New Mexico State Aggies 2016 Preview and Prediction

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25

#120 New Mexico State Aggies

NATIONAL FORECAST

#120

Sun Belt PREDICTION

#9

HEAD COACH: Doug Martin, 7-29 (3 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Doug Martin | DEF. COORDINATOR: Frank Spaziani

Doug Martin has just seven wins in his three seasons at New Mexico State, but the Aggies should be able to improve on 2015's four victories. Offense has been Martin's calling card and even with just four starters returning on that side of the ball don't be surprised if NMSU has one of the more productive attacks in the Sun Belt. The defense has a new coordinator calling the shots and plenty of room for improvement.

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Previewing New Mexico State’s Offense for 2016


New Mexico State’s offense improved across the board in 2015 as head coach Doug Martin assumed the play-calling duties. The Aggies were fifth in scoring in the Sun Belt Conference at 28.6 points per game, eclipsing 30 points six times after reaching 30 points just three times in 2014. The offense revolves around junior running back Larry Rose III, who finished seventh in the country in rushing yards per game (137.6) to go with 14 touchdowns. The Texas native topped the 200-yard mark three times last season. While the offense will certainly feature Rose, NMSU added depth in the offensive backfield with San Jose State transfer King Burke.

NMSU returns some experience on the offensive line, but the Aggies will need to settle on a quarterback. Junior Tyler Rogers passed for 966 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions after throwing 23 interceptions in 2014. Rogers’ season ended with a broken left thumb (non-throwing) in the fourth game of the season. He will have competition this fall, most notably from Southern Miss graduate transfer Tyler Matthews, a former four-star recruit who originally signed with TCU in 2012. 

Teldrick Morgan left the program after leading the Aggies in receptions the past two seasons. The Aggies’ leading returning receiver is Tyrian Taylor, a former junior college transfer who had 691 receiving yards last season. NMSU added three more junior college receivers in February.

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Previewing New Mexico State’s Defense for 2016


Martin hired his former boss, Frank Spaziani, to lead the Aggies defense in 2015. Martin was the offensive coordinator under Spaziani in 2012 at Boston College. Spaziani inherits a unit that allowed 45.0 points and 522.3 yards per game, both among the worst in the nation last season. 

The strength of the Aggies defense remains its linebackers, led by senior Rodney Butler (weak side), junior Derek Ibekwe (middle) and sophomore Terrill Hanks, who was third on the team with 81 tackles and had three interceptions as a true freshman.

The Aggies have been an undersized unit up front and will be inexperienced in the secondary, where Spaziani implements a Cover-4 scheme. NMSU signed five interior defensive linemen and six defensive backs in February to help address a glaring need.

NMSU proved to be adept at takeaways last year with 12 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries.

Spaziani has his work cut out for him, but if he can turn the Aggies from bad to mediocre on defense in 2016, NMSU should improve on its three wins from a year ago.

Related: Athlon's 2016 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128

Previewing New Mexico State’s Specialists for 2016


There has not been much in the way of returns in recent years — NMSU averaged just 16.7 yards per kickoff return and 8.3 yards per punt return in 2015 — but the Aggies have addressed their kicking game. Freshman placekicker Parker Davidson was 10-of-17 on field goals last year with three kicks over 40 yards. NMSU signed punter Payton Theisler in February to address what was an obvious weakness.

Final Analysis
 
New Mexico State has just two years remaining in the Sun Belt Conference before an unknown football future. Martin heads into his fourth year at NMSU with his most talented team, led by a core group of juniors that has increased the competitiveness of the program. NMSU lost three games in 2015 by a touchdown or less. To take another step forward in the Sun Belt, the Aggies will need better quarterback play to complement Rose on offense and for the defense to make significant improvement under Spaziani’s watch. A bowl game is probably still out of reach, but New Mexico State could flirt with a .500 record in league play.