the offensive line, to running back Kenny Turner. If the Aggies can score first in this one, it will mean a lot in hopes of a win.

• Gut check:
The Aggies have been blown out three times in the last month and the team will need to fight for four quarters in today’s game. In other words, today’s contest will require a gutty effort from the 4-8 Aggies. Also, what’s Utah State’s mindset coming in. With a 6-5 record the team is already bowl eligible, and could be in for a down performance. No matter what happens, fans will want to see the Aggies compete and fight in their season finale.

• Weather: Game-time temperatures will be in the mid-to-high 40s and there is a 10 percent chance of precipitation. It will likely be a cold and windy one at Aggie Memorial which would figure to favor the northern Aggies. After all, they’re used to such conditions up in Logan, Utah.

• Utah State ground game: Utah State is going to come right at you with their running attack. Running back Robert Turbin is big — 5-foot-10, 216 pounds — and looks like a certifiable NFL player. Fellow backfield mates Michael Smith and Kerwynn Williams are also capable, making this Utah State team a tough one to stop on the ground.

• The series: Utah State has owned the all-time series with NMSU — holding a 27-7 lifetime record between the two teams. Of course, NMSU won the 1960 Sun Bowl between the two clubs and Utah State holds just a 6-4 advantage in the last 10 games. From 1968-1998 USU held a 19-game winning streak against NMSU.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sources: Walker, NMSU negotiating contract extension

New Mexico State University and head football coach DeWayne Walker are working on finalizing a three to four year contract extension, sources from inside the NMSU athletics department have told the Sun-News.

The extension will likely be finalized within the next week, one source said.

Walker, who is currently in the third year of his original five-year contract, makes an annual salary of $363,000.

That salary is not expected to change with the extension.

Some things to consider regarding the extension:

The Aggies have shown improvement: Out of Walker’s 9-28 record, four of those wins have come this season and the team has been more competitive in 2011.

Some will consider the move premature: Walker is in the middle of his original deal — there are still two years remaining in that pact — and next year will be another critical one as the team looks to continue its progression and push for the .500 mark.

He’s coaching at New Mexico State: A place that’s seldom had a winner, this year at least has provided some optimism amongst fans.

A sense of stability: In the ever-changing landscape of college football — there are a handful of high-profile coaching jobs that will be available this offseason — a long-term commitment to a coach can help him and his staff solidify recruiting efforts.

The Aggies will play their season finale this weekend when they host Utah State at 1:30 p.m.