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NMSU is fighting for its future and entering Year 4 of a rebuild. The time is now.

Doug Martin's long-term rebuild fits into the Aggies' general "investing in the future!" approach. But with a two-deep loaded with upperclassmen and a fancy new defensive coordinator, now would be a pretty good time for NMSU to break through.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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1. Year 4 of a 4-year plan

Under normal circumstances, time is a vague concept for New Mexico State football. The program's history has done a good job of simulating the effect of driving through New Mexico: vast swaths of nothingness followed by brief bursts of excitement.

The program was decent in the 1930s, and the 1940s and 1950s saw a sustained drought. The Aggies were consistently solid and occasionally great under Warren Woodson from 1958-67, lived through up-and-down-periods in the 1970s and early-1980s, then fell off the face of the earth again.

After a brief flash of promise under Tony Samuel at the turn of the century (6-5 in 1999, 7-5 in 2002), the Aggies went back to ceasing to exist. NMSU hasn't won more than four games in a season since Samuel's last year (5-6 in 2004). Old air raid innovator Hal Mumme won 11 games in four seasons (2005-08), and successor DeWayne Walker couldn't even match that from 2009-12.

There is no short road in New Mexico, only long. And fourth-year head coach Doug Martin has acknowledged that. Though he only has a 7-29 record to show for it, Martin has attempted to methodically lay a foundation in Las Cruces. He has taken on few transfers, preferring instead to build with five-year players. And in 2016, his squad will boast a high level of experience.

For two years now, I've been talking about Martin's insistence on taking the long road. 2014:

This really is a building-for-2016 situation, and the expectations should be set accordingly. If they win a couple of games, find their quarterback, and at least don't regress defensively (and yes, it is technically possible to regress), then that's probably enough for now. I admire Martin's refusal to take shortcuts, but that means the road's awfully long.

2015:

In a video game, your young guys get fed to the wolves, build experience, then become the wolves. It doesn't always work in real life, with real 18-22-year-olds who don't tend to enjoy losing. But Martin will field an infinitely more experienced team this fall, and he'll easily field the deepest squad of his tenure, one that actually features more than 80 scholarship players for the first time in quite a while.

In my 2014 preview, I said Martin was building for 2016; well, it's not 2016 yet, is it?

It's 2016 now. Martin's inexperienced, undersized guys have taken lumps. Soon, he will actually face the burden of minor expectations. But in a roundabout way, the youth movement has come at a decent time.

NMSU's football program faces an uncertain future, living on the geographical outskirts of basically every conference and being unable to lean on a base of historical success. On March 10, the Sun Belt Conference will vote on whether or not to keep NMSU as a football member after its current contract runs out in 2017.

The school's recent "Here's why you should keep us" presentation was actually sound and interesting, revolving around the idea of investment. The program is spending money on its program and figuring out ways to to allay the costs of other schools traveling to Las Cruces. And the fact that the team was still young as hell last season allowed the school to say "Look at what we're building" instead of "Look at what we've built." The former doesn't require proof of success.

When NMSU takes the field in the Sun Bowl against UTEP on September 3, its near future will have either already been settled by a Sun Belt re-up, or it will be as unsettled as ever. The Aggies' FBS membership survived the dissolution of the WAC as a football conference and a brief stint as an FBS independent. Doing so again would be pretty dicey, but one thing is certain: 2016 would be a great time for NMSU to be good at football.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 1-11 | Final F/+ Rk: 118 | Final S&P+ Rk: 116
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
5-Sep at Florida 27 13-61 L 4% 0% -27.0 -11.0
12-Sep Georgia State 87 32-34 L 51% 55% -1.8 -9.0
19-Sep UTEP 125 47-50 L 42% 63% -4.0 -0.5
3-Oct at New Mexico 99 29-38 L 46% 52% +0.1 +3.5
10-Oct at Ole Miss 5 3-52 L 3% 0% -22.3 -5.5
17-Oct at Georgia Southern 48 26-56 L 2% 0% -17.7 -1.0
24-Oct Troy 90 7-52 L 3% 0% -44.7 -45.0
31-Oct Idaho 114 55-48 W 45% 65% +10.3 +12.5
7-Nov at Texas State 116 31-21 W 39% 54% +22.3 +27.0
21-Nov at UL-Lafayette 104 37-34 W 43% 55% +13.6 +20.0
28-Nov Arkansas State 71 28-52 L 19% 3% -12.8 -7.0
5-Dec at UL-Monroe 121 35-42 L 22% 27% -10.0 -7.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 25.6 88 41.4 124
Points Per Game 28.6 66 45.0 126

2. Promise in the right weight class

In attempting to bring whatever talent he can to Las Cruces, Martin has eschewed size requirements. His workhorse running back, the phenomenal Larry Rose III, is 5'11, 184. Perhaps his most promising receiver is 5'9, 162. He doesn't have a defensive end over 245 pounds. Maybe his most promising safety is 5'8, 180.

By choosing five-year recruits, he's giving himself plenty of time to bulk some of these guys up, and to be sure, both of his lines should be bigger in 2016 than they have been in a while. But by lacking a certain level of pure heft, that means the Aggies have been particularly limited against bigger teams, even by the standards of your typically bad mid-major.

  • Average Percentile Performance (vs. S&P+ top 50): 3% (Average score: Opp 56, NMSU 14)
  • Average Percentile Performance (vs. everyone else): 34% (Average score: Opp 41, NMSU 33)
    -- minus the Troy game: 38% (Average score: Opp 40, NMSU 37)

Against three top-50 opponents, NMSU got completely manhandled. And after facing two of these three in back-to-back weeks, the apparently exhausted Aggies proceeded to get whomped by No. 90 Troy as well. These four results were the basis for the Aggies' No. 116 final S&P+ ranking.

That said, NMSU was a reasonably decent team in its other eight games, playing at what was basically a top-90 level when punching in the right weight class. They went 3-5 in these eight games, with three of the losses coming by one possession. Beyond that, they were 3-3 in these games until apparently losing a couple of steps in the final two weeks of the season.

If you're looking for signs of progress, there you go. Depth and size issues continued to hold NMSU back, but there was a little bit of promise, at least on offense -- the Aggies scored at least 26 points in nine of 12 games. And now Martin has brought in an old friend, renowned coordinator Frank Spaziani, to help him with what are some drastic defensive issues.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.48 2 IsoPPP+ 96.0 86
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 35.8% 113 Succ. Rt. + 86.4 115
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 32.4 115 Def. FP+ 31.9 108
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.4 64 Redzone S&P+ 86.1 115
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.6 ACTUAL 21 -1.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 42 104 115 86
RUSHING 51 34 64 23
PASSING 41 117 123 112
Standard Downs 107 114 86
Passing Downs 82 94 70
Q1 Rk 91 1st Down Rk 89
Q2 Rk 116 2nd Down Rk 70
Q3 Rk 118 3rd Down Rk 100
Q4 Rk 27

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Andrew Allen 6'1, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7827 115 214 1529 16 8 53.7% 18 7.8% 6.1
Tyler Rogers 6'3, 213 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 72 135 974 7 3 53.3% 10 6.9% 6.3
Nick Jeanty 6'2, 200 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8115 54 101 531 3 2 53.5% 7 6.5% 4.6
Tyler Matthews
(TCU/So. Miss)
6'4, 215 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8957








3. All the experience you could want, Part 1

At quarterback, NMSU boasts three players who threw at least 100 passes last year and will welcome former four-star recruit Tyler Matthews to the party after he finishes up at Southern Miss this spring.

At running back, the Aggies have junior Larry Rose III and senior Xavier Hall, who combined for 288 carries and 38 receptions in 2015. At receiver, four returnees (five including Rose) were targeted at least 40 times last year, and all but one is either a junior or senior.

On the offensive line, four returnees (two juniors and two seniors) have combined for 50 career starts.

Granted, the timing up front is a bit off -- NMSU must replace three starters who combined for about eight years' worth of starts -- but Martin's building process continues apace. He started with freshmen and sophomores, then continued with sophomores and juniors. Now he's got almost a full allotment of scholarships, along with junior and senior classes full of guys who have been through quite a few battles.

