Thursday, January 30, 2014

Aggies expected to name Larry Coyer as defensive coordinator

(The following story can be found on and will appear in Friday's print edition of the Las Cruces Sun-News)

Larry Coyer is expected to be named next defensive coordinator for the New Mexico State Aggie football team.

In response to a public records request to the school, the executive assistant to the general counsel wrote in an email that Coyer’s contract is in draft form and has not yet been routed for signatures.

The Aggies are expected to officially announce a new defensive coordinator on National Signing Day, which is Feb. 5.

When asked for comment, NMSU Athletics Director McKinley Boston said the Aggies are “In the process of negotiations.”

Head coach Doug Martin, when reached by phone Thursday, said, “It will all be announced (next) Wednesday.”

Martin has said he’s looking for an experienced coach to fill the defensive coordinator role, and the 70-year-old Coyer certainly fits that criteria: a graduate of Marshall University in 1964, Coyer has over 40 years coaching experience in the college and professional ranks of football.

Prior to serving as an advance scout for the Washington Redskins last season, Coyer was Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator from 2009-11. He also had NFL defensive coordinator experience with the Denver Broncos from 2003-06.

Collegiately, Coyer’s coordinated defenses at Iowa (1974-77), Oklahoma State (1978), Iowa State (1979-82/1995-96) and East Carolina (1993).

At East Carolina, Coyer worked with Martin when the two were fellow assistant coaches on the Pirates staff.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

VIDEOS: Aggie men's basketball press conference (1/28)

Head coach Marvin Menzies and junior guard DK Eldridge talk about team's play in the WAC to this point and look ahead to weekend games against Bakersfield and Utah Valley:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Former Aggie coaches in national news

(Recently introduced as Vanderbilt head coach, Derek Mason has a past history with New Mexico State football/Associated Press photo)

Some former New Mexico State football coaches continue to pop up on the national radar.

While Vanderbilt hired Derek Mason as its next head football coach to replace James Franklin - who accepted the head job at Penn State - the Commodores also hired a former Aggie assistant: Mason spent the 2004 season as a wide receivers coach at NMSU.

To Vanderbilt, Mason brought with him two other former Aggie assistant coaches - Gerry Gdowski (who will coach wide receivers with the Commodores) and Keven Lightner (who will coach the offensive line). A former Aggie player, David Kotulski - a 1974 graduate who took the field at linebacker - was also named Vanderbilt's defensive coordinator.

Mason, Gdowski and Lightner were all Aggie assistants under former NMSU head coach Tony Samuel.

Speaking of Samuel, he saw his run as head coach at Southeast Missouri State come to an end when he was fired as Redhawks head coach immediately following the 2013 season. Samuel's highlight at the school came during the 2010 season, when he led Southeast to the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs, where the school lost to eventual champion Eastern Washington in the second round. Following that season, Samuel was named FCS National Coach of the Year.

Speaking of former NMSU coaches, Hal Mumme was recently named head coach at Belhaven of the NAIA. Another former Aggie head man, DeWayne Walker, continues his efforts in the NFL ranks following his first season as defensive backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Walker and the Jaguars coaching staff took the sidelines during this past weekend's Senior Bowl, as they prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft.

And, back to the FCS level, former Aggie defensive coordinator (and current University of San Diego head coach) Dale Lindsey was named to the All-Freshman Team by College Sports Journal as their coach of the year. The Toreros finished this past season with an 8-3 overall record.

Lindsey's coaching staff also has some NMSU connections within it: Juan Lozano (director of football operations) worked under Walker at NMSU, while USD wide receivers coach Cory Martin is the son of current Aggie head coach Doug Martin.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Defense, quarterback will dictate Aggies football progress for 2014

Can the New Mexico State Aggies be an improved football team in 2014? As a matter of fact, they can.

Some of it’s by design, and some will require the program to make some big additions (and improvements) in the coming weeks - the official announcement of a new defensive coordinator comes on Feb. 5 and will coincide with National Signing Day. Spring practices follow shortly thereafter in March.

