Month: April 2015

Players to watch

Before the incoming Aggie freshmen get here over the summer, there are several players who have stood out to me and have made valuable contributions in the spring. I love the overall work ethic of this team, and I know that Coach Martin has been greatly pleased with how they’ve responded to changes in the spring. It’s clear that they want to be coached!

Tyrian Taylor, WR (Junior)

tyrian_taylor_all_american

The early enrollee has been an outstanding addition, capping off a great spring with a 65-yard touchdown catch in the spring game. Taylor, originally from Orlando, Florida, came to NMSU fresh off the heels of a JUCO All-America season at Ellsworth Community College. “He has gotten better every day. He is learning a whole new offense and he was a little slow early on, but he has picked it up through the spring and he made plays today,” said Coach Martin after the spring game.

Tymon Locklin, WR (Freshman)

Tymon-Locklin-Clovis-North-09-26-13-300x180

The Aggies are deep at receiver, but don’t count out Locklin, an NMSU legacy with terrific bloodlines. His grandfather, father, and two uncles all played at NMSU and made it to the NFL. Locklin already has great size (6’1″, 185) and speed to go along with his football IQ. He had a 65-yard touchdown in the spring game.

Clayton Granch, TE (Junior)

4_3289407

NMSU was looking to bring in several tight ends on National Signing Day, and they got three, including Granch, a transfer from Long Beach City College who is already on campus. He had an excellent spring in Coach Martin’s offense, and he’s a physical player who can make tough catches. Granch also excels in the classroom; he was an Academic All-American at LBCC and is majoring in criminal justice at NMSU.

Anthony McMeans, OC (Junior)

4_3225479

McMeans, another early enrollee, had big cleats to fill at center following the graduation of four-year starter Valerian Ume-Ezeoke. But he’s impressed, with Coach Martin calling him the biggest surprise of the spring, and he’ll be the likely starter at center entering fall camp.

Will Clement, OLB (Redshirt Freshman)

4_988024

The Aggies had to play a number of true freshmen on defense last season, but Clement, a Houston product, wasn’t one of them. Now, with a redshirt year under his belt, the 6’3″ Clement looks to contribute in the fall. He pushed incumbent starter Dalton Herrington at SAM linebacker in the spring.

Jerrion Burton, CB (Sophomore)

IBLJTQLIXIGWAWZ.20130724152529

Burton was expected to contribute more than he did last year, but he was playing in an unfamiliar scheme. Now he’s playing in a tweaked defensive system, and has drawn the praise of coaches. “This defense fits him…he’s used to playing quarters like we are playing with a man emphasis. It’s in his background,” said cornerbacks coach Todd Littlejohn.

Jaden Wright, S (Sophomore)

OVKUWSGOVICPMFX.20140509010845

Wright played a safety/linebacker hybrid position last year despite being undersized. He showed flashes, finishing strong down the stretch despite missing three games. Wright has shown a nose for the ball, making a diving interception in the spring game while playing at safety full-time.

Malik Demby, S (Redshirt Freshman)

doc5217c860ccd79543465411

Like Clement, Demby redshirted last season, but it wasn’t an easy decision for coaches to make. Demby, originally from Chino, California, is a hard worker who can bring the hammer with his physical instincts. He’ll be in line to play in a backup role at safety, and could also participate on special teams.

Advertisements

Spring game recap

The New Mexico State Aggies had their annual spring game earlier today (Saturday, April 25th) at Aggie Memorial Stadium. It was the first chance for the Aggies to show the public what they’ve accomplished during spring practice.

My verdict? It wasn’t too bad, as both the offense (white team) and defense (crimson team) responded back and forth throughout the day, with the offense ultimately prevailing, 42-40. The defense could get points by recording sacks, interceptions, or forcing three-and-outs.

First off, I liked how the offense looked. There are some new wrinkles in the playbook, since head coach Doug Martin is calling the plays himself this year. There’s a lot more room for receivers to get open and we’re using a lot more of the field. We’re also utilizing tight ends a lot more and are frequently making play-action calls out of the backfield to the running backs. The play-calling was definitely very vanilla, as the coaches don’t want to give too much away yet, but the potential is there to be a very explosive offense.

I noticed a lot of improvement from Aggie quarterback Tyler Rogers, who finished the day 8-of-14 for 148 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Star running back Larry Rose III continues to dazzle, rushing for 97 yards and a TD before coaches substituted in other backs.

