New Mexico State football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Aggies, best players and season prediction.
Along with Idaho, New Mexico State is being bounced out of the Sun Belt at the end of the 2017 season, meaning it’s on a two-year audition to show that it’s a program going in a hot enough direction to get a look-see from someone else.
But where do the Aggies really go? The Mountain West already has New Mexico, and Conference USA might not be a great geographic fit. But more than anything else, conferences aren’t going to want to split the pie with a school that’s not carrying its weight and doesn’t add much to the TV package.
So, again, New Mexico State has to make itself attractive.
That might be a problem for a program that hasn’t won more than four games since 2004 and hasn’t had a winning season since 2002. Worse than that, the Aggies have just two winning seasons since 1992.
Can Doug Martin be that coach that creates something special? Can he do enough in his fourth year to make that much of a difference to take the athletic department in a whole different direction?
If ever a coach could use a break, it’s Martin, getting one head coaching shot with Kent State and going 29-53 with no winning seasons, and now beating his head against the wall at NMSU. But there was a sign of life last season with an improved offense, a late three-game winning streak, and a more competitive team.
There’s a thrilling running back in Larry Rose III to anchor the veteran O that gets back eight starters and should be far more dangerous and far more effective. The defense will still be in for a rough season, but it’s at least a veteran crew with eight starters back and plenty of young depth that’s been building up over the last few years.
Will it all be enough to make a splash and become a player in the Sun Belt race? The Aggies are positioned to be better, but for a variety of reasons, they could desperately use a minor miracle of a campaign.
What You Need To Know About The New Mexico State Offense
The Aggie offense worked. Larry Rose III was one of the nation’s most productive running backs, the passing game cranked up big numbers, and scoring wasn’t too much of an issue averaging close to 29 points per game. Expect more of the same if the offensive line can quickly come together. The running game will be phenomenal with Rose leading a deep group that’ll come up with more of a rotation, while QB Tyler Rogers is back to crank the passing game up again. Three of the top four receivers are back to make the O even more dangerous.
Biggest Key To The New Mexico State Offense
Just how quickly can the offensive line come into place? Running back? More than set starting with Larry Rose III. Quarterback? Solid, and is the receiving corps. Three starters are back on the O line, but the key to the entire season – at least offensively – could rest on the ability to come up with two good tackles. Sebastian Anderson was the top backup at left tackle last season behind Houston Clemente, and he should turn into a stronger and more effective pass protector in time. Thomas McGwire is the likely right tackle, but he needs to stay in one piece. If these two game be solid, the NMSU offense will roll.
Biggest Key To The New Mexico State Defense
Alright, Coach Spaz. Let’s see what you can do. Frank Spaziani – the former Boston College head coach – needs defensive linemen to do what he needs. The secondary has veterans, and the linebackers could be okay if healthy, but the line needs to get into the backfield more and has to be far, far tougher against the more physical teams. The coaching staff went the JUCO route to add more help, and it could be a rotating group to try finding the right combination. Anything will be better than what the Aggies have done up front over the last few years.
What You Need To Know About The New Mexico State Defense
Former Boston College head man Frank Spaziani will try to work miracles. The Aggie defense was a disaster, allowing 522 yards per game proving to be equally bad against the run and the pass. JUCO transfers are coming in to try helping the cause, but there are enough veterans back to hope for a little bit of an improvement. The secondary that got lit up returns three starters, the entire linebacking corps is back, and the line should get some help when the new recruits show up. But it’s going to take a whole bunch of work just to get to mediocre – the D needs to find more difference-makers.
New Mexico State Will Be Far Better If …
The run defense isn’t awful. Not to keep belaboring the point, but the Aggies couldn’t seem to ever come up with a decent stop against anyone who could run the ball a lick. While they lost to ULM in the season finale after allowing just 64 yards, overall, the success last year mostly came whenever the defense didn’t get gouged. They allowed almost 3,000 rushing yards giving up 5.6 yards per carry and 35 scores. The scary part? That was a massive improvement over the previous two seasons. It’s still not good enough.
Best New Mexico State Offensive Player
RB Larry Rose III, Jr. – He showed off flashes of greatness as a freshman, running for, 1,102 yards and nine scores, but he came up with something special as a sophomore getting into the mix for Doak Walker honors after averaging almost seven yards per carry and ripping up over 2,000 yards rushing/receiving with 16 scores. He doesn’t have to do it all at this point with more depth and more help, but he’s too good not to get the ball in his hands at least 20 times a game.
Best New Mexico State Defensive Player
LB Derek Ibekwe, Soph. – He hardly had a bad year for a spot-starter. The main man in the middle of the linebacking corps was one of the few bright spots, leading the team with 93 tackles while doing a decent job of getting into the backfield. It was a banged up group of linebackers in spring ball, but everyone of note is back this fall.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DT Jacob Banegas, Jr. – Throw in Deshawnte Lloyd and Bobby Hill, the two JUCO transfer defensive tackles coming in. Add in the mix Cedric Wilcots and Drew James, too. The Aggies need better defensive tackle play and they need to get more production in the interior. Banegas is a veteran presence inside, and now the 6-1, 290-pounder has to start eating things up in the interior.
The New Mexico State Season Will Be A Success If …
It’s a five-win campaign. The defense still has miles to go, but the offense is going to be dangerous enough to carry the way to some decent wins. It’ll take shootouts to get to five, but being two victories better than last season would be a great step. It’s going to take a few upsets to get there, but if the Aggies can get by UTEP, Troy, Idaho and Texas State, that would be a nice base. That might be asking a lot, though.
Sept. 3 at UTEP. The Miners are going to be okay, but they’re not a world-beater. In the opener, the New Mexico State offense has to get rolling from the very start – it has to try stealing a win. With New Mexico and Kentucky up next, it’ll probably be a rough start to the year without winning the opener. This has to be when the team signals it’s a brand new start.
2015 New Mexico State Fun Stats
– Sacks: Opponents 37 for 216 yards – NMSU 15 for 71 yards
– Rushing TDs: Opponents 35 – NMSU 16
– Fourth Down Conversions: Opponents 12-of-17 (71%) – NMSU 12-of-30 (40%)