With injuries to Justin Clifton and Charleston Girley the last two games that position of Nickle has the Arkansas State coaching staff thinking aloud.
At his weekly press conference coach Blake Anderson said starting linebacker Khari Lain is the likely candidate to slide in the spot that was left vacant by Clifton’s surgery on a torn pectoral muscle and Girley’s knee injury. Anderson did say Girley’s status is day-to-day.
“Khari Lain fits best,’’ said Anderson, whose team plays fast-rising New Mexico State on Saturday in Las Cruces. “That is what he has always played in high school. We moved him to weak-side linebacker where he is too small and too whatever but he just makes plays. He is the guy who will be the most comfortable there and probably has the skill set. It is not a lot different that our will linebacker.
“He can’t play every snap so what is the next answer, a dime package, moving (safeties) Cody Brown or Money Hunter? We’ve got answer A, we need to have answer B and C.”
Defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen said “nothing is set yet” and that senior linebacker Austin Copeland, who played there some vs. ULM, could play there or at the WLB.”
Other than the Nickle position, Anderson said the team is in as good as shape as it could be this time of the season.
The team spent the off-week working on conditioning and body recovery.
Offensive coordinator Walt Bell said the New Mexico State revival, winners of three straight, reminds him of what happened in the Sun Belt last year with another team.
“It really reminds me of what App State did,’’ said Bell. “They had some bad losses early and all the sudden caught fire and finished strong.”
The Mountaineers carried a 10-game conference winning streak that started last season into their meeting with the Red Wolves this month. A-State won that game 40-27.
“I wish we could catch them at a better time (for us),’’ said Anderson. “They have won three in a row and you can see how they are playing with confidence.
“This week they will be playing at home, senior day, they will have all the bells and whistles. We will catch them at their best.
“They can’t make it to a bowl and they are out of the conference race but they have continued to get better. I don’t know if it is experience or they are growing up but in the last few games you can look at the sideline and they are having fun.”
The Aggies (3-7) have victories over Idaho (55-48 overtime), at Texas State (31-21) and at UL-Lafayette (37-34). They had early close losses to Georgia State (34-32), UTEP (50-47 in OT) and New Mexico (38-29) in a game they led by 9 going into the final quarter. Ole Miss, Florida and Troy are the only teams to keep the Aggies under 21 points. NMSU is averaging just over 31 points per game in Sun Belt play. The Aggies have given up 34 or more points to every opponent except Texas State, who was held to 21.