The top 10 New Mexico State football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. RB Larry Rose III, Jr.
One of the nation’s top running backs, Rose was a dominant force cranking out 1,651 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 6.88 yards per try. At 5-11 and 184 pounds, he’s built like a receiver, and he can catch, too, making 30 grabs for 283 yards and two scores. Hardly built to take a pounding, it didn’t matter – he held up well on the way to the 2015 Sun Belt Player of the Year.
Very slippery and very fast, he glides through the hole with a great burst once he gets into the clear. Physical for his size, he’ll take a pop, but he won’t force his way over anyone – he’s a playmaker in space. When he was on, he was unstoppable rushing for 260 yards and three scores against New Mexico and with back-to-back 200-yard days against Idaho and Texas State, serving as a workhorse with 31 carries against the Bobcats and four touchdowns against the Vandals. Can he get a little help? The Aggies need him to stay in one piece, and while he’s been durable, 270 touches is a lot for a player with his lack of bulk.
2. LB Derek Ibekwe, Soph.
A huge tackler as a freshman, making 101 tackles with four tackles for loss, he followed it up with a terrific sophomore campaign making 93 tackles with a sack and 6.5 tackles for loss from his spot in the middle, going along with three broken up passes. At 6-0 and 233 pounds he has the size to hold up, coming up with 12 or more tackles three times, and he has the quickness and range to be used more as a pass rusher. He doesn’t miss many stops.
3. LB/S Terrill Hanks, Soph.
Part linebacker, part defensive back, the 6-3, 217-pounder is built like a very big safety, and he covers like one making three picks while being turned loose as a pass rusher from time to time making a sack and 6.5 tackles for loss. A strong hitter who can drop into coverage, he was one of the team’s top tacklers making 81 stops in his first season with ten against Louisiana-Lafayette and seven or more in nine games. He’ll be a stat-sheet filler filling in at a variety of spots.
4. WR Tyrian Taylor, Sr.
Taylor led the team with 691 yards and four touchdowns on 39 catches, averaging a whopping 17.72 yards per grab. Just 5-9 and 162 pounds, he’s not going to get physical in any way, but he’s dangerous on the move, using his extreme quickness to be a big yard-after-catch guy, while also averaging more than 25 yards per kickoff return. He destroyed Georgia State with 206 yards and two touchdowns on ten catches, and was a steady big play target the rest of the way. The former JUCO transfer from Orlando might be a wisp, but he can move.
5. QB Tyler Rogers, Sr.
Back and ready to go, Rogers started out the season with a bang throwing for 974 yards and seven touchdowns with three picks, and running for 66 yards and a touchdown, in the first four games before breaking the thumb on his non-throwing hand. The 6-3, 213-pound former JUCO transfer has a live arm and good mobility, throwing for 445 yards and three scores in the loss to Georgia State while looking ready to build off his good 2014 before getting hurt. Interceptions were a major problem two years ago – throwing 23 picks – but if he can keep those in check, he’ll do wonders with a terrific receiving corps to work with.
6. C Anthony McMeans, Sr.
It’s a veteran interior of the line coming back, and it’ll be up to the all-star center to lead the way. The tackles are a concern, but the guards are great and the 6-2, 320-pound McMeans is a huge blocker to lead the way. He’s not going to do much on the move, but in a phone booth he’s able to generate a big push. A true anchor, he needs to be the leader up front to pave the way for Larry Rose III.
7. S Jacob Nwangwa, Jr.
The team’s second-leading tackler, Nwangwa came up big at free safety making 85 tackles with three picks – taking one for a score against UTEP. At 6-0 and 210 pounds he’s built like a safety, and he’s got the range to always get around the ball in all phases. A strong last line of defense behind a leaky defensive front, Nwangwa came up with ten tackles or more in four games, doing a consistently great job over the second half of the season with 45 stops in the last five games.
8. DE Noah Brown, Sr.
The team’s best pass rusher, Brown came up with 3.5 sacks with seven tackles for loss and 27 tackles. The 6-1, 230-pounder isn’t all that huge, but he’s decent at getting to the edge and has a motor that’s always working. Can he hold up against the run? He’s just okay when getting shoved around, but he came on late in the year and turned into a good end to take away attention from the rest of the line.
9. WR Josh Aganon, Jr.
The 5-10, 180-pound JUCO transfer suddenly becomes a big deal with Teldrick Morgan leaving the program. Very quick and ready to contribute right away, he came up with 62 catches for 633 yards and seven touchdowns for Mesa CC in Arizona. He’s got the ability to make himself open for short to midrange plays, but he could emerge as a deep threat early on.
10. LB Dalton Herrington, Jr.
The 6-2, 220-pounder came through with a nice sophomore season coming up with 60 tackles even though he only started one game. Great in the open field and terrific at getting to the ball, he’s got the speed and he’s got the quickness, and he’s got the experience making 85 tackles in his freshman year when thrown to the wolves. Athletic, he’s built for the outside and could grow into more of a pass rusher.