Saturday, March 29, 2014

Aggies 2014 schedule: a more manageable lineup

The New Mexico State Aggie football team will enter the 2014 season with something they didn’t have at their fingertips last year: on paper, a manageable schedule.

Last year’s independent docket featured the likes of power programs Texas, UCLA, Minnesota and Boston College; quality mid-majors Rice, San Diego State and Louisiana-Lafayette; and teams such as Florida Atlantic and Idaho (who the Aggies beat in 2013) that weren’t pushovers for NMSU.

Such a slate’s been replaced by a 2014 schedule comprised of newly-established Sun Belt schools (Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Texas State and Idaho); some Sun Belt mainstays (Troy, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas State); an FCS school (Cal Poly); typical rivals UTEP and New Mexico; and one money big-money game at LSU.

At a glance, this is a much more realistic lineup most weeks.

Not that there aren’t challenges. This is not the same Sun Belt Conference Aggie fans will remember prior to NMSU’s eight-year stay in the Western Athletic Conference. Lafayette beat the Aggies last year, then beat Tulane in a bowl game. Arkansas State has been a good team in recent years, and was a postseason winner in 2014 as well.

Seven of the Sun Belt’s eight teams last season were bowl eligible - the lone team that wasn’t was an 0-12 Georgia State team, which the Aggies will face in Week 2 of the season in Atlanta, Ga. UTEP will be played in the Sun Bowl, while UNM will come to Las Cruces. While the Aggies beat Idaho last year, this year’s affair will take place in the Pacific Northwest, where NMSU rarely has an easy go of it.

And Cal Poly? This is not a poor Football Championship Subdivision program, rather one that’s 28-18 over the past four years and operates an effective rushing offense (ranking No. 1 in the FCS last year with 308.8 rushing yards per game). The Aggies will host the Mustangs in Week 1 of the season.

2014 Aggie football schedule
Aug. 28 Cal Poly
Sept. 6 at Georgia State*
Sept. 13 at UTEP
Sept. 20 New Mexico
Sept. 27 at LSU
Oct. 4 Georgia Southern*
Oct. 11 at Troy*
Oct. 18 at Idaho*
Oct. 25 Bye
Nov. 1 Texas State*
Nov. 8 Lafayette*
Nov. 15 Bye
Nov. 22 UL-Monroe*
Nov. 29 at Arkansas State*
* Sun Belt Conference game

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Aggie football question: can quality coordinators develop young personnel?

(Larry Coyer was brought in to help build the Aggie defense/Photo by Carlos Javier Sanchez)

While the New Mexico State football team took the spring practice field last week - and then took this week off for spring break - we look at the program's offensive and defensive coordinators, and what type of impact they can have on this particular team, and program.

Lets start out by saying, it's our belief the Aggies have two quality coaches in these spots: Gregg Brandon, who coordinates the offense, is experienced, and showed his capabilities last season, as the team's offense grew and improved over the course of the year. As for first-year defensive coordinator Larry Coyer, his track record and resume - nearly five decades coaching in the college and NFL ranks - speak for themselves.

With that, it appears the Aggies are on a certain track of their own. Brandon (who makes $180,000 per season) and Coyer (who earns $150,000 annually) were big investments for a program that has rarely if ever paid its coordinators that type of money. Not saying that these aren't good investments - having quality people at these two key coaching positions are essential in building a team. And it also shows the emphasis and direction the program is at least trying to move in.

Simply take a look at this past year's reruiting class, where the team signed 23 of a possible 25 players that will be true freshmen in 2014. While that is currently a youthful group, it's also a key one moving forward - these players could very well be the team's foundation in two, three and four years down the road.

And we've also said this before: 2014 could very well be an experimental season for Aggie football. Again, it will be a young team, with questions currently at various positions on the spring depth chart - quarterback, running back, a big-play wide receiver and across the defense.

But with quality coaching, the hope is that quality player development will follow. Perhaps the team will show improvement, and take steps forward. In actuality, seeing such rays of hope might be all fans and followers need at this point anyway.

