Friday, August 31, 2012

What the Aggies did well, what they need to work on

(Head coach DeWayne Walker walks the sidelines as his Aggie football team huddles downfield/Photo by Robin Zielinski)

A look back at New Mexico State’s 49-19 win over Sacramento State. What we think the team did well, and what they can work on going forward.

What they did well: The final score
Just the 49-19 outcome was good for the Aggies. Any time New Mexico State can beat another team by 30 points it’s a big win. It also gives the pundits less fodder. A sector of the community has wondered if the Aggies would be better served in the Football Championship Subdivision level (formally Division I-AA). By beating the Hornets big, an FCS program itself, it proves a point for NMSU. And would you rather have the shoe on the other foot? The University of Idaho (in a similar position to the Aggies, as a WAC football program without a legitimate home in 2013) lost to Eastern Washington, another program in the FCS, 20-3 on Thursday during the Vandals 2012 home opener. Eastern Washington could very well be a better team than Sacramento State but, regardless, it’s much preferred to win such a contest than the alternative if you’re an Aggie fan.

What they can work on: the running game
It was a big question going into the 2012 season opener: could the Aggies run the ball assertively in a downhill rushing attack? They did nothing to quell those concerns in Week 1, carrying the ball 40 times for just 101 yards (a 2.5-yards-per-carry average). Simply put, these numbers need to improve dramatically if New Mexico State wants to win its fair share of football games this year. If the Aggies can’t get the ground game going against Sacramento State, what can we expect next week when they travel to face a very solid Ohio team? Because of their Thursday season opener, the Aggies will have some extra preparation time leading up to next Saturday’s game, and major improvements will have to be made in this area.

What they did well: the kicking game
This is one part of the Aggies that looked to be upgraded following Week 1 of the season. Snow College transfer Cayle Chapman-Brown displayed good height on his punts, booting the ball six times to go with a 50-yard average. Tyler Stampler made all seven of his extra-point attempts and Brock Baca was effective on kickoffs, putting balls in the end zone consistently (kickoffs have been moved from the 30- to 35-yard line this year in college football). Nice to see the Aggies perform better in the kicking game.

What they can work on: the secondary’s play
This was a key going into the game, as NMSU is breaking in four new starters in their defensive backfield. The unit had its ups and downs on Thursday as Sacramento State hit its stride offensively — it seemed the Hornets found an area of NMSU’s defense to attack for positive yards, and tight end TJ Knowles gave the Aggies trouble in the second half with five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. In general, Sacramento State gained 400 total yards of offense, a high number for this particular contest. Similar to the ground attack, the Aggies must make big improvements in this area before facing Ohio junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton.

The Aggie passing attack looked superb, with Andrew Manley throwing for 367 yards and three touchdowns and Austin Franklin going off (eight catches for 236 yards and two TDs). This was a clear mismatch on the field — NMSU’s wide receivers against the Hornets defensive backs — and the Aggies attacked. ...The Aggies pass blocked well in the first half, although Sacramento State got after Manley a bit in the third quarter. The sophomore QB was sacked four times on the evening. ... Sacramento State outplayed the Aggies in the third quarter, outscoring NMSU 9-0 and holding a 162-48 in yards gained. ... The Aggie linebacking corps is a strength. Trashaun Nixon was a find for NMSU out of Ventura College, racking up 10 tackles in the first half and 14 total for the game. Strongside linebacker Bryan Bonilla laid some bone-crunching hits on the evening, while middle man B.J. Adolpho brings experience to the unit.

In case you missed it: More contest from Thursday's game
Game story from Thursday's win: Click here
Thursday's game photos: Click here
Coach DeWayne Walker post-game press conference: Click here
Aggie players react to season-opening win: Click here
From the blog, my video analysis: Click here

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Video analysis: Breaking down the Aggies Week 1 win

Breaking down the Aggies Week 1 49-19 over Sacramento State.

Predicting the Aggies vs. Sacramento State football game

We predict the New Mexico State vs. Sacramento State season-opening football game. Kick off is set for tonight, 6 p.m., at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

I really believe this is a hard game to get a grip on because both teams are relative mysteries. We’ve been over it before — Sac State has a new offensive coordinator, and new offensive backfield (starting quarterback, running back). They finished last year with a 4-7 record, yet upset PAC-12 program Oregon State on the road.

