Head coach: DeWayne Walker
Off. 22, Def. 20, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 21
Best Aggie Players
1. LB Nick Paden, Sr.*
Injured ... will be back in 2010.
2. CB Davon House, Sr.
3. LB Jason Scott, Jr.
4. RB Marquell Colston, Sr.
5. WR Marcus Anderson, Sr.
6. S Alphonso Powell, Jr.
7. OT Mike Grady, Soph.
8. OG Chuck Taylor, Jr.
9. WR Marcus Allen, Jr.
10. CB Lorenzo Caldwell, Jr.
No new head coach has a tougher
job in year one than DeWayne Walker and his staff. On the plus side, New Mexico
State got a huge win just in getting Walker, a talent who could’ve been the head
man at a much larger program, with a little bit of luck. However, it might take
a few years before the results start to come.
Hal Mumme struggled in his time in Las Cruses to generate wins. He got the passing game going, as expected, but it wasn’t consistent and it didn’t produce enough points against the teams with a pulse. The defense was better last year than it had been when Mumme started, but it was still hardly anything special. That was after four years with Mumme getting chances to put his system in place. It might take Walker at least that long to change things back to a more normal style of play on both sides of the ball.
Walker will be aggressive on defense and far more conservative on offense. There will be a running game, but with an offensive coordinator like Timm Rosenbach, there will be plenty of downfield passes. While being more vanilla in style, at least compared to the 3-5-3 defensive scheme and the run ‘n’ shoot offense run last year, it’ll take some innovation to be any sort of a player in WAC play.
The problem overall is personnel and experience. There’s nothing on the defensive front to count on, there isn’t a quarterback on the roster with any experience, and there’s no reliable depth whatsoever. Everything was geared towards winning last year, it didn’t happen, and now the cupboard is empty.
In a program is half full attitude, Walker has a clean slate to work with. No one’s expecting miracles right away, he had to go out and recruit starters for right now, and he’ll start over by creating the program exactly the way he wants to.
This might not turn out to be as wild and as fun a ride as the program had under Mumme, but it should be more successful. For a program that hasn’t had a winning season in six years, and only has 19 wins over that span, and progress will be welcomed.
What to watch for on offense: A running game. The ground attack was barely along for the ride under Mumme with just a few carries here and there. That’ll change right away under the new coaching staff with a slew of quick, tough backs ready to work behind a big offensive line that has to learn how to hit someone.
What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. The Aggies have a lot of undersized players across the defensive board with smallish ends, corners just barely around six feet, and linebackers built like safeties. However, they can run. Jason Scott is one of the team’s better players to work around, but he'll need help with star hitter Nick Paden out for the year with a knee problem.
The team will be far better if … the defensive line shows up. It was a disaster last season with little run defense and no push into the backfield whatsoever. It’ll be a while before the coaches find the right combination up front, and it might be a work in progress all season long, but it’ll be job one after the Aggies finished 115th in the nation in run defense and didn’t come up with enough sacks.
The Schedule: The home slate would be a laughable breeze for roughly 75 teams, starting out against Idaho, Prairie View A&M, and UTEP, and getting Utah State, Fresno State, and Nevada, but there isn't a winnable road game on the lot. The easiest might be at San Diego State, but the New Mexico game could be a battle. Any hope for a decent season has to come from a hot start considering four of the last five games are on the road including sure-thing losses at Ohio State and Boise State. The Aggies get two weeks off between the trip to Columbus and the flight to Hawaii, but there's a lot of travelling to be done late in the year.
Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Marquell Colston. WR Marcus Anderson could turn out to be the team’s best pro prospect as a return man, but it’s Colston who should be the key to the offense early on. He only got 82 carries last season, but he led team with 384 yards and four touchdowns. When he gets the chance, he has proven he can produce with back-to-back 100-yard games against Alcorn State and Nevada before getting hurt.
Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Nick Paden, but … The former JUCO transfer came aboard and instantly became the team’s best linebacker, however he has major knee problems and won’t be back until next year. He finished second on the team in tackles and was one of the team’s steadiest players with 107 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and 7.5 tackles for loss. Next year, he’ll be used in a variety of ways to both get into the backfield and being the key to the run defense, so for now, corner Davon House is the team’s best defensive player. He needs to be a playmaker who can take away the opposing No. 1 target.
Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Jeff Fleming. With Chase Holbrook off to the NFL and J.J. McDermott transferring to SMU, the program has nothing and no one to count on at quarterback. Fleming will compete with freshman Tanner Rust for the starting job, and while Rust has more talent, Fleming is mobile enough and experienced enough to get the first shot. He threw for 1,900 yards and 24 touchdowns for Fullerton Junior College last year.
The season will be a success if ... the Aggies finish out of the WAC basement. The league overall should be better and it’ll be tough to come up with enough wins to even think about a winning season, but the coaching staff isn’t making any excuses, even though there are many legitimate ones. Mumme never won more than four games, so if Walker can win four in year one, call it a positive stepping stone.
Key game: Sept. 5 vs. Idaho. The new era needs to kick off with a win, possibly the only winnable game in WAC play, against an Idaho team desperate to get off to a good start. With Prairie View A&M to follow, NMSU will be 2-0 with a win over the Vandals.
2008 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Opponents 44 for 301 yards – New Mexico State 19 for 135 yards
- Average yards per carry: Opponents 5.2 – New Mexico State 2.1
- Penalties: Opponents 87 for 780 yards – New Mexico State 65 for 575 yards
- 2009 CFN NMSU Preview | 2009 NMSU Offense
- 2009 NMSU Defense | 2009 NMSU Depth Chart
- 2008 NMSU Preview | 2007 NMSU Preview | 2006 NMSU Preview