The play of the defensive line has also got to get tougher. Last year against North Texas for the Sun Belt title, the Mean Green won the battle at the line of scrimmage, winning the game down the stretch with a solid running game. NMSU has experience on the line with several juniors and seniors. Interior lineman Tommy Laborin, Joe Olivo and Lionel Apineru have been around and must play well.
Olivo in particular must regain his form from his first two years in which he had 20 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback sacks. He needs to stay healthy, but most of all he needs to stay focused and regain the spirited attitude he once contained.
Apineru, if he's healthy, could have a pretty good year. A bum knee hampered him at times last season. But the key for the Aggie defensive line could come from the rush ends. Greg Scaffidi and Traydell Bullock return as juniors, while Aubrey Dorisme, John Sioui, Julmar Howard and Chris Sneed will push them.
The rush ends must give NMSU the ability to rush the quarterback and contain the run. One of the hardest things at any level of football is to find a good, solid rush end. NMSU has some potential there, but those guys have to maintain consistency and be able to get to the quarterback.
Aggie defensive line coach Richard Glover and head coach Tony Samuel have been diligently working with the lineman in practice, working drill after drill. Glover in particular has been throwing out different numbers like last year's 14 sacks as reminders of what he'd like to see this year.
The Aggies have very good linebackers and potentially a very good defensive backfield, but without much help from the defensive line, their job will be very difficult.