We won't necessarily call it a surefire plan. But it appears to be a key ingredient nonetheless. And something to keep an eye on leading up to and throughout the 2014 season.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

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.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Friday, March 21, 2014

VIDEO: Teddy and Brook Show (2/21)

We recap the Aggies 73-69 NCAA Tournament overtime to loss to San Diego State. In case you missed our preview of the game, click here. Recap video below in this post:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

VIDEOS: Aggies talk NCAA Tournament, first-round foe San Diego State

Head coach Marvin Menzies, guard Daniel Mullings and big man Tshilidzi Nephawe talk NCAA Tournament opponent San Diego State prior to departing for Spokane, Wash. on Tuesday morning:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Aggie basketball back in NCAAs: ticket info, recent story links

The New Mexico State men's basketball program returns to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years, following the Aggies 77-55 win over Idaho on Saturday in the WAC Tournament championship.

The Aggies will get San Diego State in the tournament's opening round, a Thursday game tentatively scheduled for 7:57 p.m. on Thursday night in Spokane, Wash.

Below is ticket information pertaining to the NCAA game from NMSU athletics, for those interested in attending:

New Mexico State NCAA Tournament tickets are available Monday at 8 a.m. at the Pan American Center Ticket office. The ticket office will be open exclusively to season tickets holders and Aggie Athletic Club members from 8 a.m. to noon on Monday. After noon, all tickets will be available for reservation. For tickets, visit the Pan American Center ticket office or call 575-646-1420.

Here is some recent coverage of the Aggies WAC Tournament championship and upcoming game against the Aztecs:

Members of Aggie coaching staff have ties to San Diego State basketball

Aggies draw Aztecs in opening round of NCAA Tournament (with videos)

Aggies win WAC Tournament championship for third-straight season (with videos)

Of course, follow NMSU basketball beat writer Jason Groves' blog here for the latest news and analysis on the team.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

VIDEOS: Aggie basketball prepares for 2014 WAC Tournament

Head coach Marvin Menzies, center Sim Bhullar and guard Daniel Mullings talk postseason basketball on Tuesday, prior to leaving for Las Vegas, Nev.:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Former Aggie, Canadian Football League quarterback kicks off coaching career

(Former Aggie and CFL standout Buck Pierce/Photo by the Canadian Press)

Former New Mexico State Aggie and Canadian Football League star Buck Pierce will now shift his sights to the next step in his football career: coaching professionally.

Pierce, who announced his retirement from the CFL earlier this week, was named running backs coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday.

Pierce played nine seasons with Winnipeg and the B.C. Lions, finishing with 15,289 passing yards, 76 touchdowns and 1,200 completions in 130 games played. He won a Grey Cup championship with B.C. in 2006 and led Winnipeg to the 2011 CFL championship game.

Pierce spent five seasons in B.C., signed with Winnipeg as a free agent in 2010, before being traded back to the Lions in September, 2013. In a press release sent out by Winnipeg on Friday, the team called Pierce a "fan favorite" and "one of the most popular players to don a Bomber uniform over the past decade."

Prior to his CFL tenure Pierce was a popular player for New Mexico State, taking the field for the team from 2001-04. Pierce threw 30 touchdowns during that time (compared to 12 interceptions) while completing 66 percent of his passes (397 of 599) for 4,927 yards. He also ran for 734 yards and three touchdowns during his NMSU career.

Under head coach Tony Samuel, the Aggies held a 20-27 record during that four-year period, and put up a 7-5 mark in 2002.

In a message via his personal Twitter account, Pierce said he's owned a house in Las Cruces since 2007, and returns to the area during the CFL's offseason.

"Deciding not to play anymore was a difficult decision, but having the opportunity to re-join the Bombers in a coaching role was really a perfect fit," Pierce said in the team's press release. "I am thrilled they wanted me to be a part of what I believe will be a great thing here in Winnipeg. I said when I was traded that I hoped one day I would be back in some capacity, and today is a really special day for my family and me."