As for the Aggies, I believe their defense will be improved with a new coordinator in David Elson. I think the front-seven can be a team strength, while they’re breaking in a new starting secondary. Offensively also sees a new coordinator Jerry McManus, while the team lost some playmakers from a season ago — wide receiver Taveon Rogers, running back Kenny Turner and quarterback Matt Christian. The team also replaces the entire right side of its offensive line in 2012.

What do I want to see? For starters, I want to see the defense step up and I do expect a good performance on that side of the ball tonight. I will look hard at the secondary — four new starters back there, on a unit that’s been a strength during the four-year tenure of head coach DeWayne Walker. How do they cover the deep ball, and how do they tackle? Again, I think the defense can hold their own against the Hornets this evening.

Offensively, I want to see consistency. Somewhere between 350 and 400 total yards would mark an efficient performance for Week 1 of the season. My eyes will be on the offensive line. Can they block in a down-hill rushing attack — NMSU has said they want to emphasize that more in 2012 — and protect quarterback Andrew Manley. And, of course, I want to see how Manley performs coming off a torn ACL injury suffered early last season. How does he move flushed out of the pocket, and react after taking a hit? I would like to see him play well in this one.

As for the team, a solid performance will be optimal. Do they have to dominate? It depends on your definition of the word, and, again, it’s tough because Sacramento State is somewhat of an unknown quantity. But I think a solid win would do the trick. I do think think they’ll win. Their largest margin of victory during the Walker era is 14 points, coming last year against New Mexico. NMSU surpasses that margin tonight.

My prediction: New Mexico State 28, Sacramento State 10

In case you missed it
Some stories and commentary previewing tonight’s game:
Aggie junior college transfers that look to make an impact: click here
Commentary on the 2012 season FINALLY being here: click here
Aggie video interviews leading up to Week 1: click here
On the blog, my keys to tonight's contest: click here

The rundown for tonight’s contest
Who: Sacramento State at New Mexico State
What: College football season opener, Week 1
Where: Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces
When: Tonight, 6 p.m.
Radio: KGRT-FM 104 Vista-FM 98.7 (Spanish)
TV: The game will be televised on AggieVision (tape delayed in Las Cruces). Internet viewers can watch the game on ESPN3
Weather: Partly cloudy, 76 degrees. Outside chance of thunderstorms

Teddy and Brook Show: Football preview edition

The LCSN duo discuss the upcoming 2012 season both in preps and college.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Five keys to Aggies vs. Sacramento State game

Five keys to Thursday night's 6 p.m. college football season opener between New Mexico State and Sacramento State:

• Mystery team: Sacramento State is a tough group to get a handle on. They’re breaking in a new starting offensive backfield, and have a first-year coordinator (Paul Peterson came on board this past offseason from Southern Utah). The Football Championship Subdivision program won at Oregon State last season — a certifiable shocker in Week 1 — but finished the year with a 4-7 record. Do the Hornets have enough weapons offensively to make an impact? A mystery team for the Aggies heading into Week 1.

• Shutdown ’D: OK, so the Aggies brought in a new defensive coordinator in David Elson, and Walker figures to have a bigger hand in gameplanning that side of the ball in 2012. Lets see the results Week 1 against a Hornets team starting a brand-new offensive backfield. The Aggies' strength figures to be their defensive front-seven, while they’re breaking in four starters in the secondary. How that defensive backfield covers the deep ball, and tackles as a whole (last year’s back-four was adept at bringing down the ballcarrier) will be areas to look for in the season opener.

• Offensive consistency: Can the team be effective in a downhill rushing attack? NMSU says it wants to run the ball more in 2012, and now’s its chance. Also, will quarterback Andrew Manley be able to stand tall in the pocket? All eyes will be on the offensive line’s ability to open holes in the running game and protect their signal caller. Somewhere in the ballpark of 350 to 400 yards of total offense would signify an efficient Week 1 performance for the Aggie offense.

• How does Manley look?: Sophomore quarterback Andrew Manley will see his first action in nearly a year, after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee during an early-season loss to UTEP last season. We know what Manley’s capable of when he’s protected — simply put, the kid can throw the deep ball and can be a difference maker. But how will he look when flushed out of the pocket, or when he takes his first big hit?

