I’d like to preface this by saying that I’m not a sports writer by any means, but here we go: looking ahead to 2012 for the NMSU Aggies’ football squad (on offense). Some people might think I’m crazy to be optimistic about this program, but I can see lots of bright spots for the future.
Well, here we are – entering DeWayne Walker’s fourth year as head coach. And boy, has he done a good job. He’s really turned around what used to be a program that expected to lose each week. But now, we’re competing and working really hard to improve. Walker was a secondary coach in the NFL for years and has also worked for Pete Carroll at USC and Karl Dorrell at UCLA, among others. So basically, Walker knows how to win, and he’s really helped change the culture here at NMSU. Sure, the fans still don’t show up in droves on Saturdays, but give it time. We’ll get there eventually.
From a personnel standpoint, we seem to be OK. Andrew Manley is back for his junior season at quarterback after tearing up his knee in the third game last season. Manley is more than capable to hang on to the starting job, but nevertheless, junior college transfer Andrew McDonald arrived on campus recently to push for the position.
At tailback, it will be tough to replace Kenny Turner, a real spark plug who left a year early for the NFL. But senior Robert Clay is a speedster who could win the starting job, provided that he has a solid spring. Junior college transfers Lavoris Powell and Akeelie Mustafa should also see lots of action this season.
We’re normally pretty good in the trenches, so I was surprised to see that the Aggies were second-worst in the WAC in sacks allowed. We’ve gotta replace three seniors from 2011, and depth is still a concern, but we’ve got some young talent ready to step in and play hard. I think that our offensive tackles will be especially good (all-conference pick Davonte Wallace and junior college transfer Alfred Sharp). We’ve also got two seniors at guard (Andrew Kersten and Maveu Heimuli) as well as another JUCO transfer, Dada Richards. Center Valerian Ume-Ezeoke could be an all-conference pick in the near future.
Hopefully, these guys can keep Manley on his feet.
I’ll be the first to admit that All-American Taveon Rogers will be very tough to replace, but we’ve still got talent left in senior Kemonte Bateman and speedy sophomore Austin Franklin. Coach Walker’s son, Kevan, recently transferred from Oregon State and is ready to make an impact. The Aggies have also got some young guys that will provide depth.
NMSU has a lot of depth here, led by seniors David Quiroga and Trevor Walls, sophomore Jackson KaKa, and junior college transfer Perris Scoggins. We should be fine with some solid possession receivers and good blockers.
After only one season in Las Cruces, veteran offensive coordinator Doug Martin left for a high-profile BCS team (Boston College). But Coach Walker quickly brought in Martin’s former colleague, Jerry McManus, to run virtually the same offensive system. This should mean that we can score points and compete again in the WAC. Additionally, O-line coach Jason Lenzmeier left to return to coach at his alma mater, so Walker hired relative newcomer Brad Bedell.