Sunday, August 5, 2012

Previewing Aggie football fall camp

(Photo of Robert Clay courtesy of NMSU athletics)

Fall football practices are set to get under way this week at New Mexico State University, with the first session set to kick off on today at 3 p.m.

What will be the keys to watch during fall camp and going into the 2012 season? We take a look:

Four-month season?
The Aggies have been talking bowl game leading up to this year, and if that's the case, they have to be thinking of a four-month football season right out the gate. In other words, the team has to be preparing for postseason play starting in the here and now. It comes down to depth, development, and expectations — literally, from the top on down.

Can this group be as efficient and productive as a season ago? For starters, the team replaces offensive coordinator Doug Martin with newcomer Jerry McManus and, while Martin did a very good job last year reinventing the offense a number of times, McManus won't be truly tested until the bullets start flying this fall. Expect the team to try and run the ball more with added bodies in the backfield, but can they attack the defense effectively in a downhill rushing game? Will they be able to protect quarterback Andrew Manley better, and will the redshirt sophomore become an improved decision maker with a faster release of the football? How will the offensive line — always a position of critical importance — hold up while replacing three starters up front? And can the club make up for the loss of their to top two gamebreakers from a season ago, that being wide receiver Taveon Rogers and running back Kenny Turner? If the Aggies produce offensively at the same level they did a season ago, a bowl game would seem very possible.

How will the overall defense look, particularly with a new coordinator in David Elson calling the shots and head coach DeWayne Walker having a more active role on that side of the ball? The changes start in the defensive secondary, a unit that will have to replace its starting four from a season ago — cornerbacks Jonte Green and Courtney Viney, along with safeties Donyae Coleman and Ben Bradley, who all played well in 2012. Make no mistake, that was the strength of this defense a season ago, although during the Walker era the unit has notoriously been a well-coached group. Such replacements in the defensive backfield will be holdovers — Darien Johnson, Jeremy Harris and Justin Smith will be asked to step in. With that being said, there are some pieces along the front seven to build off. Donte Savage looked good during spring practices after sitting out last year as an academically ineligible player, and could be in for a breakout campaign. Walton Taumoepeau is quick and athletic at defensive tackle (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) while Alexander LaVoy was moved from middle linebacker to defensive end during spring ball. The team hopes to get Michigan State transfer and Mayfield High School alum Matt Ramondo on the field this year — NMSU is still waiting word if the NCAA will grant the redshirt freshman a hardship waiver, which would allow him to take the field immediately. Mark Brown, who was a walk-on last year and was then awarded an offseason scholarship, showed flashes at nose guard during spring practices.

A willingness to gamble
Simply put, this is NMSU's best — and perhaps last — chance to not finish either last or second to last in the conference standings. Two new teams enter the WAC in Texas State and Texas-San Antonio, and past powers Nevada, Fresno State, and Hawaii, have all moved to the Mountain West Conference. In this respect, the WAC is new to everybody, and NMSU has to go out and grab it, perhaps by ambushing the opposition. Last year the team did roll the dice more offensively, and Elson was brought in, in part, to think more outside the box from a defensive standpoint. NMSU has to take such an approach if it wants to pull off upsets on the football field, particularly in key games on their schedule.

2012 NMSU fall football camp schedule
Aug. 6: 3-5 p.m.
Aug. 7: 3-5 p.m.
Aug. 8: 3-5 p.m.
Aug. 9: 3-5 p.m.
Aug. 10: 3-5 p.m. (first day of full pads)
Aug. 11: 9:15-11:30 a.m.; 4-6 p.m.
Aug. 12: 3-5 p.m.
Aug. 13: 9:15-11:30 a.m.; 4-6 p.m.
Aug. 14: 3-5 p.m.
Aug. 15: 9:15-11:30 a.m.; 4-6 p.m.
Aug. 16: 3-5 p.m.
Aug. 17: 9:15-11:30 a.m.; 4-6 p.m.
Aug. 18: 3-5 p.m.
Aug. 19: 3-5 p.m.
Aug. 20: 3-5 p.m.
Aug. 21: 9:15-11:30 a.m.; 4-6 p.m.
Aug. 22: 3-5 p.m.
Aug. 24: 3:50-5:45 p.m.
Aug. 26: 3:50-5:45 p.m.
Aug. 27: 3:50-5:45 p.m.
Aug. 28: 3:50-5:45 p.m.
Aug. 29: 3:50-5:45 p.m.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg


Anonymous said...

With Independence looming and the days of D1 football in Las Cruces being numbered.
This has to be the year NMSU ends it's bowl drought!!


Anonymous said...

The days of D1 football @ NMSU are counted after this year.

Let's go Aggies!! This is your last chance to make it to a bowl game!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Teddy I hear Clay is at 205 and looking great and stayed in Las Cruces this summer instead of going back to Texas, to work out and learn the play book. How do you think he will do this year!!