• A convincing performance: Do the Aggies have to dominate this game? That’s a strong word, and tough question to answer. But they do need to put together a solid performance. This is a team that’s rarely victorious in blowout fashion (their largest margin of victory under head coach DeWayne Walker was 14 points last year against New Mexico). Just putting together a thorough performance and winning in healthy fashion could bode well going forward. With that being said, simply winning remains the most important goal.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Video: Aggie head coach DeWayne Walker

New Mexico State preparing for 2012 football season opener vs. Sacramento State. Game time is 6 p.m. Thursday.

Aggie position previews: defensive line

(Kalvin Cruz is a defensive lineman who came to New Mexico State from Ventura College/Photo by Robin Zielinski)

We preview each position on the New Mexico State football team throughout training camp and leading up to the season. The series continues today with a look at the defensive line:

There are some pieces here to work with.

Donte Savage is back after being academically ineligible last year and has looked very good — in a class by himself as a very quick pass rusher from the weakside.

Walton Taumoepeau had a good second half of the season in 2011 and is quick — a good athlete standing at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds. Taumoepeau is currently second on the depth chart at defensive tackle, perhaps a motivational technique for a player who has the tools to be an elite player in the WAC along the interior of the defensive line.

At the other defensive end position is converted linebacker Alexander LaVoy, who's shown a better knack as a pass rusher than run stopper at this point. He could form a nice pass-rushing duo with Savage.

Three junior college transfers — Kalvin Cruz (defensive end/defensive tackle), Nick Oliva (defensive end) and Kevin Laudermill (defensive tackle) — add depth and could push for time.

The Aggies look to be OK at defensive end but could stand to build some depth inside. Mark Brown is a strong player at 6-foot, 290 pounds, although might be better used in short spurts. Freshman Inuka Rhaheed has been getting snaps as well during fall camp.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Monday, August 27, 2012

Matt Ramondo to sit out Aggie football season

Matt Ramondo, a former Mayfield Trojan and current New Mexico State Aggie football player, will not suit up this season due to NCAA transfer rules, according to NMSU's media relations department.

Ramondo, who transferred to NMSU this past offseason from Michigan State where he was a redshirt player last year, attempted for a hardship waiver from the NCAA, allowing him to take the field immediately (transfers typically have to sit out a year upon joining their new team). His appeal was denied on Tuesday.

Listed on the Aggie roster as a 6-foot-4, 320-pound defensive lineman, Ramondo had a good fall camp with the Aggies. He will take the field next year for the team as a sophomore.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Aggie position previews: offensive line

(Valerian Ume-Ezeoke returns as the Aggies starting center/Robin Zielinski)

We preview each position on the New Mexico State football team throughout training camp and leading up to the season. The series continues today with a look at the offensive line:

This unit could very well be the No. 1 key for the Aggie offense in 2012.

The team should be set at left tackle with junior Davonte Wallace as well as center where Valerian Ume-Ezeoke lines up. Wallace is a three-year starter and perennial All-WAC player at his position, while Ume-Ezeoke started as a freshman last year, a smart player and good athlete.

The top-two guards on the roster should be also be adequate, with returning senior Andrew Kersten and redshirt freshman Andy Cunningham.

We’ll see if right offensive tackle is solidified at the start of the season. Dada Richards is a junior college transfer who should get the starting nod, while redshirt freshman Faison McKinnis and true freshman Peter Foreman were getting snaps as well during camp. There could be more movement here during the year.

Of course, any injuries to this unit could really hurt overall — the top-four players have to stay healthy throughout the season. Their task: to protect Manley and open holes in the running game, allowing the Aggies to produce enough offensively.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Aggie position previews: wide receivers

(Aggie wide receiver Kemonte Bateman returns as a senior starter/Photo by Robin Zielinski)

We preview each position on the New Mexico State football team throughout training camp and leading up to the season. The series continues today with a look at the Aggie wide receivers:

Health will be key here (really, which position that pertains to Aggie football does that not ring true?).

But seriously, the team has two go-to receivers in the passing game in Austin Franklin and Kemonte Bateman and if both are in tact and on the field, the remaining unit should fall into place.

Jerrel Brown is a sleeper player to watch this year for NMSU, a walk-on in 2011 who was granted a scholarship during the offseason. He plays all three receiver positions (both strongside and weakside wideouts as well as slot) and has shown good size and athleticism during camp. From what we see, Brown is a legit No. 3 player here, possibly more.

