Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What happend to Aggie football, and what can be done to fix it

(The following piece appeared in Sunday's Las Cruces Sun-News. For our online edition, as well as another weekend story on head coach DeWayne Walker's future at the program, click here.)

There are a number of descriptions for this year’s New Mexico State football season: An unmitigated disaster; one of severe disappointment; one of severe depression. All would suffice.

Talk going into the year was of possible postseason play and a bowl berth. What followed was a 1-11 campaign that saw the Aggies win their first game and remain uncompetitive in every other.

How did it happen, and why? A look back at the Aggies 2012 football season:

How it unfolded

What was overlooked by those who declared NMSU’s 2012 year as one of promise: The loss of key players on both sides of the ball — quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive secondary to name a few key position groupings.

Also, the departure of four assistant coaches, none more glaring than offensive coordinator Doug Martin, a good addition to the Aggies staff last year who got an immediate promotion to Boston College during the offseason (ironically, BC’s head coach Frank Spaziani was relieved of his duties last week, making Martin a possible free agent once again).

In came Jerry McManus, and the Aggie offense never truly got off the ground. Aside from Austin Franklin (who had an impressive year at wide receiver), weapons in the passing game — talented targets such as Kemonte Bateman and Trevor Walls — didn’t hit full potential in terms of production. A run-based offense was, for the most part, grounded (even if mid-year starter Germi Morrison ran tough to provide a bright spot).

The quarterback unit was a microcosm of the year. Starter Andrew Manley never showed real progress — the ability to check down or throw in the short to intermediate passing zones — while sophomore backup Travaughn Colwell played some yet seldom threw (13 pass attempts compared to 31 rushes). Junior college transfer Andrew McDonald came to town only to never see the field (excluding three passes late in a blowout loss at Ohio). Odd, considering he came in as a possible competitor, only to never get a shot at a position of struggle.

Defensively, no need to pretend things were much better. There were lowlights — giving up 20 first-quarter points to UTEP, a defunct gameplan against New Mexico’s option attack — and some positive moments — 28 total points surrendered against high-powered Louisiana Tech and an improved secondary over the season’s duration.

But the final results speak for themselves: 39 points per game surrendered along with 476 yards. Just 11 sacks and nine turnovers forced during the year.

What needs to be done

The first question that must be addressed: Is head coach DeWayne Walker returning to NMSU for his fifth year at the school? The reality is that Walker’s experience here has been a difficult one, while his 10-40 career record is an eyesore and also tough to judge on its own merits.

There have been things surrounding Walker’s tenure that have been positive: The belief that he runs a good program while having good people — players and coaches — a part of it; the team, outside of a week or two during this past season, played hard; attitude and preparation still seemed to be a part of its weekly routine.

What wasn't in place was a passable offense, which has been the case three of the past four years. When there was one, the Aggies finished 4-9 in 2011, could have easily gone 6-7 and there were rays of hope in improvement (which is really all most Aggie fans want at this point anyway). When one hasn't been present, the outfit has struggled simply being competitive.

The point is this: If Walker comes back next year, he needs a good offensive coordinator, because that side of the ball simply isn't his forte. In this era of college football, teams aren’t winning many games 7-6, 14-10 and 17-13. The Aggies aren't, anyway (instead, they're losing by scores closer to 50-14).

Walker talked this year about — really, throughout the past three years he’s addressed — the need for more resources within the program. This has been honest commentary from a frustrated coach. At the end of the day, there also seems to be validity to these statements (Aggie competitors Utah State and San Jose State didn't get better simply because of a resurgence in coaching. These schools have invested money into their programs in recent years, and big-time results have followed).

Walker’s pointed to two areas in which he wants to see an uptick: His team's strength and conditioning program and in recruiting. No doubt important areas of emphasis, but may we add a third?

Get funds for assistant coaches, and hire an offensive coordinator for $150,000 to $200,000 (more the going rate, and well above what the Aggies are paying now). This will mark the fifth coordinator the school's had in five years (a mind-blowing number, which goes directly back to its on-field struggles) but could also attract a proven coach who might stick around for longer than eight months.

Get the unit up to at least an adequate level. We're not suggesting the Aggie defense was remotely close to such a clip in 2012, but maybe with an offense that could move the chains and have some variation in its game, NMSU’s defense could perform at a slightly higher level as well. In turn, you'd have a more adequate team, something the 2012 Aggies were not.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg


Anonymous said...