For one, for where the program is today, it’s moving into a good home from a conference standpoint. Yes, the Sun Belt is on the upswing, and far from the same league the Aggies belonged to prior to joining the WAC in 2005. The SBC went a combined 8-1 this past year against opponents from the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA and Mid-American Conference. While the league had seven of its eight teams obtain bowl-eligible records (that would be a 6-6 mark or higher) Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State were each sent to the postseason and won their respective bowl games (Lafayette beat Tulane 24-21 in the New Orleans Bowl; Arkansas State topped Ball State, 23-20, in the GoDaddy Bowl).

With that being said, one would think the Aggies can be a better team in Year 2 under head coach Doug Martin, and could in fact be a middle-of-the-pack Sun Belt program next year. If, that is, they make necessary improvements this offseason.

The No. 1 area that will need to be upgraded is the defense. A monster recruiting effort was in front of the program on this side of the ball, as the team lost the majority of its starting lineup from the 2013 season. And, while the unit didn’t get results last year - at or near the bottom of the FBS in key statistical categories such as total yards surrendered (6,594), rushing yards (3,594) and points against (535) - there was some talent present: a veteran secondary, some decent pieces on the front-seven and two players in linebacker Trashaun Nixon and safety Davis Cazares that were very good at the program.

Martin made it clear what he’s after this offseason - players with speed, even if that means a young and undersized group at some areas of the field. Certainly the Aggies need some horses on defense, and a little bit of help everywhere - secondary, linebacker and defensive line.

NMSU will also announce the official hiring of its new defensive coordinator on Signing Day, and of course this will be a critical move. Martin’s indicated the Aggies will bring in a coach with great experience and a deep resume - possibly with college and NFL experience. And while such a track record wouldn’t necessarily come cheap, such a coach, in time, could help build the defensive unit to at least respectability.

Moving to the other side of the ball, the Aggies will need to find a big-time quarterback to take the field. Last year’s senior Andrew McDonald is gone, and while King Davis III returns as a sophomore, he didn’t play in the second half of 2013, and remains a largely unproven player. In other words, incoming recruits could very well compete for a starting spot at the position.

Martin has made it no secret he believes an outstanding QB can drive a mid-major team, meaning the Aggies need to bring in a quality one on National Signing Day. As of now, the position could be considered up for grabs.

Other areas/holes the Aggies will need to fill heading into the 2014 season:

• The team could use a power back that can pound the ball between the tackles - even if local products Brandon Betancourt and Xavier Hall proved to be serviceable players out of the backfield last season. Betancourt suffered a foot injury last year that sidelined him from late-October on.

• NMSU needs a left tackle to replace four-year starter Davonte Wallace. This is obviously a critical position along the line, one that requires a top athlete to protect against elite pass rushers.

• Punter Cayle Chapman-Brown was a very good player for the Aggies the past two seasons, and has since graduated. The Aggie special teams units - particularly their punt and kick coverage teams - struggled mightily last year. Martin said in December a candidate to replace Chapman-Brown could be Mayfield graduate Brock Baca, a player who handled kickoff duties last season.

• Replacing junior wide receiver Austin Franklin - who declared for the NFL Draft in December - will be a daunting task as well. Franklin gave the offense a playmaking jolt last season when he returned following academic ineligibility. Martin spoke this offseason of wide receiver Gregory Hogan - a redshirt freshman in 2013 - possibly filling such a void.

• Since being hired last February, Martin’s said throughout his tenure the need to recruit high school graduates primarily from Texas. How much of this year’s signing class fits that mold will be something to watch.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Friday, January 24, 2014

PODCAST: Aggie men’s basketball coming off disappointing road trip

We sit down with to talk Aggie hoops following the team’s consecutive road losses at Chicago State and Missouri-Kansas City.

