Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Aggie football recruiting: team needs with National Signing Day officially here

With National Signing Day tomorrow, we’ll take a look at what the Aggie football needs from the 2012 recruiting class.

• Linemen, linemen, linemen: The Aggies could use help on both the offensive and defensive lines going into 2012 — heck, any year for that matter.

On the offensive side of the ball, it’s clearly the team’s biggest requirement going into the new year. You know, teams can pick up skill-position players — running backs and wide receivers. Quality offensive lineman are a commodity, however.

Last year the Aggie offensive line didn’t start well but improved as the season went along, anchored by three seniors — Mike Grady (center), Sioeli Fakalta (right guard) and Aundre McGaskey (right tackle). They will obviously need to be replaced.

Outside of that, I don’t have much of an issue with the Aggie offense truthfully.

No, I am not worried about the running back position. I do like Robert Clay, who returns for his senior year. I do like Brandon Betancourt, who will be a sophomore, and Victor Johnson is also back for his senior campaign. I do expect the Aggies to bring in a player or two at this position, as well. The point is that I think a player can be developed here.

The quarterback position will be one to watch, why with Andrew Manley and Travaughn Colwell both back in 2012. The team is also bringing in junior college QB Andrew McDonald.

The Aggies have some tight ends on the roster and will need to replace Taveon Rogers at wide — a true gamebreaker.

None of the above information will matter without good offensive line play, however. Without that, it's tough to do anything as an overall unit.

• In terms of the defensive line, lets not forget the Aggies will get two players back this season. Donte Savage and Augafa Vaaulu will both return — assuming they are in good standing academically. Savage will be a senior and was the team’s best pass rusher before not playing in 2011 while the sophomore Vaaulu showed things in his inaugural campaign — he was big and a good athlete. Their additions should help.

But you can never have enough lineman who can play — senior David Niumatalolo was a pleasant surprise last year, and is now gone.

A good defensive line does two things — pressuring the quarterback in turn makes the secondary better and equates to a good pass defense. And penetration of the offensive line frees up linebackers to now make plays — it can make a fair linebacking corps better.

• Defensive backs: NMSU will have to replace it’s entire starting secondary from last year — cornerbacks Jonte Green and Courtney Viney, along with safeties Donyae Coleman and Ben Bradley.

Veterans Darien Johnson and Jeremy Harris return at the cornerback position, but are they starters? Last year Harris got beaten badly during the schedule’s second half.

In general, the Aggie defense will look different in 2012 — new personnel, a new coordinator in David Elson, and the hope for multiple looks in formations.

• Kicking game: The Aggies are locked into scholarships with placekicker Tyler Stampler and punter Jake Capraro.

Stampler showed he could get the job done two years ago — he led the WAC in field goal percentage — and had a bad year in 2011. He either has to regain his old form or the team could turn to redshirt freshman Brock Baca to see what he can do. Either way, improvement has to come from this position for an Aggie team that needs to win close games.

Capraro was up and down last season — there were times he was adequate. Then there were times like his first punt of the season that traveled about nine yards.

After the season head coach DeWayne Walker spoke about a new punter being on NMSU’s recruiting radar. We shall see tomorrow.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

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