New Mexico State
COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2011 PRESEASON TOP 25
HEAD COACH: DeWayne Walker, 9-29 (3 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jerry McManus | DEF. COORDINATOR: David Elson
New Mexico State aiming for bowl eligibility in 2012 with kinder schedule in new-look WAC.
The Aggie offense was much improved last season, in large part because of Doug Martin, the team’s first-year coordinator. Martin was a fine coach — experienced, creative and resourceful — who worked to his players’ strengths and switched offensive systems early in the season when injuries hit and personnel shifted. Alas, he departed for the greener pastures of Boston College, and was replaced by Jerry McManus.
The system itself shouldn’t change — McManus was a longtime assistant under Martin at East Carolina and Kent State. The hire made sense from a continuity standpoint, but McManus’ skills as an offensive coordinator won’t truly be
tested until the fall.
From a personnel standpoint, things will be different as well. The team’s two top playmakers a season ago — running back Kenny Turner and wide receiver Taveon Rogers — have to be replaced, as will the leadership of quarterback Matt Christian, wide receiver Todd Lee, and three starters on the offensive line.
Quarterback Andrew Manley is penciled in atop the depth chart. He was the starter at the beginning of the 2011 season but suffered a torn ACL in Week 3. A drop-back passer with a big arm, Manley has proven he can deliver the ball downfield — if provided time and protection.
The Aggies would like to run the ball more effectively, and through recruiting added some impact players at tight end, running back and on the offensive line. The strength of the line is at the all-important left tackle spot, held down by junior Davonte Wallace, an All-WAC-caliber player.
Former Western Kentucky head coach David Elson is now in charge of the Aggie defense and appears to be a good addition. He’s engaging, energetic and enthusiastic. He is charged with turning around a unit that ranked 112th in the nation in both total defense and scoring defense.
The strength of the defense could be flipped from a season ago. The secondary will feature four new starters, while the front seven brings back some experience and will be bolstered by the arrival of several transfers.
The linebacking corps returns three experienced players and will add junior college transfer Trashaun Nixon, who should play meaningful snaps right away. Up front, Donte Savage, academically ineligible in 2011, stood out during spring practices and has All-WAC potential. Kalvin Cruz headlines a handful of junior college transfers who should contribute on the defensive line.
The Aggies underperformed in this area a season ago. After having a solid 2010 campaign, placekicker Tyler Stampler had a bad year in 2011, hitting on 7-of-12 field goals. The hope is that such a performance was an anomaly, and that Stampler will regain his old form. Punter Cayle Chapman-Brown was brought in as a junior college transfer. The team will also have to replace Rogers, who was a first-class kickoff return man.
The Aggies took a big step forward a season ago. They were a much more competitive team and could have won more than four games with a few breaks. It’s critical that NMSU continues to move forward under coach DeWayne Walker, who’s entering his fourth year at the school.
If the Aggies improve as much this year as they did last year, bowl-eligibility isn’t out of the question thanks to a much kinder schedule in a new-look WAC that no longer includes Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada.