Sunday, March 23, 2014

Betancourt out of spring drills; other Aggie football news/notes

(After running tough in 2013, Xavier Hall will return to the Aggie backfield for his sophomore season/Photo by Carlos Javier Sanchez)

New Mexico State head football coach Doug Martin said last week that running back Brandon Betancourt will not take the field with the Aggies during spring practices.

Betancourt suffered a foot injury that knocked him out for the season last year, during a Oct. 26 game against Abilene Christian.

Running back appears to be somewhat of a question for the Aggies at the outset of spring practices. Xavier Hall and Betancourt - two Las Cruces high school football standouts in their prep playing days - had surprise breakout seasons a year ago. Last year, the Aggies also had tough senior running back Germi Morrison, who's obviously no longer with the program.

This spring's roster has Hall and Marquette Washington - who was a redshirt player as a true freshman last year - listed atop the depth chart.

The Aggies also signed two running backs this past February - Larry Rose (Fairfield, Texas) and Royce Caldwell (Columbus, Texas) - who they're hopeful can help.

At the end of the day, this is a young backfield with some unproven parts. The team could also could use a pounder between the tackles. Hall, who really was great at the end of last year, is a tough runner although isn't the biggest of backs (listed at 5-foot-8, 182 pounds). Both freshman aren't big on paper either (Rose was listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds on signing day; Caldwell was listed at 5-foot-7, 170 pounds).

Can Washington be that guy? He's listed at 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, so perhaps he can play the role of big back in the offense.

•••

The Aggies also lost the services of Austin Franklin this past offseason, as the standout wide receiver entered the NFL Draft following his junior season. Replacing Franklin - with essentially the same personnel as a season ago - is going to be another challenge for the Aggies.

The team's wide receiver unit was a solid one a season ago, although the addition of Franklin - who missed the first four games due to academics - lifted the entire unit's performance. He brought a playmaker's presence to the offense, while he was surrounded by nice complementary pieces.

Following Wednesday's morning practice, Aggie offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon said players are going to have to step up to replace Franklin's production. It might be a collective group effort.

During the offseason, Martin spoke highly of Greg Hogan, who will be a redshirt freshman this season.

Still, Franklin's shoes will be big ones to fill.

•••

Brandon also said last week that King Davis III and Tyler Rogers continue competing for the starting quarterback job this spring.

Martin indicated this offseason the Aggies were looking to move Davis to a wide receiver/running back position in 2014, although the sophomore's still taking snaps at QB at the moment. The head coach also called Rogers' experience and the fact the junior college transfer is here this spring and getting in work with the offense as "huge."

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if a freshman ends up starting at some point this fall under center - the team signed five during last February's signing day, and perhaps a couple have what it takes to get the nod.

•••

This could very well be an experimental year for the Aggies, when considering the team's youth and some of the holes on their spring roster.

Take the defense, for instance.

The Aggies secondary is starting all over again. After a run of quality talent in the defensive backfield, the Aggies have youth and inexperience across the board this spring. Travaughn Colwell, the former quarterback (and wide receiver/running back) is now playing cornerback. He's joined by Winston Rose (who missed most of last season due to injury), Jerrion Burton and Kedeem Thomas-Davis on the depth chart.

At safety, the Aggies have Jermichael Selders, Jaden Wright, James Ooten and Kawe Johnson listed on the two-deep.

Perhaps similar to running back, defensive backs coach Will Martin said some freshmen coming in this fall will get a long look in the secondary.

As for the defensive front-seven, there are some returning pieces. Clint Barnard, who produced pretty well at middle linebacker last season, is listed at left defensive end on the spring depth chart.

Samual Oyenuga, a former cornerback, is listed at outside linebacker. Alexander Trujillo and Houston Clemente, previously offensive linemen, are now lining up on the defensive line.

Other players back who took snaps on the defensive side of the ball last year are Jay Eakins (defensive line), Mason Russell (defensive line), Kalei Auelua (linebacker), Rodney Butler (linebacker) and Dior Moore (linebacker).

The Aggies obviously hired Larry Coyer this offseason to coordinate the defense and he certainly has an impressive track record and history as a football coach. It looks like he'll be molding a young unit in 2014.

•••

Martin said Brock Baca will be the Aggies punter this spring.

Baca, a Mayfield High School graduate, handled kickoff duties for the Aggies last season.

He'll take over for a great punter for the team over the past two seasons, Cayle Chapman-Brown.

•••

Offensive lineman Andy Cunningham is out of action at the moment due to a knee injury. Brandon indicated the ailment isn't serious and the team expects a healthy Cunningham to return to the lineup.

The reality is, for a player of Cunningham's caliber - experienced, and one the coaching staff has played at different spots along the line over the years (guard and tackle, specifically) - spring football probably isn't a necessity. Might as well get some young players work during such workouts.

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1 comment:

Bobby Washington said...

Sure Washington can be that guy.