The 2013 New Mexico State football season won't be predicated off spring practices.
What the next month will be is an evaluation period for the team.
Specifically, what will NMSU's personnel look like — and will it fit what the Aggies want to do schematically this upcoming season.
With spring practices ready to begin this Tuesday, we take a look at what to watch for, for those who happen to make their way to Aggie Memorial Stadium to watch some football:
Distinguishing and establishing an identity: With a new head coach in Doug Martin, much of the Aggies staff and football philosophy will be different in 2013.
Veteran offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon was brought in — he's someone Martin respects and trusts to run the team's attack. With that, the Aggies will try and spread the field and use the speed-option to create a running game. Does NMSU have the personnel necessary to execute such a plan?
As for defense, the Aggies retained coordinator David Elson, who'll likely run a 3-4 defensive front. Elson's background is in the 3-4 (three downlinemen, four linebackers) although last year the Aggies ran a 4-3 alignment, more in correspondence with DeWayne Walker's coaching background.
Elson will now get a chance to coach his scheme, which means the Aggies will have to develop their personnel to fit such requirements.
How will the offense looks?: Again, the Aggies will try to spread the field and use the speed-option to generate a ground game.
Think back to Martin's lone year at NMSU as offensive coordinator, when Matt Christian was inserted at quarterback and Kenny Turner was moved from wide receiver, back to lead running back. NMSU spread the field using four- and five-wide receiver sets. Christian (a mobile QB who could run and throw) got rid of the ball quickly in the passing game, or took it outside on the ground flanked by Turner (a fast, quick gamebreaker in the backfield). The duo accumulated over 1,250 yards rushing (with Turner gaining 1,009 such yards and scoring nine rushing touchdowns in just nine starts in 2011).
Does NMSU have what it takes to produce such results again?
For starters, lets look at quarterback.
Last year's starter Andrew Manley returns for his junior season, a player who can throw a heck of a deep ball, yet isn't fleet of foot.
Junior Travaughn Colwell is back as well, and is an athlete at the position. Colwell showed promise his freshman year, but was misused last season as Manley'a backup — he was put in for spot duty, and was utilized primarily as a runner. While he has the physical capabilities to fit Brandon's offense, he's also a developing quarterback who must prove he can handle the position in it's entirety.
Senior Andrew McDonald, a junior-college transfer a season ago, threw three passes total in 2012, all during the team's 51-24 loss at Ohio. He could be a darkhorse in the race — cut from a similar cloth as Christian in terms of his versatility and experience, he's a veteran player from a good junior college league. Don't sleep on him.
Freshman King Davis, a greyshirt player last year, will also be in the running for playing time.
Brandon's history indicates he'd prefer a multi-faceted player at the position, although when Martin was asked which QB best fit the scheme, the head coach responded, “the one who gets us in the end zone.”
Linebackers wanted: The 3-4 defense requires bodies — tough linemen, playmakers at outside linebacker and some quality cornerbacks never hurt.
But it does start at linebacker, where NMSU will need a good number of players who can rotate throughout the course of the game, and a season. Bryan Bonilla returns after a solid 2012 campaign, as does Trashaun Nixon, a senior who's best utilized as a blitzer from multiple spots on the field.
Dele Junaid, a safety last season, was moved to linebacker as well, and the team brought in reinforcements at the position this past offseason. Going into spring football, 10 linebackers total are listed on the Aggie roster.
In terms of other new faces on the Aggie defense, cornerback Randell Carroll (redshirt senior transfer from UCLA), linebacker Zach Daugherty (Oñate alum, sophomore transfer from New Mexico), and defensive linemen Willie Mobley (senior transfer from Arizona), Matt Ramondo (Mayfield alum, sophomore transfer from Michigan State who sat out 2012) and Kalei Auelua (freshman transfer from Washington) could all be worth keeping an eye on as spring camp kicks off.
2013 NMSU Spring Practice Schedule
* All practices will be held at Aggie Memorial Stadium
Tuesday 6-8 a.m.
Thursday 6-8 a.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.-noon
Tuesday, April 9 6-8 a.m.
Thursday, April 11 6-8 a.m.
Saturday, April 13 10 a.m.-noon
Tuesday, April 16 6-8 a.m.
Thursday, April 18 6-8 a.m.
Saturday, April 20 10 a.m.-noon
Tuesday, April 23 6-8 a.m.
Thursday, April 25 6-8 a.m.
Saturday, April 27 10 a.m.-noon
Tuesday, April 30 6-8 a.m.
Thursday, May 2 6-8 a.m.
Saturday, May 4 (Spring game) 6 p.m.