Click here to listen.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, January 23, 2014

VIDEO: Teddy and Brook Show (1/23)

We’re talking Aggie and high school hoops, high school football and some early thoughts on Super Bowl XLVIII:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Q&A: Las Cruces High head basketball coach, and former NMSU Aggie, William Benjamin

(William Benjamin, right, celebrates following Las Cruces High's 2013 State Boys Basketball Championship. LCHS begins District 3-5A play tonight against Alamogordo/Photo by Adria Malcolm)

In the local sports community, William Benjamin’s made quite the impact.

From Los Angeles, Calif., Benjamin played four years at New Mexico State University, and was a key member of the 1992 Aggie team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

And, while Benjamin would play professionally overseas following his college career, he would eventually return to southern New Mexico and join the Las Cruces High School boys basketball program. Five years ago he became head coach of the Bulldawgs, and last season he led the program to its first State Championship since 1976.

With 2014 District 3-5A play ready to tip off tonight, we caught up with Benjamin during a recent Bulldawgs practice at the school gym to talk about his past, present and future pertaining to basketball.

Sun-News: You win the State Championship last year. Then you lose the nucleus of your team. How close do you think the 2014 Bulldawgs are at competing for a district championship?
William Benjamin: “We’re as close as anybody. We’ll compete. I think we can compete with anybody in our district. I’ll leave it at that.”

SN: What was it like getting that burden off Las Cruces High’s back and winning the school’s first State Championship since 1976?
WB: “I don’t know over the past 15 years that I’ve been here were we ever favored to win a State Championship. Things kind of fell in line. We weren’t favored when we won it last year, there was nobody thinking about us. It just happened that way. I don’t know if anything was on anybody’s back, it’s just that we surprised a lot of people.”

SN: You’ve said this year the district is toughest in state. Talk about that.
WB: “Look at the parity. Look at the teams in the district, the records that they have....Everybody’s solid and they have very good coaches.”

SN: Were you surprised at all by early-season wins over Hobbs and Clovis?
WB: “I’m not surprised....That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re playing at home and you play good....These kids....They put a tremendous amount of time in the gym....Last year we started out 0-4. This year we started off the same way, playing the same teams....It’s how we play in district, that’s what matters. And we’re getting better. I think we’ve gotten better throughout.”

SN: You went to New Mexico State - a four-year player at the school. Then played overseas. Why did you come back to Las Cruces and what’s kept you here?
WB: “Because of that feeling you get as a young kid, when you leave home for the first time, the community kind of takes you in and they look out for you. I’m the first one in my family to graduate from college. It was easier for me to come out here, to graduate. It was easy to find a job. Start a family. Things of that nature. Las Cruces is where everything positive has happened in my life....It’s been a win-win in everything.”

SN: Kind of along the same lines, you coached Bulldawgs junior-varsity for 12 years. Again, what kept you at the LCHS program for that long?
WB: “I liked Las Cruces. Coach (Mike) Smith was the first one who gave me an opportunity as a JV coach. When it came time for me to become a head coach, I was fortunate enough for Las Cruces High School to hire me.”

SN: Biggest accomplishment in basketball: Playing in an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 or winning a State Championship as head coach?
WB: “Greatest basketball accomplishment is playing for four years at New Mexico State and not transferring, not quitting. Greatest accomplishment is playing in a winning program and surviving practices against Randy Brown and Reggie Jordan (laughs)....You’re talking about two NBA players, having to go up against them every day in practice. I saw five different guards leave, just because those guys were ruthless.”

SN: You were known as a defensive player in college, although you hit some big shots during your career as well. Where do those shots rank in terms of top moments?
WB: “It’s always nice to hit big shots. But just playing in the Pan Am Center, in front of over 10,000 every home game. No one shot is bigger than that. To have the full college experience of playing at a Top-25 program. Playing in front of a packed house....We always had a saying growing up, you don’t want to play at a school where you can hear the shoes squeaking. That means no one’s there watching you play. And it wasn’t like that. That’s bigger than any one shot.”