The team also likes Joseph Mathews, standing tall at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds and a possible target over the middle. Kevan Walker — son of head coach DeWayne — suffered a knee injury during camp although will try to play on it once the schedule starts.

The tight end position was recruited to, and therefor has numbers to it. Trevor Walls looks like a monster (6-foot-5, between 255 and 260 pounds) and Mt. San Jacinto transfer Perris Scoggins brings a physical presence himself (6-foot-3, 250). David Quiroga is an H-back type who's part of this core group.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

FBS members: Their requirements and restrictions

With New Mexico State football set for independence in 2013, we take a look at some of the vital requirements in place to remain an FBS member (Football Bowl Subdivision). Bylaws were obtained from the NCAA Rules Manual:

• Bylaw states that the minimum contests required for football sponsorship is nine games.
What we know: The 2013 schedule currently has the Aggies playing New Mexico and UTEP, UCLA and Texas, and a home-and-home with Idaho. With that being said, a nine-game schedule doesn’t seem optimal, it’s just the minimum requirement.

• Bylaw states that an institution shall sponsor a minimum of 16 varsity intercollegiate sports, including a minimum of six sports involving all-male teams and a minimum of eight women’s teams.
What we know: NMSU sponsors six men’s sports (football, basketball, baseball, cross country, golf, tennis) and 11 women’s sports (volleyball, basketball, cross country, equestrian, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball).

• Bylaw states that an institution shall schedule and play 60 percent of its football games against members of the FBS.
What we know: One look at the Aggies schedule as if for 2013 and this shouldn’t be an issue.

• Bylaw also states that an institution must play a minimum of five home football games against FBS opponents, and one neutral-site game may count as a home game. Bylaw states that an institution may count one contest against a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponent to satisfy one of the required five home games in a given season.
What we know: NMSU has Idaho at home in 2013 as well as UTEP (if the Miners cooperate and come to town). Surely an FCS game will be on the home docket as well. That means the Aggies will need two more teams coming to Las Cruces.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Aggie athletics: a train wreck that's happened

The WAC not sponsoring football in 2013 shouldn't come as a surprise to many if anyone, nor should Aggie football playing independently in 2013.

League commissioner Jeff Hurd essentially said such last month at the WAC media conference, and confirmed it once again this week.

For the Aggies, it's not a train wreck waiting to happen, it's a train wreck that's happened.

To a certain degree, it seems like an act of fate, the perfect storm at the worst possible time for the athletics department.

A lousy geographic location as it pertains to conference realignment, in a small market, sandwiched between two rivals — New Mexico and UTEP — that really haven't helped NMSU's cause in the conference chase.

Sadly enough, NMSU hasn't been horrible on the playing field — quite the opposite, actually.

Outside of football, where the Aggies have a fine head coach in DeWayne Walker and could push for a bowl game this year, the school has held its own in recent years.

Heck, they went to an NCAA baseball regional this past year. Men's basketball has been to two NCAA Tournaments the past three years, and softball won the WAC two years ago.

We know about Aggie volleyball — a top-two team in the WAC and an NCAA Tournament contender that looks to be loaded again in 2012, and a possible front-runner in the conference.

The school has been in the top-half of the WAC Commissioner's Cup the last handful of years, and academically NMSU athletics has been solid. Players have walked a straight line away from their respective sports. A tip of the hat must go to NMSU coaches, who deserve better.

Apparently, none of the aforementioned factors matter much at all in this instance. For all intents and purposes, the Aggies conference conundrum is enough to cause nausea.

The reality in this frustrating and vicious cycle, is that not all the answers are present to everyone, although clearly one could say the leadership contingency at the school has fallen short.

We all have jobs to do, and the administration's job is to make sure their athletics program is not in this position. That their football program is protected and their non-football sports have a conference to call home. This isn't asking a lot, nor is it outside such job descriptions or requirements, rather should be central on the agenda.

Of course, Athletics Director McKinley Boston is going to take many of the bullets in this, not saying that isn't rightfully so.

Again, he is the athletics director, and this nightmare has come under his watch.

