Nowhere To Go But Up!

It was a disastrous first season for the man New Mexico State fans were hoping would rescue their football program. Coach Hal Mumme is counting on two newcomers to bring the program up from the dead.

Coach Hal Mumme's club returns 14 starters, including eight on offense. That's a beginning for a team that was 0-12 and carries the nation's longest losing streak of 13 games into this fall.

Chase Holbrook (6-5, 235, So.), a transfer from SE Louisiana, will be the starting quarterback for the Aggies, with freshman Scott Grantham (6-1, 205, So.) a capable backup. Holbrook (Hurst, Texas) completed 22 of 30 passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Crimson team in the spring game. He was a backup quarterback at SE Louisiana when Coach Mumme was there, so he has a good command of Mumme's "Air Raid" offense. He doesn't have the mobility of past Aggie quarterbacks, but he can make the throws.

Holbrook inherits a pretty good situation with plenty of options at receiver. Derek Dubois (5-9, 171, Jr.) is the starter at the Y position with Brandon Allen (6-2, 195, Jr.) providing depth. A.J. Harris (6-2, 190, So.) moves into the X slot, while Aikeem Jolla (6-3, 200, Sr.) will start at the "H" receiver and Tim Tolbert (6-2, 183, Sr.) returning at the Z position.

Jolla comes to Las Cruces as a transfer from the University of Miami, where he caught 24 passes in three years. Jolla will be a huge factor for the Aggies this fall. He received a hardship waiver from the NCAA and thus does not have to sit out a year, as is usually the case with transfers. His mother in New Orleans was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and is moving to Las Cruces. Jolla requested the transfer to be near her.

Harris leads returning players with 38 catches for 445 yards and four scores last year. Allen had 33 catches for 362 yards while Tolbert had 31 receptions last season for 358 yards despite missing four games due to a shoulder injury. Dubois grabbed 28 passes for 373 yards. Freshman Jahmeel Hobson (5-10, 165) from El Paso had an impressive spring game with eight receptions for 211 yards and a touchdown, and should get a good look from Coach Mumme for playing time this fall.

Justine Buries (6-0, 200, Jr.) is the lone running back, with Jeremiah Williams (6-0, 205, So.) backing Buries up. Buries paced the Aggie ground game last season with 779 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown.

The starting line is small and young. Kyle Smith (6-2, 265) at left tackle is the only senior of the group. He'll be joined at tackle by Adam Honaker (6-2, 280, Jr.), with Matthew Schoonover (6-4, 290, So.) and James Farrelly (6-3, 294, Jr.) the guards and sophomore Mike Martinez (6-4, 335) set to go at center. Brett Leeds (6-2, 292, Jr.) and senior Alex Gottlieb (6-3, 280) are the backup tackles. There's some beef in waiting at left guard in the presence of Martinues Albert (6-3, 350, Sr.) and Maveu Hemuli (6-4, 387, So.) while Schoonover is the backup center.

On defense for New Mexico State, Senior Jared Naylor (6-2, 262) returns to lead the line at defensive end. Maurice Murray (6-3, 290, Jr.) from Long Beach Community College should start at left end with senior Jeremy Weeks (6-2, 285) in the middle of the Aggies' 3-4 defense. Weeks moved over from the offensive line last year and seems to have adjusted well. He recorded 19 tackles in seven starts at nose guard last season.

Tim McManigal (6-0, 231, Sr.) is the "Wanda" linebacker, with junior Shana Leaupepe (6-1, 245) the Mike, Lauli Fonoti (6-2, 225, So.) at left outside 'backer and freshman Jamar Cotton (6-1, 219) currently ahead of senior Nathan Nuttall (6-0, 225) on the depth chart at right outside linebacker.

Courtney Bryan (5-11, 195) and Alex Bernard (5-11, 190, Jr.) are the corners with Gill Byrd (5-7, 170, Sr.) providing backup. Bryan tallied 38 tackles, led the team in interceptions with three and was credited with 11 pass break-ups. He was fifth in the WAC and 10th in the nation in passes defended. Seniors Cole Marton (6-0, 195) and Eric Carrie (5-11, 205) are the safeties.

Sophomore Matt Pratt (5-10, 175) will be the kicker while Jared Kaufman (6-1, 186, Jr.) will handle the punting chores. Chris Williams (5-8, 155, So.) will get the nod at punt returner with the two kickoff return spots up for grabs between Harris, Williams, Jolla, Dubois and Hobson.

New Mexico State has home dates with Hawai'i, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State and Boise State, while they travel to Nevada, Fresno State, Utah State and Idaho. Any team that goes 0-11 cannot change Rome in one season. The team simply has too far to go, and road games against the three top teams don't help matters. The Aggies have a smart non-conference schedule to build their team on, with home games against Southeastern, New Mexico and Texas Southern and a lone road tilt at UTEP.

Simulations at EA Sports predict a 4-8 season for New Mexico State, with a 2-6 mark in the Western Athletic Conference. Projected wins are San Jose State, Utah State, Southeastern and Texas Southern but if Mumme's group can come together, they could steal a home win against Louisiana Tech and/or New Mexico.

 


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