Month: April 2013

Former Aggies catch on with NFL teams

For the third season in a row, the NMSU secondary has produced another NFL player. This time is was Jeremy Harris, who is heading to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the second pick in the seventh round of last weekend’s draft. There he’ll be reunited with former NMSU coaches DeWayne Walker and Mike Rutenberg and hopefully blossom into an excellent pro.

A native of Los Angeles, Harris played two seasons with NMSU after transferring from junior college. In 2011 as a junior, he chipped in 27 tackles, two pass breakups, and two passes defended. In the 2012 season opener against Sacramento State, Harris grabbed his first career interception. He ended his senior season with 56 tackles, 10 pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.

Additionally, wide receiver Kemonte Bateman found a home with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent. Bateman, also an LA area native, transferred from junior college before the 2011 season and ended up with 26 catches for 360 yards and three touchdowns. In 2012, Bateman recorded 50 catches for 707 yards and five touchdowns.

Congrats to both Harris and Bateman in their NFL endeavours! Best wishes to them both.

“This is a true blessing to be drafted by Jacksonville. This just proves that hard work pays off in the end. To be going to Jacksonville and play for my former coach in college is the perfect situation for me. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

~Harris

“I’m very humbled and blessed to be able to continue my football career. This is a great opportunity and I look forward to being a member of the Broncos.”

~Bateman

Doug Martin – the new face of Aggie football

Another new NMSU football coach. Yawn.

Not so fast! This time, we might actually have someone that knows what he’s doing. Doug Martin, who was named  head coach on February 1st, brings a wealth of experience as an offensive coordinator and a head coach. He was quoted as saying at the time he was hired, “I think there is unlimited potential in this program and in this city and I look forward to building this football program to be part of the City of Las Cruces.”

The phrase “unlimited potential” and Aggie football don’t often go hand-in-hand, but we’ve got some good building blocks in place to be successful in the coming years. After spending 2013 as an NCAA Independent, we’ll be heading to the Sun Belt Conference for football in 2014. Martin’s repeatedly stated that the 2013 schedule is not too much for the Aggies, and he’s been spending the spring not only teaching his new philosophies, but also helping the team become mentally and physically tough.

Martin, who spent 2011 at NMSU before a brief, one-year stint as OC at Boston College, transformed the Aggie offense in his one year at the helm. It was largely his play-calling that helped NMSU score early and often in games. Fans can expect to see plenty more of this under Martin and offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon. Martin was formerly the head coach at Kent State (2004-2010), while Brandon was the coach at MAC rival Bowling Green (2003-2008), so they know each other well.

Brandon’s hiring was impressive, largely because he didn’t have to be coaxed away from Wyoming, where he spent the previous two seasons. Instead, Brandon called Martin, looking for an opportunity to fill the OC position in Las Cruces. Martin later remarked that Brandon was one of only two or three coordinators that he could trust to run the up-tempo spread offense. Brandon comes from the coaching tree of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who hired him at Bowling Green in 2001. Meyer is considered to be the father of the modern-day spread offense.

Martin has also brought in a former Kent State colleague, Zane Vance, to coach the inside linebackers, while retaining Will Martin as outside linebackers coach. Defensive coordinator Dave Elson, who was hired by previous coach DeWayne Walker, has returned to coach the defense as well as the secondary. A new strength and conditioning coach, Don Decker, joins Virgil Knight as coordinators of the nutrition and workout systems. Two of Walker’s other hires, wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator R. Todd Littlejohn and running backs coach Shaun Johnson, have returned to the sidelines for 2013.

One thing that distinguishes Martin from Walker is the difference in their recruiting philosophies. Walker, who had ties to the L.A. area from his time at UCLA, recruited numerous junior college and high school players from California, and few from other areas. Martin wants to move back to the high school ranks as much as possible. Despite the return of Coach Littlejohn as recruiting coordinator, Martin wants to branch out more into the high school system and away from the junior college ranks. Compare Walker’s 2012 recruiting class to Martin’s first in 2013: Walker signed 13 JUCO players and eight high schoolers, while Martin signed 16 high schoolers and three JC’ers.

To that end, Martin has been mining the fertile grounds of high school football in Texas, as well as California, Colorado, and Arizona. His main points of emphasis will be the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, the Phoenix area, Houston, El Paso, and even here in New Mexico.

However, the sparsely-populated state of New Mexico doesn’t have a sterling or cemented reputation as a producer of top gridiron talent. Therefore, Martin wants to establish a more comprehensive walk-on program for in-state kids with Division I potential. Part of his philosophy for Las Cruces to “take ownership” of the program is because a lot of New Mexicans aren’t listed on the roster. If Martin can change that and encourage fans to show up to Aggie Memorial Stadium, we’ll be on our way! That would truly be a home run.

As a current student, I see SO much apathy towards NMSU football. No one shows up to the games, and too often our team is the punchline to every joke. Honestly, we can’t expect our team to improve and reach a bowl if we’re constantly staying at home on Saturday afternoons instead of going to the games. We’ll get there eventually, but only if the fans are willing to support the program. The onus is on the fans and students to believe in what Coach Martin and his staff are doing. I’m in…are you?

NMSU’s spring quarterback derby

As NMSU prepares to identify a starting quarterback for new OC Gregg Brandon’s spread offense, several candidates jump out at me.

Last year’s starter, Andrew Manley, returns for his junior season, but considering his lack of mobility, he’s not the best choice to run Brandon’s offense. Despite Coach Doug Martin’s sterling reputation as a developer of quarterbacks, Manley doesn’t seem to have the intangibles to keep the offense humming. He threw 11 interceptions in 2012 and looked lost in certain games.