We also know Boston's strengths and weaknesses at this point as an AD — a good man who can come off as a poor fit in this community, one who isn't a knee-jerk reactionary. Such a quality lends itself to hiring and retaining good coaches, something he's done a fine job of while at NMSU, which has helped the program keep its head above water on the field. But it has backfired badly during the conference realignment era, at a time when his department desperately needed another approach. Simply staying the course and trying to rebuild the WAC was something NMSU was doing, while many of their rivals, apparently, were not.

With all that being said, we would be remiss and short-sighted if we wrote that Boston's hands haven't been tied.

Yes, from a leadership standpoint Boston deserves half the blame, but lets not give Barbara Couture a pass in this respect either.

She's equally as involved as the school's president, as well as the chair of the WAC. Read that again if you must, but it's been a painful coincidence as the past year's events have unfolded.

Simply ask yourself this question: If former president Mike Martin were still in place at NMSU right now, would the Aggies be in this position? I'll go out on a limb and say ‘no,’ that the university would have kept itself out of harms way the best it could have. Martin was here when the Aggies initially entered the WAC, and invested heavily into athletics. He believed the athletics department was the front porch of the university, and wanted the porch looking the best it could for potential suitors. In all likelihood, he wouldn't have accepted this situation as it were.

There is a dark cloud hovering overhead going into NMSU's 2012-13 sports year, where every day the news seems to get worse. At a time when people should be excited about the new year kicking off, all the talk is about the train wreck that is Aggie athletics.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Video: Mayfield football coach Michael Bradley

Trojans preparing for Week 1 game at El Paso El Dorado on Aug. 31. We sit down and talk to the team's head coach.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Idaho's status brings about familiar questions

The news that the University of Idaho will soon likely seek membership in the Big Sky Conference is all-too-familiar for New Mexico State Aggie sports fans.

In a nutshell: One team leaves the WAC, the conference is further depleted, leaving NMSU holding the bag as one of its final remaining members.

And then followed by a question: why is it the Aggies are always the ones left holding the bag? The bystanders, and not the aggressors? The victims, not the inflictors?

Forget market size, football history, or financial strain. The questions are fair, and valid.

Let alone that New Mexico State going to the Big Sky — a possibility in itself that looks dim at the moment — would have been virtually unappealing last year at this time.

It's a conference without FBS football — Idaho, and soon the Aggies, will be declaring independence on the gridiron in the near future as well — and a league that is spread across the country, yet equally as inconsequential.

Yet it still is a league, one that Idaho will likely call its home, a scenario that's better than the alternative.

If such a scenario does come the fruition, NMSU will soon be part of a three-team WAC — which really is no league at all, and probably won't be one much longer.

It's not hard picturing Seattle and Denver — the WAC's other two members — planning an escape route, why with their cozy configerations to the West Coast Conference. Easy travel, some natural rivals, and with that conference's membership numbers adding up right, it makes the right sense.

And for the Aggies?

Who knows what their plan is, other than hope, which last we checked isn't much of a plan at all.

Hope the WAC holds together for football, hope the Mountain West has an open slot for a football team, hope independent football could work for a brief time, and now hope to hold off athletics independence all together.

Ironically, perhaps it's not too far off in a certain respect.

The one thing we do know, is that the only constant in conference realignment are the changes that have taken place, and the ones that will follow.

Just like the Big Sky would have been an afterthought last year at this time, and now looks like a salvation in the present, we really don't know where things will stand in August, 2013, for better or for worse.

One would think the Aggies won't be standing on the sidelines then. But how do we know that for sure?

From where they were, to where they are, to where they're going.

We do know where it stands today. And it's at a point where it shouldn't be.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

NMSU position previews: running backs

(Photo of Tiger Powell by Robin Zielinski/Sun-News)

This summer, we preview each position on the New Mexico State football team throughout training camp and leading up to the season. We continue the series today, by looking at the Aggie running backs:

Can the Aggies run the football effectively in a downhill rushing attack?

They do have numbers at the position and figure to try and establish the ground game more this year.

Robert Clay returns for his senior season, and the team is high on incoming junior college transfer Tiger Powell — essentially, a bigger version of Clay.

Akeelie Mustafa has good moves and a nice pair of hands — while he might not bring the same production as Kenny Turner did a season ago, he hopes to provide big-play potential outside the tackles.

