Sunday, April 1, 2012

Observations: Week 1 of Aggie spring practice

(Photo of head coach DeWayne Walker, right, and cornerback Darien Johnson by Shari V. Hill)

One thing that stood out on Saturday was that the Aggies are going to rely more on two tight-end sets in 2012.

Junior college tight end Perris Scoggins is big (6-foot-3, 250 pounds), but can he catch? If so, he could be a factor.

Trevor Walls is always overlooked, but the senior quarterback-turned-tight end is big target (6-foot-5, 245 pounds) with a nice pair of hands.

The Aggies still have David Quiroga on the roster and recruited another tight end this offseason in Zach Jones.

One player who is not with the team is Jackson Kaka, a freshman last year who is now on a Mormon mission.

Still, the Aggies addressed this area in the offseason and are doing so in spring practices as well. Think of the New England Patriots, who were ahead of the curve a handful of years ago — leave it to Bill Belichick — when they drafted Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. What it shows now is that having two good tight ends on the field can cause matchup problems for opposing defenses.

“When you have two tight ends that can run, that can block, that can catch, that puts you, as an offensive coordinator, in an opportunity to expand your packages,” said NMSU offensive coordinator Jerry McManus.

Staying on offense, one lineman to keep an eye on is redshirt freshman Andy Cunningham.

Cunningham was out last year with an ACL injury, although from what I gather, he's a player with a mean streak, hailing from Frisco, Texas.

NMSU has him playing right tackle this spring — along with Faison McKines — and, at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, he also has the size to play guard as well.

Wrote a story the other day on the offensive and defensive lines — longtime achilles heals for the Aggies and a MAJOR key going into the new year.

Also added in the story that defensive lineman Augafa Vaaulu, who showed potential his freshman campaign, is not back with the team after battling academics the past two years. That's a shame, because Vaaulu could have been a good player here.

Defensively, the Aggies have a new look.

David Elson looks to be an intense fellow — not that his predecessor Dale Lindsey wasn't.

One interesting development is the role of head coach DeWayne Walker, who is more hands on with the defensive backs this year. In general, it looks like Walker has more input on that side of the ball.

“I told myself that I was going to be involved more this year,” Walker said. “I think coach Elson's done a great job, we see everything the same. We're going back, doing some of the things that we did when I ran the defense my first year. Implementing some of his thoughts and some of his 3-4. I feel good about our new coaches — coach (Romeo) Bandison's done a great job with the D-line, coach (Will) Martin's done a great job with the linebackers. I think we have a nice mix.”

Playing a 3-4 defense at NMSU makes some sense, considering that Aggie defensive lines have been thin in the past, although Walker said that's not the case here.

“It's more scheme,” he said. “I think we're going to have probably more D-lineman than we've had since I've been here, so I think we'll be OK, numbers-wise, to play some 4-3. But I think schematically, having the offense think a little bit, will help us.”

After watching two spring practices — yes, a whole two spring practices — one question that immediately comes to mind is, how are the Aggies going to replace running back Kenny Turner and wide receiver Taveon Rogers?

Both were the offense's true gamebreakers last year and accounted for much of the team's offensive production in 2011.

“I think we're going to have more running backs,” Walker said. “I think at the end of the day, with (Akeelie) Mustafa — he's a little dinged up right now — but you have Mustafa, you have (Robert) Clay, Germi Morrison…The other big running back coming in, Tiger. We feel we have four quality backs. We may not have the super deep threat, but I still think (Kemonte) Bateman and (Austin) Franklin can make plays for us. So I think offensively, we're going to probably have more of a system than rely on big plays….We'll probably run the ball a little more. And then obviously playing better defense, I think you're going to have more of a solid team.”

Online today, a look at the team's quarterback position.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

O and D lines are definitely areas where we need help. With some depth at those spots, especially on the O line, we should win some more games this year.