Experience alone only means so much without talent and athleticism. But on offense especially, there appears to be a little bit of all three. And within the Sun Belt, where the talent differential between the top and bottom teams isn't particularly dramatic, having more experience than your opponent can carry you through in close games.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Larry Rose III RB 5'11, 184 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7633 240 1651 14 6.9 8.9 40.4% 4 3
Andrew Allen QB/WR 6'1, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7827 57 301 0 5.3 3.5 47.4% 4 2
Xavier Hall RB 5'8, 181 Sr. NR NR 48 165 1 3.4 3.0 29.2% 0 0
Tyler Rogers QB 6'3, 213 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 19 122 1 6.4 5.8 52.6% 0 0
Nick Jeanty QB 6'2, 200 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8115 17 88 0 5.2 5.6 35.3% 2 0
Jermichael Selders RB 14 70 0 5.0 2.9 57.1% 0 0
Brandyn Leonard RB 6'0, 168 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593







4. Larry Rose III is a legitimate star

The NMSU passing game was still pretty poor last year, which is problematic in a pass-first system. When you've got Larry Rose III in the backfield, play-action bombs can become a devastating weapon, but you still need to be consistent and efficient enough that opponents cannot load up the box to stop Rose.

There was at least major big-play potential early on: Against Georgia State and UTEP, Tyler Rogers completed only 45 of 83 passes (54 percent), but for 730 yards, six touchdowns, and only two picks.

But Rogers got hurt against New Mexico and missed the rest of the season. That meant extended playing time for QB-turned-WR-turned-QB Andrew Allen and three-star redshirt freshman Nick Jeanty. Allen was hot-and-cold -- 106.4 passer rating in his first three games, 147.1 in his last four -- and Jeanty was inconsistent when Allen was dealing with a November injury.

All three players showed upside, and in theory, the addition of Tyler Matthews would lend even more upside to the position. This will be a fascinating QB race. I assume Rogers is the most likely to win the job, but Allen really did improve as the year progressed, and Jeanty and Matthews were both well-regarded recruits.

But while the passing game needs to improve, the quarterback will not be the main name on this offense. Here's a list of FBS players who had more than 20 20-yard carries in 2015:

  1. Dalvin Cook (Florida State)
  2. Larry Rose III (NMSU)

That's it. That's the entire list. Rose is a stick of dynamite. He's not a huge guy, and loading him up with about 20 carries and four pass targets per game is probably about all that he should be asked to handle. But despite opponents keying on him, he was remarkably consistent. He rushed 41 times for 446 yards and four scores against UTEP and New Mexico. And in a five-game stretch starting with Troy, he averaged 24 carries and 179 yards per game.

If the passing game is even a little bit trustworthy and Rose stays healthy, he could threaten 2,000 yards, even if his carries don't rise tremendously. He is one of the most dangerous players in the Group of Five. He might be the most dangerous.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Teldrick Morgan WR-H 6'0, 195 Sr. NR NR 75 45 551 60.0% 17.7% 7.3 49.3% 36.0% 1.92
Tyrian Taylor WR-Z 5'9, 162 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7633 62 40 690 64.5% 14.7% 11.1 67.7% 51.6% 1.92
Jordan Bergstrom WR-X 60 27 437 45.0% 14.2% 7.3 73.3% 40.0% 1.77
Gregory Hogan WR-X 6'1, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 51 24 370 47.1% 12.1% 7.3 54.9% 37.3% 1.83
Larry Rose III RB 5'11, 184 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7633 44 30 283 68.2% 10.4% 6.4 65.9% 22.7% 2.55
Royce Caldwell WR 5'8, 175 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7700 42 22 272 52.4% 9.9% 6.5 69.0% 33.3% 1.76
Joshua Bowen WR-H 42 29 239 69.0% 9.9% 5.7 52.4% 31.0% 1.66
Rayvean Moore WR-Z
14 9 84 64.3% 3.3% 6.0 64.3% 50.0% 1.14
Xavier Hall RB 5'8, 181 Sr. NR NR 13 8 53 61.5% 3.1% 4.1 38.5% 15.4% 2.53
Clayton Granch TE 6'3, 247 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7533 5 3 34 60.0% 1.2% 6.8 100.0% 60.0% 0.85
OJ Clark WR 5'7, 147 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7755 5 1 7 20.0% 1.2% 1.4 20.0% 20.0% 0.68
Ty Atencio TE 6'4, 215 Sr. NR NR 4 2 11 50.0% 0.9% 2.8 50.0% 25.0% 1.23
Tymon Locklin WR 6'2, 187 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7383 3 0 0 0.0% 0.7% 0.0 33.3% 0.0% 0.00
Cassius Corley WR 6'1, 209 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7710
Isaiah McIntyre WR 5'11, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7758
Gamar Girdy WR 5'9, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8052
Drew Dan WR 6'2, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7785
Jaleel Scott WR 6'6, 212 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 107.2 3.13 3.08 40.8% 67.4% 22.4% 66.8 6.4% 11.2%
Rank 40 27 78 38 55 103 117 94 115
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Andy Cunningham RT 12 41
Isaiah Folasa-Lutui LG 10 34
Houston Clemente LT 11 24
Abram Holland RG 6'2, 300 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 12 23
Anthony McMeans C 6'2, 320 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7400 12 12
Thomas McGwire RT 6'5, 306 Jr. NR NR 0 9
Dezmand Candielaria RG 6'3, 305 Jr. NR NR 2 6
Peter Foreman RT
1 1
Sebastian Anderson LT 6'6, 262 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7711 0 0
Spence Ueli-Faatoalia LG 6'1, 322 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) NR 0 0
Jamin Smith C 6'3, 295 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7585 0 0

