Gerry Gdowski is in his eighth year at NMSU and his second season as offensive coordinator. Gdowski has been intimately involved with the Aggie offense all eight seasons and that consistency has led to some solid numbers.
Last year the Aggie offense had another impressive season, finishing 15th in the nation in rushing offense (211.7 yards per game) and 33rd in total offense (410 yards per game).
It marked the seventh consecutive season the Aggies have ranked in the top 20 in the nation in rushing.
In 2003, NMSU ran the ball an average of 49 times per game while throwing an average of nearly 24 passes per game. Gdowski expects the 2004 Aggies power-I offensive style to be much of the same.
"The offense will be similar to last year, except well have some new faces," says Gdowski. "Weve got some new faces at wide receiver and weve got some other guys that haven't caught a lot of balls that are going to have to step up. We have some new faces on the offensive line and at running back."
Over the past five years the Aggies have averaged close to the same number of passes per game, but the efficiency of the attack has improved greatly.
NMSU completed just 48 percent of its passes in 1999, but each of the past two seasons the team has broken the school record for completion percentage at over 61 percent.
"I think we have evolved and that we can throw the ball very efficiently. Over the last couple of years we've gotten a lot better. That's the key. It?s not that you are putting the ball in the air 40 or 50 times, the key is being efficient and completing those throws."
The good news for NMSU is that Gdowski has two talented quarterbacks available to lead the charge.
Senior Buck Pierce has completed over 65 percent of his passes during this three-year career and has rushed for 12 touchdowns.
Junior Paul Dombrowski has compiled over 3,500 yards of total offense in two seasons while completing 56 percent of his passes and rushing for 18 touchdowns.
"If we had to play right now, Buck would be the starter and Paul would be the backup. Over the next couple of weeks they will compete and we want to come up with a starter. Once we come up with that, then we'll have to see how everybody else fits into what we want to do offensively." NMSU has the luxury of having three players that are not just solid quarterbacks, but excellent all-around athletes.
Both Dombrowski and Pierce caught passes in specialized situations that saw them line up at wide out, while third-string quarterback Joey Vincent also moonlighted as NMSU?s backup center fielder in the spring.
"You have three guys that we feel can play. Paul and Buck have to be on the field somehow."
While the Aggie offense continued to accumulated impressive numbers last season, it has to improve its ability to score in the red zone and cut down on turnovers
NMSU was next to last in the Sun Belt Conference in turnover margin and ranked just fifth in scoring, averaging 21.8 points per game. "The focus started during spring ball. We're practicing a lot more in the red zone and on the goal line. You try and come up with some different wrinkles. We turned the ball over a few times in the red zone last year and that really hurt us. We'll continue that focus and practice a lot more than in the past and hopefully that will solve some of the problems."
Another constant for NMSU has been a stable of talented receivers. In the past three seasons the Aggies have featured stars such as H.B. Briscoe, Ronshay Jenkins, and P.J. Winston.
Now Gdowski is hoping that a new face will lead the way. "We think athletically, we have a talented group. We have guys that have some experience in Tim Tolbert, Jared Quick and Preston Williams.
We do feel athletically we can be better at that position and we have four new guys in the mix that should help." The running game is led by rising star Tony Joseph. The red-shirt sophomore was solid in 2003, averaging a team-leading 5.5 yards per carry and posting four 100-yard or better games in five starts.
Now the Aggies need to find a solid number two I-back and look to solidify the fullback position.
"We don't really have anybody at the fullback position that has any experience. David Romaka had a good spring and we are counting on some guys coming in and adding some depth.
You hope that in the offensive line you have guys who can come through for you." The offensive line features possibly the best player on the team in right guard Steve Subia. Subia is a preseason all-America pick and on the Outland Trophy Watch List.
He is joined on the right side of the line by returning starting tackle Nick Cole.
NMSU is counting on red-shirt freshman Mike Martinez at center with sophomore Kyle Smith, who saw extensive action as a backup, at left tackle. The left guard position is up in the air with the Aggies hoping Justin Shopbell can stay healthy and make a major contribution after missing the past two seasons.
NMSU will practice Tuesday through Friday at 4:00 p.m. with two a day practices beginning Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m.