2011 New Mexico State Preview
New Mexico State QB Andrew Manley
New Mexico State QB Andrew Manley
Posted Jul 20, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - New Mexico State Aggies

New Mexico State Aggies

Preview 2011

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: DeWayne Walker
3rd year: 5-20
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 20, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 10
Ten Best New Mexico State Players
1. QB Andrew Manley, Soph.
2. CB Donyae Coleman, Sr.
3. WR/KR Taveon Rodgers, Sr.
4. LB B.J. Adolpho, Jr.
5. RB/WR Kenny Turner, Jr.
6. C/OG Sioeli Fakalata
7. QB Matt Christian, Sr.
8. CB Jonte Green, Sr.
9. FS George Callender, Soph.
10. OT Davonte Wallace, Soph.
2011 Schedule

Sept. 3 Ohio
Sept. 10 at Minnesota
Sept. 17 UTEP
Sept. 24 at San Jose State
Oct. 1 at New Mexico
Oct. 15 Idaho
Oct. 22 at Hawaii
Oct. 29 Nevada
Nov. 5 at Georgia
Nov. 12 Fresno State
Nov. 19 at BYU
Nov. 26 at Louisiana Tech
Dec. 3 Utah State

New Mexico State has to show something to become wanted by the bigger, better conferences, but first, it has to show something in the WAC.

With all the good programs taking off, NMSU joins Idaho, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State, and Utah State as the holdovers for the new-look WAC starting next year, but the other four programs have upside and excitement coming into the season. Can the Aggies finally be more than just a speed bump on the way to bigger games? Can they finally generate some offense? Can they finally become relevant? Head coach DeWayne Walker is a talent, but he needs more tools to work with and he needs to finally get some good luck.

Walker had to completely tear down the team after the Hal Mumme era, but in two years he has gone 5-20 with two wins over New Mexico – at least NMSU owns the state – and with victories over Utah State and Prairie View A&M two years ago, and San Jose State last year. That's it. But at least Mumme's teams had an identity, wanting to throw the ball a million times a game. Walker's teams have yet to find anything that works.

Walker is a defensive coach who's D finished 112th in the nation last year and 115th in points allowed. His offense was even more ineffective, and now the program is on its third coordinator in three seasons in an attempt to find something, anything, that can get things moving on a consistent basis. For this year, though, with almost all the key parts coming back on offense, and with a defense full of veterans, there's a chance for a decent season with a little bit of luck and some strong coaching. For a program that hasn't had a winning season since 2002, any move forward will be a plus.

The offense might finally have a real, live quarterback to work around with sophomore Andrew Manley a big passer, but Matt Christian is a strong second option. The running game has a few speedsters, and the line is loaded with veterans with everyone coming back. Experience-wise, there's no excuse to not be far better, and there's no excuse to not find something that works on a consistent basis.

The defense that struggled so much over the last few years is also full of veterans. Star defensive back Davon House is gone, but two starting corners are back along with almost all of the front seven. Walker knows how to work a defense, and now, after two years, he has the pieces in place that he needs. For a D that allowed 152 points over the last three games of last season, immediate improvement is a must.

And now it's time to start winning. The Aggies aren't going to beat the top teams on the late like Georgia or BYU or Nevada, but they have to beat San Jose State. They have to beat Ohio. They have to beat Utah State. They have to beat enough teams to be a player in the new world of the WAC. It's time to take the next step.

What to watch for on offense: Offensive coordinator Doug Martin. Here's the problem with hiring the former Kent State head coach to run the offense; the Kent State offense stunk. It was the Golden Flash defense that rocked, ranking among the best in the nation against the run thanks to one of the most aggressive defensive fronts in the game. The NMSU offense couldn't get vertical last year and the running game couldn't seem to find a groove – ever – and Martin will try to find a balance right away that works. You can't win in the WAC if you're last in the league in total offense and scoring offense, and now Martin will have to try where so many have failed.