5. Big boys

It's hard to gauge how good the line was in 2015 because a) Rose was so good that he probably had a huge positive impact on the run-blocking stats, and b) the QB position was a revolving door, which probably had a negative impact on the pass blocking stats.

If NMSU has a bit more quarterback stability, that will help the stats alone, but while there is a healthy amount of juniors and seniors up front, losing three starters, including both tackles, is at least a little bit scary. Whereas the other offensive units seem to have been timed to peak in 2016-17, the line may have peaked in 2015.

That said, there is at least size. The seven returnees listed above average 6'3, 301; take out 262-pound Sebastian Anderson, and the average weight goes to 308. In the Sun Belt, that's more than big enough.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.43 119 IsoPPP+ 80.9 124
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 45.5% 104 Succ. Rt. + 88.9 103
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 27.9 110 Off. FP+ 27.8 105
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.8 98 Redzone S&P+ 87.4 114
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.3 ACTUAL 22.0 +4.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 125 120 103 124
RUSHING 121 117 96 120
PASSING 120 124 117 122
Standard Downs 117 95 120
Passing Downs 122 119 122
Q1 Rk 128 1st Down Rk 124
Q2 Rk 113 2nd Down Rk 117
Q3 Rk 101 3rd Down Rk 122
Q4 Rk 119

6. Hey, Frank

Networking is important! In 2012, Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani, hired Doug Martin as his offensive coordinator in an attempt to turn around a flagging program. It didn't work -- the offense remained about the same, BC went 2-10, and Spaziani was let go -- but it started a nice working relationship. Spaziani consulted with Martin early in Martin's NMSU tenure, and in January, he agreed to take over as defensive coordinator in Las Cruces.

For all of his flaws as a head coach, Spaz has been a pretty awesome defensive coach in a four-decade career. With him as defensive coordinator, Boston College ranked in the Def. S&P+ top 20 each year from 2005-08, and the Eagles remained in the top 25 in the category in his first two years as head coach. His defenses are sound and aggressive.

To say the least, there's a much lower bar for defensive success at NMSU. In 11 years of S&P+ data, the Aggies have never ranked better than 101st in Def. S&P+. They haven't ranked better than 123rd since 2011. They have been destitute of size, speed, and play-making ability, and if Spaziani is able to turn this into even a top-100 unit, it would be a minor miracle.