The NMSU receivers hauled in a number of impressive catches; most notable were two long TD passes, one from Rogers to junior college transfer Tyrian Taylor (a 65-yarder) and one from redshirt freshman QB Nick Jeanty to receiver Tymon Locklin. With leading returning receiver Teldrick Morgan out for the spring (hip injury), this allowed other receivers to answer the call and contribute. In the end, former walk-on Rayvean Moore led the group with five catches.

It’s definitely been a positive for the spring practices to be at full game pace with full contact. There have been a few minor injuries, but it’s gotten the players to be tougher and more competitive. The Aggies are still a young team and need more players to rise to the occasion and make big plays. Jeanty is still behind Rogers on the depth chart, but I liked what I saw from him too. He can get a little rattled under pressure and needs to get rid of the ball faster, but he’s accurate with his throws and is a solid runner as well. Redshirt junior Jason Fitzpatrick (the third-stringer) also showed some flashes.

Converted quarterbacks Andrew Allen and Cassius Corley seem to have found a home at receiver, and both made good catches in the spring game. I was expecting to see the Aggies go to Greg Hogan (our #2 receiver) a little bit more, but when they did, he contributed. Coaches have also been singing the praises of tight end Clayton Granch all spring long, and it looks like he’s our clear-cut starter at that position heading into the summer.

The offensive line has been banged up all spring, but they showed up today, too, giving up only one sack and opening up numerous holes for our running backs. Behind Rose, senior Jermichael Selders rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown. With backup tailbacks Xavier Hall (knee) and Marquette Washington (concussion) out, junior Osirius Burke, a transfer from San Jose State, answered the call, rushing for 48 yards and finding the end zone twice. Regrettably, Burke will have to sit out 2015 due to NCAA transfer rules. He is the younger brother of former Aggie receiver/kick returner Taveon Rogers, who played at NMSU from 2010-2011.

The defense had its moments too, with linebackers Rodney Butler and Derek Ibekwe (ten combined tackles) leading the charge. Sophomore safety Jaden Wright grabbed an interception, while defensive end Skivi Meredith had a very nice sack and forced fumble early in the game. Senior Josh Gibbs and junior Kalei Auelua, both defensive linemen, had their moments as well.

I counted several big tackles from some young players, including safety Malik Demby, who redshirted last year, and outside linebacker Travis Parnell, a Rio Rancho product. Coaches are also high on outside linebacker Will Clement, another redshirt freshman. Clement has been impressive in the spring at outside linebacker, pushing current starter Dalton Herrington.

The run defense is something that must still be worked on, but the Aggies have plenty of bodies up front on the defensive line and have been working on applying various pressures and dropping into coverage. Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Zane Vance called a fairly conservative game, but there were still some good signs. The safeties, including Wright, Demby, sophomore Jacob Nwangwa and junior Kawe Johnson, seem to have really embraced the new scheme, which allows the safeties to play higher up and make more tackles in run support. That’s a big positive for Johnson and Demby especially, two of the hardest hitters on the team.

The starting corners — veterans Lewis Hill and Winston Rose — looked pretty good. Sophomore Jerrion Burton has had an excellent spring and is pushing Hill for a starting spot, while Rose (no relation to Larry Rose) made five interceptions last season. There’s not much depth there, but coaches are excited to get a look at some incoming freshmen in the fall.

Special teams have been a question mark, as the Aggies are short on scholarship players. Coach Martin has emphasized that much more work will be done on that phase of the game in the summer and fall. True freshman Parker Davidson, from Plano, Texas, arrives in the fall to stake a claim as the starting placekicker. Stephen Witkowski, who was solid as NMSU’s punter last season, left the program in order to pursue a grad school marine biology program in his native Australia. Martin has indicated that the punting job will be open to Davidson and a couple of invited walk-on players.

The Aggies’ coaching staff is virtually set, except the position of safeties coach. Cornerbacks coach Todd Littlejohn has been coaching the safeties as well in the spring, following Will Martin’s resignation last month. Doug Martin has said that they hope to hire someone during the summer.

Notable injuries:

  • OL Thomas McGwire (knee)
  • OL Dezmand Candelarie (knee)
  • S King Davis III (shoulder, out until fall camp)
  • WR Teldrick Morgan (hip)
  • RB Marquette Washington (concussion)
  • OL Andy Cunningham (knee, out until fall camp)
  • DL Brandon Agomuo (ankle, out until fall camp)
  • RB Xavier Hall (knee surgery)
  • WR Jordan Bergstrom (just got cleared, but coaches held him out of the spring game as a precaution)

Stats to remember:

  • QB Tyler Rogers (Jr.) — 8/14, 116 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 3 rushes, 10 yards
  • QB Nick Jeanty (RS-Fr.) — 5/10, 93 yards, 1 TD; 4 rushes, 11 yards
  • RB Larry Rose III (So.) — 9 rushes, 98 yards, 1 TD
  • RB Osirius Burke (Jr.) — 10 rushes, 48 yards, 2 TDs
  • WR Rayvean Moore (Jr.) — 5 catches, 29 yards
  • WR Josh Bowen (Sr.) — 3 catches, 39 yards
  • WR Tymon Locklin (Fr.) — 2 catches, 78 yards, 1 TD
  • WR Tyrian Taylor (Jr.) — 2 catches, 76 yards, 1 TD
  • LB Derek Ibekwe (So.) — 6 tackles, .5 TFL
  • DE Josh Gibbs (Sr.) — 5 tackles, 1 TFL
  • LB Rodney Butler (Jr.) — 4 tackles
  • DE Skivi Meredith (Sr.) — 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
  • DE Kalei Auelua (Jr.) — 3 tackles, 1 TFL
  • S Jaden Wright (So.) — 3 tackles, .5 TFL, 1 INT

Of morals and men

As many of you know, two of my favorite TV shows are Showtime’s Dexter and AMC’s Breaking Bad. Today, I’d like to do something a little different and do some compare-and-contrast.

I was inspired to do this by my good friend Rylie Hightower, a huge fan of Dexter. Although she is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico (where Breaking Bad takes place), Rylie was relatively unfamiliar with Breaking Bad. We had an interesting conversation about the inherent morals and ethics in both shows, and I was able to explain the similarities and differences.

For those of you unfamiliar with either show, Dexter (based on the series of novels by Jeff Lindsay) is about the eponymous title character, who is a police department blood-pattern analyst by day and a serial killer by night. Dexter is polite, charming, a family-oriented man, and a good brother. He’s also a violent, damaged man who is committed to bringing his twisted brand of justice to the streets of Miami.

7LnsUK73QcI

He patterns his M.O. after a “code” that his foster father Harry developed for him after noticing Dexter’s sinister tendencies as a child. Dexter’s biological mother was murdered in front of him at the age of three, permanently traumatizing him. Therefore Harry, a decorated detective, tried to channel Dexter’s primal urges into the criminal justice system.

Essentially, the “Code of Harry” is twofold — assuring that 1) Dexter doesn’t get caught and that 2) he only kills those who deserve it.

The show is a mixture of police procedural and serial drama, intertwining black comedy, horror, and drama, while constantly being told from Dexter’s point of view (mostly through voiceovers).

Meanwhile, Breaking Bad is about a down-on-his-luck chemistry teacher named Walter White. Despite his intellectual brilliance, Walter has never really taken any chances in his life and now teaches unmotivated high schoolers in Albuquerque, while struggling to provide for his pregnant wife Skyler and his physically-disabled son Walter Jr.

Walter’s world is rocked when he receives an unexpected diagnosis, in the form of terminal lung cancer. With nothing left to lose, Walter makes a fateful decision — he teams up with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, to cook, manufacture, and distribute crystal meth. The show follows Walter as he makes many questionable decisions in his desperate attempt to provide money for his family once he’s gone.

Let’s start with the similarities between Breaking Bad and Dexter:

  • They’re both serial dramas that feature phenomenal writing and acting.
  • The protagonists of both shows have already become iconic.
  • They both feature non-traditional filming locations (Miami and Albuquerque), and both cities are almost characters themselves within the worlds of the respective shows.
  • They both have lead characters that make very bad choices.
  • They both have very important themes of loyalty, crime, and family.
  • They both have incredible actors in the lead roles (Michael C. Hall as Dexter and Bryan Cranston as Walter White) who are able to convince you to feel for them, despite the evil actions of their characters.

Now, let’s look at the differences:

Dexter is frequently described as “morally ambiguous” in its storytelling, deliberately leading the viewer to decide for themselves whether Dexter is a hero or a villain. In my opinion, he’s neither, as he’s more of an anti-hero than anything else.

For the record, I don’t think Dexter is a morally ambiguous show. It just gets that reputation because there are no clean-cut choir boys among the characters and it’s hard to cheer for anybody because all the characters are fairly complex, having both good and bad qualities. The result is that these characters are richly-developed and have real human flaws, but they also don’t necessarily have numerous moral strengths, either.

DEXTER (Season 5)

Dexter believes himself to be powerless over his homicidal urges, and he more often than not indulges his taste for his own twisted justice. From the get-go in the pilot episode, we know that Dexter is a Jekyll-and-Hyde character. He’s a loyal partner to the beautiful Rita, he maintains a close relationship with his adopted sister Debra, and he is both competent at his work and well-liked within Miami Metro PD. But he’s also a cold-blooded killer who has no issues with dispatching people — with the added twist that they’re all child molesters, rapists, and other killers.