Senior Andrew McDonald is a dual-threat QB who could run the spread well. He threw only three passes in 2012, but played very well for two years at Santa Ana College in California, setting a school record for touchdown passes in 2011. Don’t count him out in this competition.

Junior Travaughn Colwell was misused as a Wildcat-style QB last year, but will have a chance to win the starting job in the spring. The 6’3″, 190-pound Colwell has the smarts, athleticism, and work ethic to give this offense the spark it needs. The only question mark is his slight frame; he might not be able to absorb all the hits as the starting quarterback.

Grayshirt freshman King Davis III, from the Dallas area, is similar to Colwell in his build and skill set and could be a dynamic player in a year or two. His inexperience means that he’ll probably run the scout team this year.

If I were Coach Martin or Coach Brandon, I’d evaluate all four candidates very carefully. Since they’re already giving them equal reps in spring ball, the coaches should keep tabs on all four and give the job to the most confident, athletic player. In my opinion, if he can step up and be a team leader, this is Colwell’s job to lose (although in terms of seniority, McDonald should be the starter). He’s played well in his first two years, and he can still be a better player than he is. Originally recruited from Manvel High School in Texas, Colwell has drawn positive assessments from coaches regarding his work ethic and competitive nature. He gives the Aggies a nucleus to build an offense around. Considering the Aggies’ talent and depth at the receiver position, the coaches need to hand the offense’s keys to the most gifted player. Regardless, this will be a fun competition to watch over the spring and summer.

The Wire – season 2

After a critically-acclaimed and groundbreaking first season, HBO’s The Wire returned to TV, this time focusing on the ports and harbors of Baltimore.

After the Barksdale drug and murder case is forcibly closed by Acting Commissioner Burrell and Colonel Rawls at the close of season one, the detail goes their separate ways. McNulty is demoted to harbor patrol, Greggs is assigned to desk duty, Daniels is sent to the police archives downtown, and Prez is re-assigned to the suburbs. Carver, who has been promoted to sergeant, is sent to the southeastern district, commanded by Major Stan Valchek.

Valchek has a suspicion towards Frank Sobotka, the president of the local dockworkers’ union, who appears to have more money than he should. The docks are in disrepair and work is scarce, but Sobotka continues to thrive financially. After a dozen dead women are found in a container on the docks, Valchek assembles a detail consisting of Detectives Bunk Moreland and Lester Freamon, as well as the officer who discovered the dead girls, Beadie Russell. The case begins as a straight-forward drug and murder investigation, but spins out from there as more and more is discovered through subpoenaed wiretaps.

Back on the street, Stringer Bell continues to run the Barksdale empire while Avon and D’Angelo face prison sentences. Enforcers Bodie and Poot remain on the corners, while hitman and stickup artist Omar continues to rob the dealers and hoppers throughout the city. Proposition Joe, a more soft-spoken, less violent drug lord, runs the east side ring with help from his nephew Cheese.

Over the course of the season, Frank Sobotka’s nephew Nick looks for more income due to the lack of work on the docks. Nick’s cousin and Frank’s son, Ziggy, is an immature, troubled dockworker who joins Nick in a search for work. They get entangled in a web of drugs and stolen money on the east side while trying to scrape together enough cash to get by.

Frank, looking to help his union get consistent work, joins forces with a group of international criminals in an attempt to reinvigorate business. The criminals are led by a mysterious figure known as “the Greek”, who brings drugs, money, women, and stolen goods into the port via his henchmen Glekas, Spiros, Eton, and Sergei.

If you enjoyed season one of The Wire, season two won’t disappoint. I would suggest that you watch the seasons in chronological order, otherwise it might be quite confusing at times. It’s different in certain parts, due to more of a focus on blue-collar, primarily white dockworkers, which is in line with the demographics of Southeast Baltimore (a primarily white section of a majority black city). However, the new characters, especially the Greek and his organization, are very intriguing. They have the same calculating business sense that Stringer Bell does, but in a different context of criminal activity.

As we’ve grown to expect from The Wire, the second season contains unexpected twists, outstanding acting and writing, an all-too-real sense of inner-city issues, and a number of new characters thrown into the urban environment of Baltimore. I was slightly disappointed with some parts of the plot; for example, drug addict/confidential informant Bubbles is rarely featured in this season – a shame considering Andre Royo’s acting talent.

But the appeal of the new plotline and the characters that come with it far overshadows any minor complaints about season two. It’s not as much of a “hood story” as season one was, but it will still satisfy fans looking for a continuation of themes from the highly-praised first season. I feel like season two improves upon repeat viewing, once you take the time to analyze it critically. David Simon has handcrafted a wonderful series – one that is second to none among crime dramas.

Created by David Simon

Executive Producers — David Simon and Robert F. Colesberry

Co-Executive Producer — Nina Kostroff Noble

Co-Producer — Karen L. Thorson

Story Editors — Ed Burns and George Pelecanos

Rated TV-MA

Starring Dominic West, John Doman, Frankie Faison, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Deirdre Lovejoy, Wood Harris, Wendell Pierce, Idris Elba, Amy Ryan, Larry Gilliard Jr., Andre Royo, Chris Bauer, Domenick Lombardozzi, Seth Gilliam, James Ransone, Pablo Schreiber, Jim True-Frost, Michael Kenneth Williams, Tray Chaney, Robert F. Chew, Delaney Williams, J.D. Williams, Al Brown, Paul Ben-Victor, Bill Raymond, Lev Goren, Leo Fitzpatrick, Method Man, Ted Feldman, Chris Ashworth, Charley Scalies, Michael Potts

“The best show on television. Period.” —The San Francisco Chronicle