This is the fifth in a series of articles previewing Western Athletic Conference football teams. Today, the Appeal takes a look at New Mexico State.
BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
New Mexico State coach Hal Mumme is known for his wide-open offense. The defense? Well, let's just say the Aggies put 11 guys on the field every week.
The Aggies are 8-29 in Mumme's first three years, and much of the blame can be placed on the defense, which hasn't been able to stop anybody. Of the Aggies' 29 losses, 14 times opponents have put up 40 or more points. That's an ugly stat to say the least.
It was time to change, and Mumme knew it. Mumme went to Joe Lee Dunn, the architect of the 3-3-5 defense.
"I told him that I wanted to go to that style of defense, and asked him if he knew of any young guys that could put in his defensive scheme," Mumme said.
The 61-year-old Dunn, who coached at the high school level in 2007, surprisingly offered his services, and signed on as the Aggies' new defensive coordinator. Dunn has been a defensive coordinator at South Carolina, Memphis, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State.
"I'm excited about the change," Mumme said. "It was the right time to do it. Woody (Widenhofer) had decided to retire.
"The defense puts players in a lot of different positions. BYU and New Mexico run it. Don't know anybody in the WAC that does."
The cupboard isn't exactly bare on that side of the ball, either.
The Aggies return seven starters " defensive end Rhyan Anderson (6-4, 280), linebacker Chris Nwoko (6-1,230), linebacker La'Auli Fonoti (6-4, 253), Jamar Cotton (6-0, 216), cornerback Chris Woods (5-10, 180), cornerback Davon House (6-0, 170) and safety Derrick Richardson (5-11,190).
Richardson was the team's second-leading tackler with 108 stops, while Nwoko, Fonoti and Woods were fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. House, who expected to redshirt last season, finished with four interceptions and eight pass break-ups as a true freshman.
Tackle Oren Long (6-2, 245) and nose guard E.J. Cannon (6-0, 305) join Anderson up front. Kawika Shook (6-3, 248) and Sioeli Fakalata (6-3, 313) are the back-ups.
Ross Conner (5-10, 216) has the edge over Cotton at right end/linebacker, while Fonoti is on the left side. Nick Paden (6-3, 235), a transfer from Butte College, is in the middle. Ka'ua Adolpho (6-1, 234), Jason Scott (5-10, 200) and Boyblue Aoelua (5-10,230) are the back-ups.
House and Richardson will be joined by safeties Brennan Baiamonte (6-0, 204) and Alphonso Powell (5-9, 176) plus cornerback Vincent Butler (5-10, 177), who had 29 stops a year ago.
"This defense is about gap control," Mumme said. "In the 3-4 last year, it was more of a read and react defense. We're a little thinner, a little smaller and probably faster."
House likes the changes.
"Everybody is going to be running to the ball no matter what," House said. "We don't have to worry as much (getting beat deep). We'll give the underneath ball all day."
The Aggies' offense is a year older and a year better. Injuries to several skill players, including quarterback Chase Holbrook and talented wide receivers A.J. Harris and Chris Williams plus tight end Nick Cleaver. Nine starters missed 35 total games.
The injuries gave receivers Wes Neiman (44 catches, 423 yards, 3 TDs) and Chris Buckner (21-208-0) a chance to get their feet along with J.J. McDermott, who played eight games at quarterback as a true freshman.
Holbrook, who passed for 3,866 yards and 26 scores is back and healthy as are Williams (56- 772-11), who played in only eight game, and Harris (81-611-2).
"He (Holbrook) is a tough individual," Mumme said. "He has put up terrific numbers and put forth a heroic effort last season. It's his last shot; his best shot.
"Wes (Neiman) performed very well. Both he and Kyle got some great experience."
McDermott, who completed 61 percent of his passes for 430 yards and two scores. He'll be Holbrook's understudy again.
Two returnees " Tonny Glynn and Brandon Perez " figure to start in the backfield. Glynn, who was also injured at times last year, gained 456 yards rushing and another 171 receiving. Perez carried just six times for 41 yards and also caught four passes for 16 yards.
Ryan Franzoy, a redshirt sophomore will take Cleaver's spot at tight end. He played nine games as a redshirt freshman, and was used mostly as a blocker.
The offensive line returns three starters " center Richie Bolin (6-1, 291) and guards Chuck Taylor (6-3, 345) and Polo Gutierrez (6-2, 304). Patrick Blount (6-3, 270) and Kyle Smith (6-6, 323), a pair of second-year players, will start at the tackles.
"Kyle Smith, Patrick Blount and Joel Buschman all had good springs," Mumme said.
Joe Suder (6-6, 330), David Norman (6-5, 300) and Joseph Palmer (6-3, 313) are the key back-ups along with Buschman (6-3, 270).
Kyle Hughes, a redshirt freshman, is expected to handle both the punting and place-kicking for the Aggies, who open their season Sept. 4 against Nicholls State.