Monday, April 29, 2013

Quarterback race: An even competition

At this point of Aggie spring football practices, don't expect a declaration or clear-cut winner at the starting quarterback position. It's not deception, just fact: The race for the QB position appears to remain dead-even, and wide-open, entering the final week of spring practices.

We'll start with Andrew Manley, because it's proven to be a good story amongst the three competitors (of course, the candidates are Manley, Travaughn Colwell and Andrew McDonald). The general assumption was that Manley wouldn't be a great fit for the offense installed by new offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon, because the junior quarterback will never be confused as a mobile player in the offensive backfield. But he's adapted to the system the best he can — he's lost weight, and has provided a little movement in the pocket. Most importantly, Manley is doing what he does best — throwing the football — at a very effective rate, and looks good doing so.

I tip my hat to him whether he comes out on top or not, because he's displayed leadership — adapting while going right after the quarterback competition.

In terms of mobility, Colwell clearly brings that to the table, and probably runs the option-offense best of all three. Yet while athletic, Colwell remains inconsistent as a passer to this point.

And then McDonald, a player who's in the middle of Manley's and Colwell's skill sets — the lone senior, he can run the offense, while bringing better foot speed than Manley on the ground, and more consistent accuracy than Colwell in the passing game.

In general, the Aggie offense is much improved schematically this spring, and will be more exciting in 2013. Last year the quarterback position was mismanaged, and was a microcosm of the entire offense (one could make the argument it was a lost year for all three QBs currently competing for the starter's job). But this spring, it would seem the three are receiving the best coaching they've had at NMSU, and it should pay dividends.

Perhaps Saturday's spring game will allow a QB or two to emerge in the race. But so far, it's looked to be an even competition.


I will also say this: To me, the jury remains out on the Aggie defense.

Ironically, I do not think it's from a skill standpoint, because it would appear there's improved personnel on the defensive line (Matt Ramondo, Willie Mobley to name a couple upgraded players amongst the down-linemen).

The question here does comes down to scheme, however (bear in mind, Ramondo is being held out currently with an ankle injury, although it does not appear to be serious).

The Aggies are playing a one-gap, slanting style along the defensive front, designed to get quick players up field and apply pressure on the opposing quarterback. Such a philosophy can create the big play on defense — arrant throws, resulting in interceptions to defensive backs in zone coverage. But that can also leave such a defense vulnerable to the big play as well.

We'll bring it into view by observing 2013 spring practices, where NMSU's offense has ran the ball very effectively. Of course, running backs Germi Morrison and Brandon Betancourt have looked good doing so (and we did talk about an improved offensive system), but in turn, what does this say about the Aggies run defense?

After all, NMSU averaged just 3.0 yards per carry all of last year, and while it's offensive line has some solid players, it also has some holes to it as well. Yet it's been a pattern virtually every spring scrimmage: Aggie backs ripping off runs to the second and third levels of the defense.

In a nutshell, they're finding an open gap up front, and it could mean trouble if such a trend continues heading into a 2013 independent schedule.

Some weekend stories

Some attention-grabbers from over the weekend, that surely we'll have commentary on over the coming days. Click on the headlines below to go directly to the stories at the LCSN website:

NMSU presidential candidate Garrey Carruthers tells forum participants he's open to dropping football

Jeremy Harris became the third Aggie cornerback in three years to be selected in the NFL Draft, and will reunite with former head coach DeWayne Walker

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg


Anonymous said...

Big problem if the Aggies can't stop the run when they are fresh. It leads to a season where the team gets behind in the first half games with a defense that is worn out going into the second half. We go from being down by 10 to losing by 40.

Anonymous said...

Teddy - Is Larry Butler III on the spring roster? It seems we signed him from a JUCO and he could contribute to run defense as a linebacker???

Anonymous said...

MANLEY IS GONE!? SAY WHAAAAT? If you cant stand the heat get out of the kitchen. Competition will show players true colors I guess.

Anonymous said...

Actually it shows that he is smart enough to know that the offense has changed and he is not the right fit for this offense. Teddy said that he did everything he could to make it work. Lots of people have been saying this all spring. If he can find a place where they run his type of offense he should succeed. I am very worried about our offense now though. I watched the spring game and Manley looked the best and scored the most. I hope this offense works for us. Without a great passer i sure hope our line can allow the run. Good luck Manley I hope you find an offense that is a better fit for you and allows you to shine.