After observing the New Mexico State University football team through a week of August practices, an important factor stands out above all else.
The development, and play, of the Aggie offensive line will play a critical role in the team's season (of course, when does it not?).
But when considering the belief here is the Aggie defense will be improved in 2012; And that, in turn, NMSU must perform at a similar level offensively from a season ago to achieve its goals; then it comes back to controlling the line of scrimmage.
Yes, I think the Aggie quarterback position is OK again — Andrew Manley looks to be the No. 1 guy, although I also like what I see from junior college transfer Andrew McDonald, and sophomore Travaughn Colwell continues to improve. Heck, even walk-on QB Nick Carey looks good to me during August.
The team has four running backs — Robert Clay, Tiger Powell, Akeelie Mustafa, and Germi Morrison — competing for time during fall camp.
I believe NMSU is OK at wide receiver if their starting two — Austin Franklin and Kemonte Bateman — stay healthy and on the field throughout the season.
And these pieces will fit if the line can provide time for the QB, and open holes in the running game.
The team is set at left tackle with Davonte Wallace (a third-year starter as a junior, and a perennial All-WAC player in 2012).
At guard, there's Andrew Kersten (a returning starter from a season ago), and Andy Cunningham (red-shirt freshman with potential to get the job done).
Center Valerian Ume-Ezeoke started last year as a freshman, and can hold his own at his position.
And at right tackle, Dada Richards is getting snaps, along with Faison McKinnis (this position has to come around, and could be the unit's biggest question area at this point).
No injuries can be suffered along the offensive front, and I do believe the unit has its work cut out for it going into the 2012 campaign. It's play could very well be the biggest key for the offense, and this year's Aggie football team.
Speaking of injuries, the Aggies really can't afford to lose anyone (like any other year, for that matter).
Again, the quarterback position looks good to me again for the second-straight year.
If Manley missed any time, I believe McDonald could fill in fine.
Colwell continues to make strides and Carey's got good size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds).
A player who looked good during Saturday's practice session was second-year wide receiver Jerrel Brown.
Brown was a walk-on player last year and showed flashes, taking the field against San Jose State and scoring a touchdown against UNM.
This offseason Brown — listed at 6-foot, 180 pounds — was was awarded a scholarship, and from the looks of things on Saturday, could develop into a No. 3 wideout behind Franklin and Bateman.
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Aggies have a camp competition at running back
NMSU's front-seven looks to be strength of defense
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