But with three starters returning from injury and juniors littered throughout the depth chart, he should at least find the experience level to his liking. And he might be able to build something interesting by 2017.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 88.2 3.06 3.06 40.7% 70.0% 16.1% 69.7 4.5% 2.9%
Rank 114 91 49 92 93 107 111 85 124
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Stephen Meredith DE 12 29.5 4.2% 6.5 2.5 0 0 0 1
Kalei Auelua
(2014)
DE 6'2, 245 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) NR 12 26.0 3.4% 2.5 0.5 0 0 1 0
Brandon Agomuo
(2014)
DE 6'3, 228 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 11 21.5 2.9% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Noah Brown DE 6'1, 230 Sr. NR NR 12 21.0 3.0% 7.0 3.5 0 0 1 0
Alexander Trujillo NT 12 20.5 2.9% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jacob Benegas DT 6'1, 290 Jr. NR NR 12 18.0 2.6% 1.0 0.0 1 0 0 0
Stody Bradley DE 6'2, 245 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 10 17.0 2.4% 3.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Jassavia Reese DE 6'4, 244 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7859 12 16.5 2.4% 2.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Kourtland Busby DL 6'3, 275 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7578 7 12.5 1.8% 3.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Drew James DL 6'2, 292 Sr. NR NR 10 6.5 0.9% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Josh Gibbs NT 12 5.5 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Keanu Higgins DT 6'2, 267 Jr. NR NR
Cedric Wilcots II DT 6'4, 255 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7433
Derek Watson DE 6'4, 231 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593
Myles Vigne DT 6'1, 285 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8004
Darius Anderson DT 6'1, 310 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8241
Roy Lopez DT 6'2, 290 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7859








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Derek Ibekwe MIKE 6'0, 233 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7956 12 67.0 9.5% 6.5 1.0 0 3 1 0
Terrill Hanks SAM 6'3, 217 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7844 12 60.5 8.6% 6.5 1.0 3 1 1 0
Dalton Herrington WILL 6'2, 220 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7594 12 47.5 6.8% 5.5 0.0 0 4 0 0
Rodney Butler WILL 6'1, 235 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7894 11 42.5 6.1% 4.5 1.0 1 2 0 0
Javahn Fergurson LB 6'1, 220 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8094 6 16.5 2.4% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Robert Wagner MIKE 6'1, 236 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) NR 10 9.5 1.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Will Clement SAM 6'3, 211 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7733 10 5.5 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1
Dalton Rocha LB 6'1, 238 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 6 2.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0

7. All the experience you could want, Part 2

Including 2014 stats for three players who missed all or most of 2015 with injury (ends Kalei Auelua and Brandon Agomuo, safety Kawe Johnson), NMSU basically returns nine of its top 12 defensive linemen, every linebacker, and seven of nine defensive backs.

Granted, these guys have all put together a ton of experience on bad defenses. But experiene is still better than a lack thereof.

While down-to-down consistency will likely still be an issue, it does appear that Spaziani has some potential play-makers to deploy. Spaziani defenses were always known for dynamic linebacker play, and NMSU returns four LBs who recorded at least 4.5 tackles for loss last year. (A fifth, Javahn Fergurson, would have probably hit 4.5 as well if hadn't missed half the season.)

Strangely enough, though, with all this experience, a freshman or two could make the biggest difference. Martin's 2016 recruiting class was highlighted by three big defensive tackles -- Myles Vigne, Darius Anderson, and Roy Lopez. Vigne and Anderson were both three-star signees per the 247Sports Composite, and all three have the size that NMSU have often lacked in recent years. Noah Brown leads a potentially decent set of (undersized) ends, but if NMSU can actually bring some heft to the table this year, it might free up the linebackers to make even more plays.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jacob Nwangwa FS 6'0, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7600 12 63.5 9.0% 1.5 0 3 1 0 0
Kawe Johnson
(2014)
FS 5'8, 180 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 12 59.5 7.9% 3 0 1 0 3 0
Jaden Wright SS 6'0, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7883 11 54.5 7.8% 0 0 2 1 1 1
Lewis Hill CB 12 53.0 7.5% 1 0 0 4 1 0
Winston Rose CB 11 44.5 6.3% 2 0 0 6 0 0
Jonathan Hood FS 6'0, 202 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7200 12 19.0 2.7% 0 0 0 1 0 0
King Davis III
(2014)
DB 6'1, 214 Jr. NR NR 6 16.0 2.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
DeMarcus Owens CB 5'10, 187 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7533 10 14.5 2.1% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Jerrion Burton CB 5'11, 171 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 8 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samuel Oyenuga DB 5'11, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) NR 8 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dion Henrique CB 6'1, 198 Sr. NR NR 8 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Malik Demby SS 6'2, 196 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000
Brandon Bell CB 5'9, 170 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7859
Shamad Lomax CB 5'10, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7859








8. Got any corners?

Kawe Johnson got hurt in September; his return gives NMSU three potentially interesting safeties alongside Jacob Nwangwa and Jaden Wright. Throw in sophomore Jonathan Hood and former QB King Davis III, who has dealt with quite a few injury issues of late, and it appears that the Aggies have the safety position covered.