What to watch for on defense: Can the Aggies generate a pass rush? Yeah, Martin is the offensive coordinator, and Walker knows what he's doing on D and is giving the coordinator duties over to linebacker coach Dale Lindsey, but the coaching staff might want to tap the new offensive coordinator for ideas. Kent State finished eighth in the nation in sacks, third in tackles for loss, and fourth in run defense under Martin's watch, while New Mexico State was 119th in the nation in sacks, 119th in rushing, and 111th against the run. The WAC might not be as pass-happy as it was in the past, but it would be nice to get into the backfield against teams like Hawaii, Idaho, and Fresno State.

The team will be far better if … it could score. UTEP finished 91st in the nation in total defense, but gave up just ten points to NMSU. Kansas was 103rd in the country in scoring D, but the Aggies came up with a mere 16 points against the Jayhawks. New Mexico finished dead last in the country in scoring defense, Idaho finished 71st, Fresno State finished 83rd, San Jose State finished 105th, and Utah State finished 101st, but NMSU came up with just 16, 14, 10, 14, 29, and 22 points against those teams, respectively. NMSU finished 117th in the country averaging just 15.67 points per game and has to figure out how to finally start putting points on the board. Stability at quarterback will be a plus, but the experience across the board will provide the most help.

The schedule: The Aggies don't have a bad non-conference slate early on, facing Ohio, Minnesota, and UTEP, but nothing is a given, and then come more winnable games, but they're on the road. NMSU has to go to San Jose State and New Mexico, and then gets a home game against Idaho. In other words, getting off to a hot start is a must before dealing with a stretch of at Hawaii, Nevada, at Georgia, Fresno State, at BYU, and at Louisiana Tech. Getting a win out of any of those games before finishing up against Utah State would be a huge plus.

Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Andrew Manley … at least that's the hope. Matt Christian is a decent veteran passer who can lead the offense if he gets time to work and help from the rest of the skill players, but Manley is the type of difference maker who can finally take the offense and the program to another level. Aggie fans have heard that before, but at 6-4 and 223 pounds he's big, he has a nice passing touch, and he's going to bomb away. The 2009 Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year is a possible star to design the entire attack around.

Best defensive player: Senior CB Donyae Coleman. It's never a good thing when one of the team's leading tackler is a defensive back, but Coleman did what he needed to do for a defense that desperately needed players to step up. He made 92 tackles as a starting free safety, and while he might not be one of the team's top hitters at his new spot at corner, he should be one of the defenses strongest all-around playmakers.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore DT Augafa Vaalulu. The NMSU run defense finished last in the WAC and 111th in the nation, allowing 207 yards per game and 32 touchdowns. A lack of a steady pass rush was part of the problem, and there weren't any tackles for loss, but the big problem was a lack of bulk to gum things up. That's not going to change much this year on the outside, but Vaaulu is both 295 pounds and talented enough to be an athletic anchor. JUCO transfer Walton Taumoepeau is 300 pounds and can move, but Vaalulu has to be the one who gets into the backfield from the inside.

The season will be a success if … The Aggies win five games. It's been six years since NMSU came up with a 5-6 season in 2004, and 2002 was the last time the program came up with a winning season. For a team with just four winning campaigns in the last 43 seasons, any sign of life would be special. This year's team isn't good enough to make a huge, shocking splash, but it has the potential to win five games if it can take care of business at home in winnable games against Idaho and Utah State and if it can beat San Jose State and New Mexico on the road. It'll take an upset or two to get to five wins, but there's too much experience to not be far better.

Key game: Sept. 3 vs. Ohio. The Bobcats aren't bad and they're going to make some noise in the MAC, but it's not like Ohio State is coming to Las Cruces. New Mexico State has to start showing up in winnable home games, and while Ohio will almost certainly be the favorite, this is a must win with a date at Minnesota to follow. The Aggies can change around their attitude and the hopes of the program with an opening day win.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Touchdowns: Opponents 59 – NMSU 17
- Third Quarter Scoring: Opponents 104 – NMSU 24
- Third Down Conversions: Opponents 66-of-153 (43%) – NMSU 56-of-189 (30%)

- 2011 New Mexico State Preview | 2011 New Mexico State Offense
- 2011 New Mexico State Defense | 2011 New Mexico State Depth Chart
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