Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Takeaways, observations from 2014 Aggie spring football game

(Quarterback Tyler Rogers, handing the ball to Xavier Hall, had a strong showing running the Aggie offense during Saturday's Aggie spring game/Photo by Carlos Javier Sanchez)

The New Mexico State Aggies put on a relatively encouraging performance on Saturday during their annual spring football game.

Yes, relative to Aggie football and relative to the fact it's the Aggie offense facing the Aggie defense. Always tough to truly evaluate during a spring contest. But there were also some true bright spots to take away from the evening.

The first was quarterback Tyler Rogers, who really had an exceptional performance. Rogers showed ability to throw the ball short, intermediate and deep. The Arizona Western College transfer was really on target - he showed a quick release and was accurate in the passing game. Player statistics weren't provided following the contest, although Rogers' would have been quite impressive in any capacity. It was a strong showing for the soon-to-be sophomore.

Overall, the Aggie passing attack looked good and I liked the gameplan from the offense - the team used plenty of four and five wide receiver sets and spread the ball to many targets: Jerrel Brown, Greg Hogan, Jordan Bergstrom, Josh Bowen, Adam Shapiro and Teldrick Morgan were all involved in the act. All made quality catches, while Morgan - a player the coaching staff believes has ability - showed good speed and nice moves.

This facet of the game was my No. 1 takeaway on the evening.


Of course, there were portions of the offense I don't believe were entirely revealed during the contest.

I would expect the Aggies to implement more quarterback-run game - some option and bootlegs - and throw the ball downfield a bit more as well.

There were also very few tight end sets in the formation. Andy Dean, who was listed atop the spring depth chart, is currently out with an ankle injury. Anthony Joyner is next in line at the position.

At running back, the team utilized Xavier Hall and Terrance Yelder. Both looked good when given the opportunity. Yelder was somewhat of a surprise, a transfer from Dickenson State University.

One player who didn't carry the ball on the evening - one that I was actually looking forward to seeing - was redshirt freshman Marquette Washington, who was out due to a concussion suffered leading up to Saturday's scrimmage.


Lets start out with the positive regarding the Aggie defense: there will be a plan and structure around the unit this year. Longtime coordinator Larry Coyer will have his group prepared each week, and that alone is a good step forward.

This should be no surprise, however. Coyer is a veteran coach - over 50 years on NFL and collegiate sidelines - who's been through the wars and certainly knows what's in front of him.

The defense also did some good things on Saturday. I thought members of the secondary made some plays. Cornerback Kedeem Thomas-Davis was active, with an interception and a big hit. Kawe Johnson, a playmaker last year, had an interception and a big hit of his own. Travaughn Colwell laid some shots from his free safety position, and Winston Rose played well. The team played a bit more zone in the defensive backfield than man-to-man coverage. I do think this position group's come a long way.

But it goes without being said there are inexperienced players in the secondary and the unit could very well get younger - there are freshmen coming in at the secondary spot, and perhaps one of the incoming freshmen quarterbacks will also get a look in the defensive backfield if things don't pan out at QB. There's also converted quarterbacks such as Colwell and King Davis III (cornerback) that were getting their first looks in the secondary this spring.

Point being, this is a group that could have its growing pains - particularly early in the season - in defending the pass. Again, on Saturday evening, NMSU's offense had a lot of success throwing the ball.

I think things are somewhat similar on the defensive front-seven, where the team lost some key players this offseason - Trashaun Nixon, Bryan Bonilla, Willie Mobley and Matt Ramondo (who is currently a backup at offensive guard). When facing run-heavy teams, the Aggies could face some challenges as well, simply because the front-four will be breaking in new parts as well.

Two players that stood out on the defensive front-seven on Saturday night: defensive end Clint Barnard and middle linebacker Rodney Butler.


Back to Rogers, who got rid of the ball very quickly on Saturday, which in turn allowed him to avoid getting pressured and sacked much, if at all. I think this a byproduct of the Aggie scheme - again, four and five receiver sets, a quick passing game in place. With that being said, Rogers really didn't face a pass rush either, so it'll be interesting seeing him under that sort of duress once the season begins.

Following the contest, offensive line coach Steve Marshall said the Aggies are working Houston Clemente and Peter Foreman at left tackle. The team figures to play Andy Cunningham and Thomas McGwire at the right tackle spot.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

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