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

Thursday, March 6, 2014

VIDEO: Teddy and Brook Show (3/6)

We give our take on the New Mexico State-Utah Valley altercation and discuss the upcoming high school basketball tournaments:

Monday, March 3, 2014

State Basketball Championships: First-round matchups

A list of first-round games in the 2014 New Mexico State Basketball Championships:

All games on Saturday
Class 5A
First round
At home sites

No. 16 Cibola at No. 1 Valley, 7 p.m.
No. 15 Rio Rancho at No. 2 Sandia, 5 p.m.
No. 14 Alamogordo at No. 3 Atrisco Heritage, 7 p.m.
No. 13 West Mesa at No. 4 Volcano Vista, 7 p.m.
No. 12 Gadsden at No. 5 Hobbs, 6 p.m.
No. 11 Carlsbad at No. 6 Cleveland, 5 p.m.
No. 10 Las Cruces at No. 7 Eldorado, 5 p.m.
No. 9 Highland at No. 8 Mayfield, 7 p.m.
Class 4A
First round
At home sites

No. 16 Valencia at No. 1 Roswell, 5 p.m.
No. 15 Capital at No. 2 Los Lunas, 7 p.m.
No. 14 Belen at No. 3 St. Pius, 5 p.m.
No. 13 Piedra Vista at No. 4 Centennial, 3 p.m.
No. 12 Artesia at No. 5 Kirtland Central, 5 p.m.
No. 11 Grants at No. 6 Goddard, 3 p.m.
No. 10 Farmington at No. 7 Albuquerque Academy, 6 p.m.
No. 9 Española Valley at No. 8 Gallup, 7 p.m.
Class 3A
First round
At home sites

No. 16 Raton at No. 1 Raton, 5 p.m.
No. 15 Robertson at No. 2 St. Michael's, 6 p.m.
No. 14 Santa Fe Indian at No. 3 Silver, 1 p.m.
No. 13 Thoreau at No. 4 West Las Vegas, 7 p.m.
No. 12 Ruidoso at No. 5 Taos, 6 p.m.
No. 11 Pojoaque Valley at No. 6 Lovington, 6 p.m.
No. 10 Shiprock at No. 7 Sandia Prep, 5 p.m.
No. 9 Portales at No. 8 Wingate, 2 p.m.
Class 2A
First round
At home sites

No. 16 Eunice at No. 1 Laguna Acoma, 2 p.m.
No. 15 Bosque at No. 2 Dexter, 4 p.m.
No. 14 Dulce at No. 3 Clayton, 6 p.m.
No. 13 Peñasco at No. 4 Texico, 6 p.m.
No. 12 Crownpoint at No. 5 Santa Fe Prep, 6 p.m.
No. 11 Mora at No. 6 Mesilla Valley Christian, 2 p.m.
No. 10 Santa Rosa at No. 7 Lordsburg, 4 p.m.
No. 9 Tularosa at No. 8 Tohatchi
Class 1A
First round
At home sites

No. 16 Tse Yi Gai at No. 1 Cliff, 6 p.m.
No. 15 Shiprock at No. 2 Magdalena, 4 p.m.
No. 14 Jemez Valley at No. 3 Hagerman, 3 p.m.
No. 13 Capitan at No. 4 Dora, 6 p.m.
No. 12 Floyd at No. 5 Escalante, 5 p.m.
No. 11 To'jajiilee at No. 6 Logan, 6 p.m.
No. 10 Fort Sumner at No. 7 Springer, 6 p.m.
No. 9 McCurdy at No. 8 Melrose, 6 p.m.

All games on Friday
Class 5A
First round
At home sites

No. 16 Oñate at No. 1 Clovis, 7 p.m.
No. 15 Rio Grande at No. 2 Cibola, 7 p.m.
No. 14 Sandia at No. 3 Mayfield, 6 p.m.
No. 13 Rio Rancho at No. 4 Hobbs, 7 p.m.
No. 12 Gadsden at No. 5 Volcano Vista, 5:30 p.m.
No. 11 Las Cruces at No. 6 Eldorado, 7 p.m.
No. 10 Albuquerque High at No. 7 La Cueva, 6 p.m.
No. 9 Carlsbad at No. 8 Valley
Class 4A
First round
At home sites

No. 16 Kirtland Central at No. 1 Los Lunas, 6 p.m.
No. 15 Grants at No. 2 Santa Fe, 6 p.m.
No. 14 Los Alamos at No. 3 St. Pius, 6 p.m.
No. 13 Artesia at No. 4 Gallup, 6 p.m.
No. 12 Belen at No. 5 Española Valley, 7 p.m.
No. 11 Del Norte at No. 6 Valencia, 7 p.m.
No. 10 Centennial at No. 7 Roswell, 7 p.m.
No. 9 Miyamura at No. 8 Piedra Vista, 7 p.m.
Class 3A
First round
At home sites

