NEW ... 2010 New Mexico State Preview
NMSU RB Seth Smith
NMSU RB Seth Smith
Posted Aug 10, 2010 2010 Preview - New Mexico State Aggie Defense

New Mexico State Aggies

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: DeWayne Walker
2nd year: 3-10
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 19, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best New Mexico State Players
1. CB Davon House, Sr.
2. RB Seth Smith, Sr.
3. DE Donte Savage, Jr.
4. DE Pierre Fils, Jr.
5. OT Dwayne Barton, Sr.
6. C Mike Grady, Jr.
7. CB Jonte Green, Jr.
8. SS Alphonso Powell, Sr.
9. P Kyle Hughes, Jr.
10. WR Todd Lee, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 11 San Diego St
Sept. 18 at UTEP
Sept. 25 at Kansas
Oct. 2 Boise State
Oct. 9 New Mexico
Oct. 16 at Fresno State
Oct. 23 at Idaho
Oct. 30 San Jose State
Nov. 6 at Utah State
Nov. 13 Louisiana Tech
Nov. 20 at Nevada
Nov. 27 Hawaii

That DeWayne Walker was able to get three wins out of last year's team was a minor miracle. Not only did the first year head man have to deal with a mediocre talent base, but he had to change around the entire philosophy of a team that did absolutely nothing but throw the ball a bajillion times under Hal Mumme.

Call it a process for NMSU football and Walker, and this season needs to be a big next step with 17 starters returning and even a little bit of depth in some spots. But for a program that was among the worst in the nation over the second half of last year, it has a long way to go.

How bad was the year of horrors? The Aggies scored seven points or fewer in five of the final seven games, went a four game stretch in the middle of the year when they were outscored 166 to 16, and followed that up with a 63-20 loss to Nevada.

Last in the nation in scoring offense, last in total offense, last in passing efficiency, 118th in passing, 103rd in total defense, and 112th in tackles for loss. In other words, there's work to be done.

Getting Walker as the head coach was a bit of a coup for the program, and he has the potential to slowly bring NMSU among the living. But this year will be a big key to see if he can make the changes needed to quickly improve all the soft spots.

The secondary should be the strength of the team with corners Davon House and Jonte Green among the best pairs in the WAC, and while the pass rush wasn't there as a team last season, ends Pierre Fils and Donte Savage did their part combining for 13 of the team's 21 sacks. The linebacking corps might not have any real experience and might be a problem area early on, but there's plenty of athleticism to work with. Considering Walker likes to make his defenses aggressive, the quickness across the board on defense provides hope for a bit of a turnaround.

The offense needs another decent year from the line and has to hope for 1,000-yard back Seth Smith to be a workhorse again. The passing game gets all the key parts back, but it was so miserable last season that either Tanner Rust or JUCO transfer Matt Christian have to prove early on that they can make things move when the incumbent, Jeff Fleming, couldn't.

The expectations are relatively low for a program that hasn't done anything in years, but with so much returning experience and a coach in Walker who'd thrive with more talent to work with, the potential is there to make a little noise in WAC action.

What to watch for on offense: Attempts to get production from the quarterbacks. How inefficient was the New Mexico State passing game? Florida led the nation with a rating of 167.31, while Vanderbilt was second-to-last with a rating of 90.15 throwing six touchdown passes with ten interceptions. NMSU's rating? 79.01. The drop-off from the third least efficient passing team, Army, to Vanderbilt was just out four points, and then go down a whopping 21 points more and that's how bad the Aggie passing attack was with six touchdown passes, 18 interceptions, and 1,141 yards of passing offense. That's not going to be allowed again, and with new offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar at the helm, things will pick up a bit.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. The pieces are in place for a relatively solid defense with a deep and strong secondary and an experienced line with good ends, but the linebacking corps is fresh out of the box. Several of the players have been around the program for years but have done a fat load of jack squat. For a D that was pounded on by the run, getting something out of the fresh rotation of linebackers could be the key to the team's season.

The team will be far better if … it can start winning the turnover battle. It's bad enough to struggle to generate points, but it gets far worse when drive after drive is killed by a turnover. The defense was only able to come up with 18 takeaways while the offense handed over ten fumbles and 18 interceptions. The Aggies didn't go a game without throwing a pick, and while there was only one fumble over the final four games, overall there were still too many balls put on the ground. NMSU can't win if it doesn't own the turnover margin.

The schedule: There are only two games on the slate that might not be upsets if the Aggies win: Oct. 30 at home against San Jose State and the season finale against Hawaii. Everything else will be a struggle with no Prairie View layups to count on and with some of the winnable WAC games, Idaho and Utah State, on the road. The easiest non-conference game is New Mexico, and all bets are off when it comes to the rivalry battle. After starting the season a week after everyone else, there aren't any breaks the rest of the way, but on the plus side, there aren't any road trips of more than two games.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Seth Smith. With absolutely nothing working in the passing game, Smith was a one man gang running for over 100 yards five times and carrying the attack to wins over Prairie View and New Mexico. While he's not all that big, he's extremely quick and very, very tough. Now he'd like to see what he can do if the quarterback can loosen things up a little bit, and he'd like to have more chances around the goal line after scoring just once.

Best defensive player: Senior CB Davon House. One of the few positives over the last few years the senior has come up with nine interceptions over the course of his career and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. A good tackler, he has also come up with 145 stops. Every opposing offensive gameplan will identify where he is and will stay away.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Jeff Fleming and/or redshirt freshman QB Tanner Rust and/or junior QB Matt Christian. The defense might improve with so many returning starters and with hope for the athleticism of the linebacking corps to translate into production, and the running game should be fine as long as the starting five up front stay healthy and Seth Smith is Seth Smith again. But it all goes kaput if the quarterback play isn't night-and-day better. Someone has to emerge as a chain mover and the type of player who can lead the way to points.

The season will be a success if … NMSU can win four games. It's an extremely low goal to shoot for, but considering the schedule isn't full of layups and with so far to go to be better, just taking a step forward record-wise would be nice. The Aggies have only won three games in each of the last two seasons and only won four in both 2006 and 2007 because there were two FCS cupcakes to fatten up on. Winning four or more this year really would be a positive.

Key game: Sept. 11 vs. San Diego State. It's a home game against another struggling program looking to come out hot, and while the Aggies aren't as good as the Aztecs, this is a crucial game to see just how much the team has improved. Even if NMSU loses, if the offense works and there are signs of life on defense, team's psyche could quickly change. After failing to score more than 21 points in any game, 22 or more would be hailed as a major plus.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Scoring after three quarters: Opponents 341 – New Mexico State 85
- Touchdown passes: Opponents 18 – New Mexico State 6
- Average yards per play: Opponents 6.3 – New Mexico State 3.9

- 2010 New Mexico State Preview | 2010 New Mexico State Offense
- 2010 New Mexico State Defense | 2010 New Mexico State Depth Chart
- New Mexico State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006