On the other hand, Walter White is very much the protagonist in Breaking Bad. He’s an everyman-type character who is backed into a hole. Facing certain death from lung cancer within two years, Walter makes a bad choice — to make and sell drugs using his significant knowledge of chemistry. He excuses it by claiming that it is only for helping his family stay afloat financially once he’s dead, but he eventually becomes entangled in a violent and risky business that profits off people’s addiction. Walter’s becoming ridiculously wealthy, but at what cost?

article-2389411-1A0C4842000005DC-907_634x362

What this effect has is that Walter goes from being the hero to the villain. Creator/show runner Vince Gilligan explained in an interview that he wanted to go against the grain of network TV. This philosophy is to drive characters towards change rather than keeping them in limbo over several seasons — or as Gilligan put it, “take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface.”

As far as the morality of Dexter goes, there’s a lot of wiggle room. Is Dexter a vicious serial murderer, or the Batman of Miami? It’s never preachy, but it’s also very open-ended, staying silent on important ethical issues. It doesn’t excuse Dexter’s actions, but it doesn’t promote them either. Either way, in the end, you don’t want Dexter to get caught — and that’s a testament to how authentic Michael C. Hall’s performance is and how well-written the show is.

However, on Breaking Bad, there’s a much clearer picture of what’s going on. As Breaking Bad comes to a close, it’s essentially impossible to keep rooting for Walter White considering his actions. As critic Chuck Klosterman said, “Breaking Bad is built on the uncomfortable premise that there’s an irrefutable difference between what’s right and what’s wrong, and where the characters have real control over how they choose to live.”

Breaking Bad is different from Dexter in that there are legitimate consequences for doing the wrong thing, and the result is never pretty for the people involved. Dexter’s actions are an integral part of the show, but there’s no real sense of retribution or justice — unless, of course, retribution or justice comes at the blade of Dexter’s butcher knife. As a character, Dexter is judge, jury, and executioner, and since he lives his double-life in secret from those around him, there’s no serious accountability. This is the polar opposite of Breaking Bad, where Walter’s actions constantly affect those around him, despite his best efforts to protect his loved ones. In short, the world of Breaking Bad is a place where collateral damage is unavoidable.

Don’t get me wrong, I love both of these shows and they deserve all the praise that they’ve received. But on paper at least, Breaking Bad has a more satisfying pay-off in the end, because I feel like it has a purer sense of justice, karma, or whatever you wanna call it.

The First Great Music Video

Music videos, much like music itself, are a seminal part of entertainment today. Nowadays, it’s unheard of for a major single by a big-name artist to not have a music video. They’ve become iconic in and of themselves, providing context to the plot and lyrics of a song. In fact, I challenge you to try to name songs and attempt to disassociate the music video from the song. I assure you it can be quite difficult.

We’re taking a trip down memory lane here, highlighting one of the first major music videos. Before “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails (one of the creepiest, most bizarre music videos ever) and WAY before PSY’s “Gangnam Style” (the most-viewed music video in history), there was “Take On Me,” performed by ’80s new wave band A-ha.

A-ha was nothing short of sensational in their home country of Norway, where they remain, bar-none, the best-selling home-grown artist of all time. They had achieved moderate success in Europe before they made it across the pond, but “Take On Me” ended up being their biggest hit stateside. And although they are viewed as one-hit wonders here in America, they still have a massive following in Norway and ended up staying on the charts in the UK for awhile after their big hit.

a_ha

Everyone remembers “Take On Me” for its memorable synth riff and its wide range of lead vocals, but the video for “Take On Me” is, in my opinion, the first great example of a music video. Directed by Steve Barron, the video focuses on the romance between a beautiful, lonely girl in a diner, and the character who comes to life in the book she’s reading.

Sounds cheesy, right? Maybe, but this was one of the first music videos ever to have a coherent storyline, and it’s incredible how much you care about a girl who has no dialogue, and a slick superhero who literally comes to life from a comic book. Couple this awesome storyline with an already-catchy song, and you’ve got a great recipe for a music video.

hqdefault

Keep in mind that MTV had just been starting to gain momentum here in the early 80s, so this was a dream come true for them. The video received extensive airplay and it also began a career-long collaboration between A-ha and director Steve Barron. In fact, Barron could single-handedly be called the father of the modern music video.

As I said before, A-ha never made another big splash in the US, and they eventually faded into obscurity by the end of the decade. But they will forever be remembered as the group that brought us the awesome, silent love story that is the “Take On Me” video.