Saturday, April 19, 2014

What to watch for thought entering tonight's Aggie spring game

New Mexico State football takes the field tonight at 6 p.m. for its annual spring game. Looking for what to keep an eye on when the Aggies face the Aggies? Below is some food for thought:

• Quarterback play: This really goes for one individual, that being junior college transfer Tyler Rogers, who came to NMSU this offseason from Arizona Western College and has gotten the majority of snaps this spring. Rogers seems to have a leg up on the quarterback competition entering fall camp, with the five incoming freshmen who could be in the mix yet to arrive on campus. Rogers has thrown the ball pretty well during spring drills and has also shown some ability to operate in the run game. During last Saturday’s scrimmage he threw some interceptions as well, but Rogers has looked OK overall. One thing is likely: not unlike many quarterbacks, he needs a quality supporting cast, from offensive line protection, to the running game taking off some of the burden, to wide receivers making plays.

• Marquette Washington: This is a wildcard right here, although I believe Washington could supply the Aggies with a necessity entering the season - that is, a big back that can pound the ball between the tackles. A redshirt freshman, Washington showed some potential in last Saturday’s scrimmage and has some size (5-10, 215). Xavier Hall, who's atop the depth chart, performed well last year as a hard runner as well. The team will also bring in two freshmen - Larry Rose and Royce Caldwell - and members of the coaching staff have spoken highly of both players' speed. If Hall can pick up where he left off, along with Washington providing some power and perhaps some big-play pop form a freshman, the Aggies might have something to work with here. Another likely scenario: the ground game will be critical this year for the Aggies, for one to balance the offense and for another to help protect a developing defense.

• Left tackle: The team began spring practices with Matt Ramondo here, although he’s been playing more guard as practices have gone on. Head coach Doug Martin referenced Houston Clemente (a former offensive lineman who moved to nose tackle this spring, and has since returned to offensive line) and Peter Foreman as having a chance at the left tackle spot. He also said Andy Cunningham (a junior who’s played guard and tackle over the years) and Thomas McGwire could be options if need be (both are currently slotted at right tackle). Either way, the Aggies are apparently looking for an answer at left tackle, a critical spot along an otherwise fairly solid unit during spring practices.

• Defense: This is an overall group in transition, and it will be interesting to see things unfold moving forward. From the front-seven to the secondary, new faces are just about everywhere, including at coordinator where Larry Coyer took over this offseason. Expect the team to run a 4-3 defense up front. Coyer’s track record speaks for itself - over 50 years coaching both in the college and professional ranks, he's been through the wars. With that being said, the venerable coach is will build this group from the ground up.

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