After sitting out last season with a foot injury, Germi Morrison is expected to suit up for NMSU, a year after coming to Las Cruces from LA Valley College.

There is competition here in this training camp battle, and it will be interesting to see how it shake out.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Aggie practice report: offensive line holds key

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.


Click on links to read stories:

Aggies have a camp competition at running back

NMSU's front-seven looks to be strength of defense

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, August 9, 2012

NMSU summer position previews: quarterback

This summer, we preview each position on the New Mexico State football team throughout training camp and leading up to the season. We start the series today, by looking at the Aggie quarterbacks:

A huge key for to the Aggies season will be their production offensively, and with that being said, protecting quarterback Andrew Manley (pictured) figures to play a major factor.

Last year saw Manley get hurt at the end of the Aggies Week 3 game against UTEP — he was knocked out for the season with a full tear of the ACL and partial tear of the MCL in his right knee. Manley remains a sophomore — he was granted a medical redshirt — and, if given the time, has shown he can be a difference maker for the team's offense.

That's the key though — providing him adequate protection — as last year NMSU put him in too many seven-step drops early in the season, and the offensive line struggled to hold up protecting the drop-back thrower, albeit with limited mobility.

With that being said, Manley could also do himself a favor by improving his decision making, and getting rid of the ball faster.

Behind Manley is junior college transfer Andrew McDonald, along with sophomore Travaughn Colwell. McDonald put up good numbers at Santa Ana College, and could be in the mold of last year's starting QB Matt Christian.

Colwell showed promise a season ago, although is also a player who could be a redshirt candidate in 2012 if things unfold accordingly.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Monday, August 6, 2012

Practice report: Day 1 for Aggie football

The opening day of Aggie football practice went down on Monday, and a couple of observations to take away.

For starters, I did a story on the secondary, which could very well be the key to NMSU's defense this year. The Aggies replace four good players back there from a season ago (Jonte Green, Courtney Viney, Donyae Coleman and Ben Bradley). For all intents and purposes, it was the strength of NMSU's defense in 2011.

This year I do think there's talent and athleticism in the defensive backfield, albeit unproven.

Cornerback Darien Johnson is undersized, yet can cover. Safety Justin Smith played well last year when he saw the field — he had a 13-tackle performance against Fresno State.

Junior college transfers Cameron Fuller (cornerback) and Dele Junaid (safety) have looked good.

Jeremy Harris and George Callender have played well in spurts — just being honest, Harris got torched late last season in some games, and Callender needs to stay healthy.

Still, those guys will be asked to play bigger roles in 2012.

With all that being said, the defensive secondary has historically been a strong point throughout DeWayne Walker's three-plus years with the Aggie program, and I expect it to be OK once again this year. At the very least, I know it will be well coached and improve as the season moves along.

With that being said, if and when it comes around, it could be the key to an improved Aggie defense.

This team has some building blocks on its front seven. Two All-WAC caliber players are on the defensive line, that being end Donte Savage and tackle Walton Taumoepeau. Alexander LaVoy was moved from middle linebacker to defensive end this past spring.

At linebacker, junior college transfer Trashaun Nixon looked like a player during spring ball at weakside linebacker. The team also brings back veteran B.J. Adolpho, and returning starter Bryan Bonilla was solid last year. That, and Savage — who really has the potential to be an excellent player — could easily line up at linebacker as well (it very well could be his natural position).

They have a new coordinator in David Elson, and Walker will play a bigger role coaching on that side of the ball in 2012.

A quote from defensive backs coach Mike Rutenberg on if it feels different on that side of the ball, as fall camp officially opened on Monday:

“It does, it does. I see a lot of enthusiasm. Coach Elson's brought a great positive attitude, a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. I'm really enjoying this group of guys.”

Offensively, there are still question marks (at least in my mind).

As stated in prior blog posts, the offensive line has to replace three starters, protect Andrew Manley, and open up holes in the running game.

Overall, the unit has to replace its top-two gamebreakers from a season ago in wide receiver Taveon Rogers and running back Kenny Turner.

There is a new coordinator in Jerry McManus, who's in his first year as a coordinator and full-time play caller.

I do think the offense has three potential All-WAC players — Manley, left tackle Davonte Wallace, and wide receiver Austin Franklin.

All in all, I think if the offense produces at the same level as last year, the Aggies will be in good position by the end of the season.