Great. Now who plays corner? Both 2015 starters (Lewis Hill and Winston Rose) are gone, which leaves junior Jerrion Burton, sophomore DeMarcus Owens, and ... I'm not sure after that. Johnson (who is certainly closer to an average cornerback's size than a safety's)? Senior Dion Henrique? A freshman like Brandon Bell or Shamad Lomax?

A more interesting, disruptive front seven could make a world of difference in and of itself. But cornerback issues could hamper Spaziani's first-year efforts.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Anthony Torres 66 40.6 3 4 19 34.8%
Greg Hutchins 3 35.7 0 1 0 33.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Parker Davidson 5'11, 150 So. 67 61.7 33 7 49.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Parker Davidson 5'11, 150 So. 37-43 7-9 77.8% 3-8 37.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Royce Caldwell KR 5'8, 175 So. 19 14.9 0
Tyrain Taylor KR 5'9, 162 Sr. 6 25.3 0
Teldrick Morgan PR 6'0, 195 Sr. 7 8.4 0
Joshua Bowen PR 5 8.6 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 127
Field Goal Efficiency 102
Punt Return Success Rate 70
Kick Return Success Rate 121
Punt Success Rate 127
Kickoff Success Rate 89

9. A big-legged kicker

Sometimes teams with bad offenses and defenses can at least control the field position game with a good special teams unit. NMSU could not. The Aggies were second-to-last in Special Teams S&P+; the punt return game was decent, but NMSU rarely forced punts. Kick returns were a weakness, Parker Davidson's leg was strong but scattershot on kicks and kickoffs, and punt coverage was abysmal.

There's no guarantee that any of this changes in 2016, but at least Davidson's leg really does seem to have some boom in it. As a freshman, half of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, and he made three field goals longer than 40 yards. His full-season numbers were pretty bad, but most of the struggles occurred in the first half of the season -- he was 10-for-15 on PATs in the first four games, and he missed four of five FGs against Ole Miss, Georgia Southern, and Troy. (Hey, if you're going to fall into a slump, you might as well do it in blowouts.) Post-Troy, he was 24-for-24 on PATs and 4-for-6 on FGs. That's better. Now to see if he can return kicks...

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep at UTEP 126 0.0 50%
10-Sep New Mexico 102 -1.5 46%
17-Sep at Kentucky 83 -14.5 20%
29-Oct at Texas A&M 25 -29.4 4%
TBA Appalachian State 59 -13.5 22%
TBA Georgia Southern 52 -14.3 20%
TBA Texas State 120 4.1 59%
TBA UL-Lafayette 106 0.6 51%
TBA at Arkansas State 89 -13.3 22%
TBA at Idaho 108 -5.7 37%
TBA at South Alabama 115 -4.1 41%
TBA at Troy 103 -8.4 31%
Projected wins: 4.1
Five-Year F/+ Rk -48.0% (127)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 127 / 118
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 1 / -5.4
2015 TO Luck/Game +2.7
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 79% (88%, 71%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 3.8 (-0.8)

10. A little bit of improvement could go a long way

Let's break NMSU's schedule into categories:

  • Games with 0-25% win probability: 5
  • Games with 26-50% win probability: 6
  • Games with 51-75% win probability: 1

That's with NMSU projected 117th in S&P+. But what if Spaziani engineers defensive improvement? And what if stability at quarterback leads to more big pass plays and more running lanes for Larry Rose III? What if NMSU improves even into the No. 100-105 range?

  • Games with 0-25% win probability: 1
  • Games with 26-50% win probability: 6
  • Games with 51-75% win probability: 5

NMSU plays seven teams projected between 102nd and 126th. Give the Aggies the two "ifs" above -- neither of which is incredibly unrealistic -- and expected wins shift from between three and five ... to between five and seven.

Because I feel every fan base should have the opportunity for happiness, I'm rooting for Martin to break through this year. It really isn't hard to see how his Aggies might exceed projections -- experience is off the charts, and additions at QB and defensive tackle give them a little bit more upside than before.

It only takes a couple of ifs to make NMSU a bowl contender, and the Aggies are due some good breaks. We'll know a lot about their future in the coming weeks, but this fall, the present could be more enjoyable than it has been in recent years.