SN: The Aggies have won basketball games and have had success. So why do you think the crowds aren’t what they were compared to when you played?
WB: “Different eras.. I think the college students were more involved back then. Back then the college students had that whole bottom section... Now the college kids are kind of behind the basket. They were courtside really showing school pride and making it tough on opponents. It was more Cameron Crazy so-to speak. It was nuts.”

SN: Have you coached any players that remind you of yourself?
WB: “Joseph Garza....I was smart, I played hard....Garza reminded me of me, in that aspect. Made plays when they needed to be made, whether it was a pass to the right guy at the right time, or make a shot. I was a point guard, handled the ball, never turned it over, made the right decisions, made the free throws. When I had Garza as a freshman, Garza’s not quick, he’s not fast. But at the same time he’s not slow. He’s just smart and efficient. Someone you want to coach, because you know he’s going to do everything right.”

SN: How much of an influence did Neil McCarthy have on your coaching career past and present?
WB: “I talk to him now. We run the matchup-zone defense. If I want to talk to him about....Different parts of it, or if I’m having problems with certain areas of it, I can pick his brain. One thing that we had at New Mexico State was, we had good teams. When you’re talking about teams, you’re talking about the first man to the 12th guy....I know what it’s like to be a valuable piece to the puzzle. And we try incorporate that here. Let the kids know, you’re coming off the bench, you have a lot of value. Just like that guy who’s starting....That’s what I learned from Neil.”

SN: Does coaching in the college game remain a professional goal for you at some point?
WB: “It’s just basketball, it’s X’s and O’s. We’re talking about young kids and working and developing. For us to win a State Championship last year without having one Division I player says a lot about the program. It says a lot about our kids’ development as far as getting better. So yeah, I would love to coach at the next level. I would love try it.”

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin: Aggies still working on defensive coordinator search

We wrote last week that Larry Coyer could be a candidate as next defensive coordinator at New Mexico State. Now the website writes that Coyer will in fact go to the Aggies in that capacity.

Yet Aggie head coach Doug Martin said the Aggies are still working to fill the position.

“If I could pay someone $500,000 a year. Have you seen his resume?” Martin said of Coyer. “It will be named soon, but that has not been done.”

Editor's note: This post had been edited on Jan. 21 at 11 a.m.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hal Mumme named head coach at Belhaven

For those who missed it, former Aggie head football coach Hal Mumme was hired Friday at Belhaven University, a NAIA school in Mississippi.

Mumme was fired at NMSU following the 2008 season and spent last year as an assistant coach at Southern Methodist University.

Here’s a short story from the Associated Press on Mumme’s return to the head coaching seat at Belhaven:

Belhaven has hired former New Mexico State head coach Hal Mumme to lead its football program.

The 61-year-old was the passing game coordinator under June Jones at Southern Methodist in 2013. This will be Mumme’s seventh head coaching job and he is widely known for his prolific passing offenses.

Mumme coached at New Mexico State from 2005-08, compiling an 11-38 record during that time.

From a national standpoint, Mumme’s most high profile job was at Kentucky from 1997-2000, where he coached quarterback Tim Couch, who was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in 1999.

Belhaven, a small private school that plays in the NAIA, finished with a 3-8 record last season. The school announced the hire on Friday.

Belhaven President Roger Parrott said in a school release that, “I am excited for our students, our players, and our alumni, because Belhaven football is going to join the ‘Air-Raid’ and soar.”

Friday, January 17, 2014

Aggies push back defensive coordinator announcement until Feb. 5

The following story appeared in Thursday's online edition/Friday's print edition of the Las Cruces Sun-News

The New Mexico State Aggies won’t announce a new football defensive coordinator until National Signing Day on Feb. 5, according to NMSU Sports Information Director Tyler Dunkel.

Dunkel said head coach Doug Martin wants to put an emphasis on recruiting and getting the best players possible for Aggie football leading up to Signing Day.

