"I really don't put too much stock into preseason polls, but it's a good position for us to be in," NMSU head coach Tony Samuel said. "I think we are going to have a good team this season and I'm very convinced that we have a real good shot at the conference championship."
After a tough season in 2003 the Aggie football team is ready to bounce back and fight for a conference championship and a trip to their first bowl game since 1960.
Louisiana was tabbed fourth, Middle Tennessee fifth, Utah State sixth, Arkansas State seventh, Louisiana-Monroe eighth and Idaho ninth. The poll was compiled from votes from the league's coaches, media relations directors and media, last year the Aggies were picked to finish second.
A trio of Aggie football players were named preseason all-Sun Belt Conference, one on offense and two on the defensive side of the ball — senior offensive lineman Steve Subia, junior linebacker Jimmy Cottrell and senior linebacker Rich Glover.
Subia (Midland, Texas) was the Aggies starting right guard last season and has made 24 consecutive starts on the offensive line. He enters this season as one of the Sun Belts top offensive lineman, while being named a third team preseason all-America pick by Athlon Sports. A 2003 first team all-Sun Belt Conference pick, Subia is also on the Outland Trophy Watch List for 2004. In 2003, Subia helped lead the Aggies to one of the top rushing teams in the nation (15th) and the top rushing team in the Sun Belt, averaging 211.8 yards per game.
"Steve has been the leader so far this year, not only on the offense but for the entire team," Samuel said. "He is a giant offensive lineman and I think he has a chance to play in the NFL. We need him to cut a few pounds before the beginning of the season but he can go against anybody and do real well."
Cottrell (Castle Rock, Colo.) returns for his third season with the Aggies as a starter at the linebacker position. Over the past two seasons Cottrell has led the Aggies in tackles, accumulating a total of 185. Last season, he led NMSU with 83 tackles, including three double-digit tackle games. Cottrell finished third on the team in tackles for loss with eight, while recording one sack. He recorded season highs for tackles in a game with 12 against Oregon State and Idaho.
"Cottrell is another one of our great leaders," Samuel said. "He has done a great job on the defensive for us leading the team in tackles the last two seasons. I think he will have a great season."
Glover (Las Cruces, N.M.) also returns for his third season as a starter for the Aggie defense. He has registered 167 tackles and four interceptions while starting 24 consecutive games over the past two seasons. In 2003, Glover finished second on the team with 72 tackles. He was also second on the team in interceptions (2) and fifth in tackles for loss (4). He collected three double-digit tackle games last year, including consecutive games against Arkansas State (10) and Utah State (12). "Rich is another solid linebacker for our team," Samuel said. "I think he will continue to perform the way he has over the pass two seasons. Last year we had very solid linebackers and I think this group could be one of the best we have ever had at NMSU."
The 2004 Sun Belt Conference football television schedule was also announced today in New Orleans. The Aggies will have one televised game against North Texas on Saturday, October 23, in Denton, Texas on ESPN Plus/Sun Belt.
"It seems like the last few years the one guaranteed game on television for us is against North Texas because it's always a great game," Samuel said. "The game last year gave us a lot of nation exposure and was a big plus for our program."
The Aggies open the season at Arkansas in Fayetteville on Saturday, September 4th.
2004 Sun Belt Preseason Football Poll
1. North Texas 159 (15)
2. Troy 116 (1)
3. New Mexico State 110
4. Louisiana 107
5. Middle Tennessee 94
6. Utah State 75 (1)
7. Arkansas State 66
8. Louisiana-Monroe 47 (1)
9. Idaho 36