New Mexico State
COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25
HEAD COACH: Doug Martin, First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Gregg Brandon | DEF. COORDINATOR: David Elson
The Aggies will have a drastically different look on offense, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Last year’s team averaged only 18.7 points per game, and the rushing attack averaged 97.6 yards on 3.0 yards per carry.
First-year head coach Doug Martin hired Gregg Brandon as offensive coordinator, and a new attack will take shape. Last season, the Aggies were predictable — a drop-back passing team with a straight-ahead, between-the-tackles ground attack. Brandon will implement a spread offense and a quarterback-option system that will likely require a mobile quarterback.
Last year’s starter Andrew Manley wasn't an ideal fit — he can throw the deep ball but is not fleet afoot — and decided to transfer at the end of spring practice. Junior Travaughn Colwell and senior Andrew McDonald will battle for playing time, with Colwell the superior athlete and McDonald a savvy player who can do a number of things well.
The Aggies lack depth at running back after starter Germi Morrison and backup Brandon Betancourt. Morrison had his moments last year, with 90-plus yards against Utah State and Louisiana Tech and 123 against Texas State in the finale.
The offensive line welcomes back three starters — left tackle Davonte Wallace, center Valerian Ume-Ezeoke and right guard Andy Cunningham — but has little depth.
Wide receiver Austin Franklin is the offense’s true home run hitter, catching 74 balls for 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
The defense has some ability, although the Aggies are learning a new system and could be vulnerable against top competition while playing an Independent schedule.
The Aggies will run a 3-4 defense and a one-gap system up front with their defensive line. The likes of Matt Ramondo (a transfer from Michigan State) and Willie Mobley (a sixth-year senior transfer Arizona) are seldom seen at New Mexico State — BCS-caliber talents along the defensive front.
While the Aggies will run a 3-4 in name, in many ways it appears to be a 4-3 in function. One outside linebacker (either Kalei Auelua or Stephen Meredith) will be used essentially as a standup defensive end — deployed either as a pass-rusher or edge-setter in the run game. The team’s other outside linebacker, Trashaun Nixon, will be used in multiple ways, dropping into coverage and also as a top pass-rusher.
In the secondary, the Aggies bring back talent and experience and will implement more zone coverage in 2013.
Punter Cayle Chapman-Brown was one of the team’s top players last year and appeared to be back in full form this spring. Amazingly, New Mexico State attempted only six field goals (making two) in all of 2012. Maxwell Johnson, who went 0-of-2 but made all 11 of his PATs, will be the placekicker. Here’s another hard-to-believe stat: The Aggies averaged only 1.3 yards per punt return last year.
These Aggies should be improved in 2013, if for no other reason than they’ll have a more effective gameplan offensively. While there is talent on defense, a new scheme is in place on that side of the ball as well, and there could be growing pains. Martin has brought in a breath of fresh air and a positive outlook since taking over in February.
After the implosion of the WAC, New Mexico State will play as an Independent in 2013 before moving to the Sun Belt (for its second stint in the league) in 2014. The schedule features four games against BCS conference opponents plus tough dates against San Diego State, UL Lafayette and Rice. It’s hard to find more than two wins for the Aggies.