No. 16 Taos at No. 1 Shiprock, 7 p.m.
No. 15 Socorro at No. 2 Lovington, 6 p.m.
No. 14 Santa Fe Indian at No. 3 Portales, 6 p.m.
No. 13 Wingate at No. 4 Hope Christian, 6 p.m.
No. 12 Thoreau at No. 5 West Las Vegas, 7 p.m.
No. 11 Raton at No. 6 Sandia Prep, 6 p.m.
No. 10 Pojoaque Valley at No. 7 St. Michael's, 7 p.m.
No. 9 Silver at No. 8 Robertson, 6 p.m.
Class 2A
First round
At home sites

No. 16 Santa Fe Prep at No. 1 Texico, 6 p.m.
No. 15 Loving at No. 2 Tularosa, 6 p.m.
No. 14 Tohatchi at No. 3 Mora, 6 p.m.
No. 13 Mesa Vista at No. 4 Navajo Prep, 6 p.m.
No. 12 Santa Rosa at No. 5 Laguna Acoma, 6 p.m.
No. 11 Zuni at No. 6 Hatch Valley, 7 p.m.
No. 10 Ramah at No. 7 Cuba, 6 p.m.
No. 9 Clayton at No. 8 Eunice, 5 p.m.
Class 1A
First round
At home sites

No. 16 Tse Yi Gai at No. 1 Tatum, 6 p.m.
No. 15 Capitan at No. 2 Cliff, 6 p.m.
No. 14 Cimarron at No. 3 Melros, 5 p.m.
No. 13 Fort Sumner at No. 4 Magdalena, 6 p.m.
No. 12 Mountainair at No. 5 Logan, 7 p.m.
No. 11 Hagerman at No. 6 Floyd, 6 p.m.
No. 10 McCurdy at No. 7 Springer, 6 p.m.
No. 9 Dora at No. 8 Jemez Valley, 5 p.m.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

New Mexico State releases 2014 college football schedule

New Mexico State's 2014 football schedule was officially released Saturday.

Certainly we'll have more analysis in the coming days, but the immediate reaction? That the first four games are of critical importance.

Cal Poly will not be a Football Championship Subdivision pushover, while Georgia State didn't win a single game last year.

UTEP and New Mexico are always games of monumental importance, for obvious reasons.

Yes, the Aggies will need to grab some wins early on.

The Aggies will need to get quality play on the offensive side of the ball right from the get-go, simply because they'll be breaking in a very young defense led by veteran coordinator Larry Coyer (who will be in his first season at NMSU). It's a youth movement across the board on the team, however, including at quarterback, where five freshman will be on the roster along with a junior college transfer Tyler Rogers (who has three years of eligibility remaining). This particular position - quarterback - will be one the team will need to solidify and get strong play from right off the bat in season.

Below, a look at the 2014 season schedule:

2014 Aggie football schedule
Aug. 28 Cal Poly
Sept. 6 at Georgia State*
Sept. 13 at UTEP
Sept. 20 New Mexico
Sept. 27 at LSU
Oct. 4 Georgia Southern*
Oct. 11 at Troy*
Oct. 18 at Idaho*
Oct. 25 Bye
Nov. 1 Texas State*
Nov. 8 Lafayette*
Nov. 15 Bye
Nov. 22 UL-Monroe*
Nov. 29 at Arkansas State*
* Sun Belt Conference game

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Content from Thursday's Aggie men's basketball altercation at Utah Valley

Jason Groves has been churning out content following the Aggie men's basketball team's brawl at Utah Valley on Thursday night.

Certainly not the way a club wants to make headlines - and national headlines no less. In any event, here's stories that have appeared in recent days at and in the daily paper. NMSU plays at California-Bakersfield tonight holding a 10-4 WAC record...

Basketball brawl puts Aggies in national spotlight

K.C. Ross-Miller, Renaldo Dixon suspended for involvement in Thursday night Aggie basketball brawl

ANALYSIS: Aggies must move forward without two rotation players

VIDEO: New Mexico State Athletics Director McKinley Boston addresses Aggie basketball post-game scuffle

Aggies lose game, then cool at Utah Valley

More coverage on Jason Groves' blog can be found here