When asked if they were holding off on an impending announcement, Dunkel said there was nothing official to announce at this point.

Martin said last month he hoped to bring in a coach to replace previous defensive coordinator David Elson by Jan. 17.

Earlier this week he said the Aggies were “just finishing up the last bit of the paperwork that has to be done before we can announce it. Hopefully we can have it done by the end of this week, early next week.”

Martin has said throughout the process he’s looking for an experienced coach who can improve not just Aggie players but also the coaching staff as a whole.

Last week, when asked about the process of bringing in a new coordinator, Martin said, “Sometimes when you go through these things, you have people that are affiliated with other teams. They have to fulfill their obligations where they are before you can hire them. That was part of the process we had to go through here. And that’s one of the reasons it’s taken a little while. But all those things work out. I think everybody’s going to be very, very impressed when we’re able to announce it.”

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Another name to look for in Aggie coordinator search: Larry Coyer

Longtime coach Larry Coyer could be a candidate for the defensive coordinator position at New Mexico State.

Coyer is a long-standing coach both in the college and professional ranks and has experience as a defensive coordinator at Iowa (1974-77), Oklahoma State (1978), Iowa State (1979-82), East Carolina (1993) and Pittsburgh (1997-99). Coyer was also defensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos (2003-06) and Indianapolis Colts (2009-11) of the NFL.

Notice his time at East Carolina, when NMSU head coach Doug Martin also worked with the Pirates as an offensive assistant.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Aggies hire Marshall, await announcement on defensive coordinator

The New Mexico State Aggies announced the hiring of Steve Marshall as offensive line coach on Tuesday.

Marshall, who replaces Bart Miller (who was hired at Florida Atlantic two weeks ago), brings a wealth of experience to the position. Frankly, it’s quite eye opening. Here’s a story on Marshall’s hire and what it might mean to the NMSU offensive front: click here.

Aggie head coach Doug Martin also answered some questions concerning the team’s defensive coordinator post, which has yet to be filled in mid-January.

Martin said the search for the coordinator position is nearly complete, and that the Aggies are “just finishing up the last bit of the paperwork that has to be done before we can announce it. Hopefully we can have it done by the end of this week, early next week.”

The search has taken some time - the program let go of previous defensive coordinator David Elson on Dec. 1, one game after the 2013 season (Elson has since been hired by Southern Illinois as defensive backs coach). During that time, Martin's kept things close to the vest pertaining to the search, possibly with a candidate in mind all the while.

“Sometimes when you go through these things, you have people that are affiliated with other teams. They have to fulfill their obligations where they are before you can hire them,” Martin said. “That was part of the process we had to go through here. And that’s one of the reasons it’s taken a little while. But all those things work out. I think everybody’s going to be very, very impressed when we’re able to announce it.”

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sun Belt football continues upswing

(Arkansas State dropped Ball State in the GoDaddy Bowl/Associated Press photo)

Just wanted to throw out some numbers on the Sun Belt Conference from this past year in college football.

The Sun Belt - which will be New Mexico State's football-playing home in 2013 - saw its teams go 2-0 in bowl games this year (Louisiana-Lafayette beat Tulane 24-21 in the New Orleans Bowl; Arkansas State beat Ball State 23-20 in the GoDaddy Bowl). The past two years, the Sun Belt holds a 4-2 record in bowl games.

The conference - which had eight members this past season - saw seven of those clubs have bowl-eligible records this season: Louisiana-Lafayette (9-4 overall record), Arkansas State (7-5), Western Kentucky (8-4), South Alabama (6-6), Troy (6-6), Louisiana-Monroe (6-6) and Texas State (6-6). The lone team that fell short of bowl eligibility was Georgia State (a club that finished with an 0-12 mark). And, of course, the conference sent just two teams to bowl games.

The SBC also saw its teams go a combined 8-1 against the Mountain West Conference (1-0), Conference USA (5-1) and Mid-American Conference (3-0).