I do think Andrew McDonald could fill in for Manley if it came down to it. And I would think the team would prefer to redshirt sophomore quarterback Travaughn Colwell.

Running back is a position to keep a close eye on during fall camp.

Veteran Robert Clay is back.

Junior college transfer Tiger Powell is, basically, a bigger version of Clay.

Akeelie Mustafa is quick and can get outside the tackles — some big-play punch.

Ditto for Germi Morrison, who returns after sitting out last year with foot injury.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

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

Saturday, August 4, 2012

High school football storylines with practice set to kick off early this week

(Photo of Oñate quarterback Curtis Hynes taken by Niki Rhynes)

The time, once again, is upon us.

High school football in southern New Mexico, that is, with the usual suspects back in business.

This year it starts with Las Cruces High, the Class 5A preseason No. 1-ranked team.
The Bulldawgs look to be loaded, and seem to be the favorites in District 3-5A going into 2012.

Mayfield figures to be solid once again as well, while programs at Oñate, Centennial, and Mesilla Valley Christian are local city schools that should provide intrigue heading into the new year.

With prep football practices officially set to kick off on Monday, we take a look at the top local storylines heading into the 2012 campaign:

The top Dawgs?
The No. 1-ranked team in the state according to, Las Cruces High has size on the lines of scrimmage, with Jacob Banegas and Taylor Tisby anchoring the units.
Last year the Bulldawgs predominantly ran the football on offense — a fairly unimaginative, and predictable, gameplan. They hope to implement a more vertical passing attack in 2012, however, with quarterback Jonathon Joy taking over under center. More balance, theoretically, is a good thing, and could allow the team to get tight end target Kamryn Dixon more involved in the passing game. While Joy’s play will be key, so will be replacing running back Xavier Hall, who carried the offense the last couple seasons.

Trojans trigger man
Axten Franzoy was a very good quarterback for Mayfield the past two years and replacing him will be critical to this team’s success — when is quarterback play, on any level of football, not important? The Trojans will also be without coaching legend Jim Bradley, who continues recovering from a stroke suffered earlier this year. While he was an assistant coach for the Trojans and perhaps more of an inspirational figure for the program the past few years, Bradley’s presence and experience was still an important factor for this team. With all that being said, Mayfield is Mayfield — always one of the state’s top teams, they have mystique and find ways to replace players. That, and the Trojans seem to play well as an overlooked club, something they seem to be once again at the outset of the 2012 campaign.

Big year
It will be one at Oñate, where head coach Caleb Hull enters his second season in charge of the program. The 2011 campaign was not the smoothest, with Hull talking big leading up to the season and the team eventually being short on players and talent. Their opening schedule was brutal — OHS was outmanned in games against Franklin, Americas, Cleveland, and Rio Rancho, losing to that foursome by a combined score of 220-49. Still, in the games they were on equal footing with the opposition, the Knights were competitive, and even entertaining to watch. And, while the 2012 docket isn’t exactly filled with cupcakes, it’s not the same gauntlet of games the team faced a season ago. That, and this will truly be Hull’s team, making this year’s version of the Knights an interesting one to watch.

New horse in the race
Centennial, a first-year high school in Las Cruces, will take to the football field in its inaugural season as a member of Class 4A. The Hawks were picked No. 19 out of 25 Class 4A teams according to The offensive minded Aaron Ocampo, formally of Manzano, takes over as head coach and Centennial plays a fair schedule for a first-year program — a number of junior varsity teams and some programs from the Class 3A level. Not that any of these games figure to be easy for the startup program, nor will be the District 3-4A docket that awaits later in the year. With no seniors on the 2012 Hawks roster, building a high school football program is not an easy task and, while this year figures to be one of importance, the ones that follow shortly thereafter will be just as critical, if not moreso.

A new coach
Former Mayfield head coach Mike Draper will be the new head coach at Mesilla Valley Christian School, taking over for Charles Gleghorn who moved onto Hobbs High School.
The SonBlazers are a unique athletics program, just from the standpoint they’re small private school in a Class 5A town, one which does attract talent. In reality, Gleghorn was a good coach for MVCS — the team started football three years ago and won a Class A state championship last season. Now, the SonBlazers move up to the Class 2A level with Draper at the controls.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg