November 13, 2013

Building blocks for 2014

The football head coaching job at NMSU has been called several things by critics. "Career ending." "Dead-end job." "Toughest college football head coaching gig in the country." "Where coaches careers go to die." Trouble is, most of them are true, to an extent.

We often read that Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan, Texas, USC, or LSU are the toughest head coaching jobs in America. Not even close. Try NMSU on for a change.

C'mon...I dare you.

Nick reading this?

No need to go into the history of NMSU football. We all know where we are today and why. Question is, what's it going to take to "right this ship" or "resurrect" this once proud football program. Yes, you read that right. This was once a proud football program, but you have to go back decades or almost a Jubilee to find any success.

Many have come and tried. Many have failed. We've heard it all from previous coaches. Things like, "rebuilding", "turn-around", "change the mindset", "learn how to win", and my personal favorite, "We will win, but it take time...and money".

Trouble is, in college football, you only get on average four years to prove yourself as a winning head coach at NMSU.

If you were to look at the grassy knoll on the west side of Aggie Memorial Stadium, I swear you can see the last names on headstones of former head coaches like Wood, Bradley, Krueger, Zechman, Knoll, Hess, Samuel, Mumme, and Walker propped-up like at a cemetery. A cemetery of coaches past. Nine have tried. All nine have failed. Call it the "Woodson Curse". I do.

In with the new (again)

So in comes coach number ten, 34th overall, since the glory days of Warren Woodson football at NMSU. This is coach Martin's second stint at NMSU, only this time its as head honcho. His previous "rodeo" at NMSU was as offensive coordinator, where the Aggie offense flourish under his direction. He soon parted for Boston College in the same capacity with the Eagles. Now he's back and he's taking no names or prisoners. No blame. No past history. No excuses. Well, none he'll admit to but let's be honest, this is NMSU football.

Establishing an identity

Coach Martin rode in on a horse when he first got the head coaching gig saying the right things right off the bat. He took to fans in Las Cruces by storm. They remembered his team that year that moved the football consistently and put up big scores. The soft Aggie defense of course never lived-up to their end of the bargain so the Aggies suffered yet another losing season. So what's different now? Good question.

"With us, it all starts with establishing an identity," coach Martin said in an interview. "We got that going in spring ball that we want to be a fast, physical, disciplined football team, and that's what we're continuing. It's all about small victories for us right now.

"Putting in the strength program together, putting the academic program together the way we want it. Hopefully those things spill onto the field and us looking like a disciplined team. The only way we're going to be competitive is to establish that identity."

The recruiting trail

Lack of overall team speed has been a factor for this years team and coach Martin makes no secret of it. He's been quoted many times saying the only real way to fix this is by recruiting. Recruiting fast, football talented athletes. Easier said than done, but they are out there.

As of this writing, the Rivals football database lists NMSU as having thirteen verbal commits (actually 15) for 2014. A closer look into their recruiting efforts shows one-hundred-two offers with sixty-nine still undecided. Of those still undecided, the star-rating breaks down as follows:

5-star: 0
4-star: 1
3-star: 8
2-star: 60

Those aren't stellar numbers, pun intended, but when it comes to NMSU, you must recruit the 2-star prospects in hopes of finding a "gem" in that mix and developing them into 3-star or 4-star football players in during college football careers.

One thing to note is NMSU currently has approximately thirty red shirt athletes on roster for 2014. Add that to the 2014 recruiting class and that's roughly fifth-five prospects coming in next season. That's almost a 65% turnover rate of new players for next season. That may answer the question of, "What's different now?" under coach Martin. Change is good.

Moving forward

We're not writing off the 2013 season even though their record is currently 1-9, but the team has been playing great football the past two games; Louisiana-Lafayette and Boston College. So well in fact that at the home game against Boston College, Aggie fans gave this team and coaches a standing ovation at halftime and at the end of the game. And this was AFTER a loss. How many college football programs can say that after a loss?

Aggie fans see effort, good coaching, and progress on the field. We can only hope that continues from here on out and the final two games of the 2013 will prove that with games at Florida Atlantic and home against Idaho in the season finale. Its "small steps" as coach Martin pointed out when he accepted the job but their the right steps in the right direction.

With ten more scholarships to go for the 2014 recruiting class, it'll be interesting if coach Martin and staff can find those ever so elusive "hidden gems" out in the fertile recruiting grounds of Texas, Arizona, and California. Look for verbal commits to fill holes on the defensive side of the ball, most likely the lineman, and the skill positions like QB, RB, and WR.

Building blocks. One brick at a time.

Sounds cliché? Sure it does, but what else does NMSU have to go on?


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