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Martin, Aggies finalizing recruiting class

Aggie head coach Doug Martin said earlier this week the Aggies were close to finalizing recruiting with National Signing Day less than a month away.

Martin said the Aggies have 19 verbal commitments at the moment and plan to sign 25 players in this year's signing class.

Martin has said since arriving at New Mexico State that the team would primarily recruit the immediate region - Texas and New Mexico, along with other southwest locations and Southern California.

When asked if the progam's ventured outside of that area, particularly as it pertains to recruiting a quarterback, Martin said, "We would do that for any position if a coach has a tie. Coach Brandon, he has ties up in the Colorado area, he has guys up there that he trusts a lot. A couple of quarterbacks there. A couple from the Washington DC, Maryland area that we looked at. Other than that, our area's been Texas and those types of areas. If we have a connection, we'd certainly do that. We're not pursuing recruits outside of those areas unless we have a direct connection."

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Aggie football defensive coordinator: speculating on a model candidate

One name to keep an eye on for the New Mexico State football defensive coordinator post? One might be Bob Slowik, a former college assistant coach who has a long history in the NFL.

Of course it's pure speculation. But it's also reasonable during a search that's had few clues on potential candidates.

For one, Slowik would be an outstanding candidate for the position. He also fits certain criteria for the job that would likely be appealing for the Aggie football program as a whole.

Of course, there likely has to be a connection between the any candidate and head coach Doug Martin, and Martin and Slowik have a history at the same college program: while Slowik was linebackers coach at East Carolina from 1990-91, Martin worked at ECU from 1992-2002 (they each worked with or under former ECU head coach Steve Logan).

Slowik is also in the market for work, as he was most recently linebackers coach with the Washington Redskins, a team that just let go of head coach Mike Shanahan.

It's believed the next Aggie defensive coordinator will have some NFL coaching experience and Slowik certainly does - he's spent over 20 years as a coach with the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos and Redskins.

Martin has also spoken about getting an assistant coach that makes not just the Aggie players better, but fellow assistant coaches on staff better. In other words, a coach that has experience working with multiple personnel groupings. And Slowik has that as well, as a defensive backs coach at multiple stops as well as coaching linebackers last year with the Redskins. He also has 10 years experience as an NFL defensive coordinator.

Granted, there would need to be work done to bring such a candidate in. For one, there are some other NFL openings and college vacancies that must be filled, and New Mexico State is at the point where the program needs wait on outstanding candidates as opposed to being seeked out by such individuals.

Such could also play a factor in why the process has taken some time, and why not much information has been revealed to this point.

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

House takes field in NFL postseason

(Davon House came in from the left side in an attempt to block the 49ers game-winning field goal attempt Sunday/Associated Press photo)

Former New Mexico State Aggie, and current Green Bay Packers cornerback Davon House saw extensive playing during the Packers Sunday postseason game, a 23-20 NFC Wild Card defeat to the San Francisco 49ers.

House, a third-year pro, entered the game early on for injured cornerback Sam Shields. House held his own, recording four tackles on the evening.

He was also nearly a hero late in the contest: on the last play of the game, with the score tied 20-20, the 49ers line up for 33-yard field goal attempt. House came in from the left side and nearly blocked Phil Dawson's game-winning try - the ball went through the outstretched arms of House. The former Aggie was ruled offsides on the play, and the 49ers declined the penalty, accepted the made field goal and, in turn, got the win.

"After watching tape I knew I could get a great jump on blocking a field goal," House wrote in a text message following the game. "Once the ball was snapped I knew I had a chance to block the ball. So I dove and stuck my two hands out. From watching the replay I noticed it went through my arms."

House played all 16 regular-season games in 2013. He made 44 tackles, intercepted a pass and recorded an interception on the season.

Sunday's game also pitted two former Western Athletic Conference players going against each other: House, formerly of New Mexico State; and San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, formerly of the University if Nevada.