I agree with everything but, WE NEED A CONFERENCE in order to lure those coaches/ players!!

You can't bring in quality people if you don't have anything past 2014!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2:28 -- I agree, but the problem is that NMSU needs something to "lure" a conference into inviting them. What arguments could NMSU make to convince a conference to include them?

I think NMSU could lure coaches/players with other incentives -- such as increased funding for the program (including coordinator salaries, travel budgets, facilities, etc). NMSU does not have as much control on their acceptance into a conference. I believe being part of a conference can and will come later if NMSU's program is heading in the right direction. Right now, NMSU needs to make the necessary investments to build a quality program.

Anonymous said...

Well unless you can increase revenue from TV viewership a new conference might not ant NMS.

Sad to say but it seems like that is what it is all about today. I'm not sure having a winning football team will help.

Anonymous said...

We can't do anything about the Las Cruces TV market....everyone knows this!!

However, Anon. 4:32 makes some very good selling points about investing in the program/ facilities.
If we make a commitment and do a 180 turn. We can get a conference to take us and get those assistants to stick around, thus, bring in some good recruits!

The problem is NMSU administration. They just can't think outside the box!!


Anonymous said...

Fire Walker. The program is not heading in the right direction.

If you compare Hal Mumme's four years (2005-2008) with Walker's four years (2009-2012), you'll find it very telling. All 8 years in this comparison are with NMSU in the WAC. Everyone thinks since Walker is a "defense" man that he has improved that side of the ball---Wrong! Under Mumme, the Aggie defensive gave up 34.95 pts per game. Under Walker the defense has given up 35.60 (it's even worse if you remove the first year for both coaches -- 33.69(M) to 37.98(W)).

Along with the defense getting worse--so is the offense. Mumme averaged 23.46 pts per game; Walker averages 18.70.

Mumme's win ratio 22%. Walker's 20%.

Basically, I'm not saying Mumme is or was a great NMSU coach. I'm only saying that the Aggies are worse off under Walker and we need a coaching change.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 5:08
Mumme did not have the Assistant turnover ratio, that is currently bitting Walker in the arse!
He's about to hire his 5th OC in 5yrs!

$35k a year for an assistant?! This is strictly NMSU fault, not Walker.
It's the system because, not all of NMSU's coaches are bad!

K Aggie '98 said...

From strictly a number standpoint, you are right about Mumme v. Walker. However, there are fewer off-the-field issues with Walker. I don't know for sure, but I think there is more academic success with Walker as well.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 5:08 here...

I think Walker shares some blame for the Aggies offensive woes. He determined the type of offense he wanted to run, and has hired coordinators that align with that vision. Recall, going from the "Air Raid" ... Walker wanted to be a running team. However; even given that, I'll concede that the majority of the offensive problems can be blamed on the athletic budget shortfall and the carousel of coordinators...but the Defense should have improved. It has not -- and that is Walker's supposed specialty.

K Aggie "98-- I'm not sure what your are referring to with off the field issues during the Mumme regime? Could you be specific? The only thing I believe you could be referring to is the "discrimination lawsuit" brought by the 4 Muslim players. NMSU and Mumme both maintained innocence and were not charged, disciplined, or sanctioned by any governing body. I'll allow Mumme innocence unless proven otherwise.

Wins.That is the ultimate goal. It's why people go to the game--in hopes that our Aggies will win. Everything else...is line noise. Sure we can find little things to cheer about but without wins it doesn't really matter. I'm just not sold that Walker puts in the best position to win...and I think the stats support that assertion.

Anonymous said...

Just think if the spaceport $$$ was put to Aggie football. Looks like it would have been money better spent!

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that half of Mumme's wins came against DII schools.

Walker has had a much tougher schedule and has a signature vs. a Big 10 school.
Mumme's biggest win was a close loss to Boise in his second year.

Walker is visibly active in the community and he and his staff never quit on the season.

Mumme wanted no part of the community and he and his staff mailed it in at the end of his 4th yr.

As much as you want to tie both coaches, it's night & day the way they run the program.

K Aggie '98 said...

Anon 3:43,


Seems like this is the type of money that should be offered to an OC.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:56 -- There is absolutely nothing that substantiates your claim that "Mumme wanted no part of the community and he and his staff mailed it in at the end of his 4th yr". What could possibly make you think that?

If anything, I would say that Walker has given up on the program due to his public complaints this year about the program and the drop in the team's performance.