I'm not a very popular person in Las Cruces. You see, earlier this year I rolled out my Top Ten Most Obscure Programs list, with New Mexico State and its woeful program coming in as the third most obscure program in the country. To this day I stand by this pick, and despite the clarification that Las Cruces is actually inside the United States and happens to be a burgeoning retirement community, the program remains mirrored in a cycle of losing. But things are looking up, as Hal Mumme's Air Raid offense returns with one of the best quarterback to wide receiver connections you've never actually heard of.
Past Question Editions: [Buffalo][Wyoming]
Is this Team Going to Play Defense or What?
That's really the million dollar question, as Head Coach Hal Mumme's offense should be good to go with quarterback Chase Holbrook back under center and All-WAC wide receiver Chris Williams (92 catches, 1425 yards) lining up as the Z receiver. The problem is that the defense couldn't stop much of anyone last season, giving up just over 30 points per game and generating almost no pass rush. Last year's 15 sack total was absolutely pathetic, and for the Aggie's to have any kind of success this year they are going to need ends Brandon McKinney and Maurice Murray to "get the man," as they say. The defense also to find a way to force more turnovers, which coincidentally, usually comes as a by-product of aggressive play and getting pressure in the backfield. Talent wise this unit is at the bottom of the pack for the entire country, so coordinator Woody Widenhofer certainly has his work cut out for him. With the returning experience you'd expect this unit to be better next season, but in a conference where offense is everything, it remains to be seen just how much better it can get.
Can New Mexico State's Offense Carry the Team?
So we've established that the defense returns nine people and should be better next season, but let's be honest, this team is still going to need to score a boatload of points to win games. Fortunately they only lose two players from the offense during the offseason, and return a plethora of wide receivers who've shown the propensity to put up some big numbers in the past. The aforementioned Chris Williams is a legitimate All-American candidate after leading the nation in catches and receiving yards last season, while both A.J. Harris and Derek Duboise recorded more than 50 catches and 750 yards last season. Tight End Nick Cleaver is a dangerous target as well, hauling in 50 balls for over 600 yards last season. Basically, this team is as "loaded" as any other high-octane offense in the conference. But don't be that surprised; This was, after all, the fourth best offense in terms of total yards (475/game) last season, and the second best in terms of pass yards (399/game.) One thing that the offense will need to improve on is turnovers, or rather the need to stop them. After all, it means relatively little to put up 534 total yards on Boise St. if you're going to lose by 12 points (which happened last season.)
Is Chase Holbrook just a "System Guy?"
I've followed enough college football in my day to realize that quarterbacks from Lubbock who throw for a billion yards in their careers usually aren't as talented as you would think. And while NMSU quarterback Chase Holbrook may not play for the Mad Man and his Red Raiders, the guy is originally from Lubbock. Mumme's Air Raid passing attack has always been tagged as being overly "system friendly," and aside from Tim Couch, none of his quarterbacks have ever really made it big. But then again, who am I to say Holbrook doesn't have ability, and as long as people are going to continue to say how amazingly great Colt Brennan is, I don't know if you can discount Holbrook.
Just for Fun: For a school with such little exposure and a history of playing at a rather low level, the Sports Information department here does a great job. The website is one of the better ones I've seen, while their are even highlight videos of last year's games to watch. Also, have you ever noticed the plethora of good quarterbacks with the name Chase? Also again, has anyone else noticed that the state of New Mexico is actually loaded with High School talent when you consider the relative small size of the population?
Adam's Take: This team has just as good a shot as any in the bottom of the WAC to make the move into the middle part of the conference, and when you consider the (relative) stability of the coaching staff and Mumme's ability to get the offense to score a million points, New Mexico St. could actually compete for a Bowl bid in 2007. I personally believe the team will come up short, and the win total will once again be padded by two games against FCS (I-AA) opponents. Yes the offense is explosive, but dammit this is the WAC we're talking about, teams are suppose to have an explosive offense. I look for the Aggies to win five or six games in 2007, but no more than 4 games against I-A competition.