2019 Won’t Get Any Easier for Doug Martin’s NMSU Squad

Not that “easier” is ever anything that occurs regularly in Las Cruces.
After having a team that needed a near-perfect record in one-possession games to get to a bowl game in 2017, and the best offensive players leaving town, 2018 was guaranteed to be a harder year.
With a team that regressed to the mean in one score games, and a defense that couldn’t get the Aggies on the right side of games that weren’t close, the season was a struggle.
Then you look at next season, and the struggle is unlikely to change in the near future. The Aggies early schedule wound up even more formidable than anticipated against stout defenses in Wyoming, Minnesota and Utah State.
The coming season will once again feature only five home games, including Mountain West studs San Diego State and Fresno State. Rivalry games against New Mexico and UTEP are always at least winnable, and Incarnate Word is an up and coming but still FCS squad.
Unfortunately, things might get ugly early. NMSU will travel each of the first two weeks, as they hit the road against Washington State and Alabama. Sure, they’ll collect a cool $4 million in checks for those games as well as the Ole Miss tilt all the way in November, but those are some hard games.
So how equipped are the Aggies to handle it? We shall see.
Christian Gibson, Johnathan Boone, and Royce Caldwell are gone, as are a couple offensive linemen, but the rest of an offense that found itself last season returns. Terrill Hanks and Ron LaForce will be gone, but big chunks of the defense remain behind.
Early signing period also offered some immediate reinforcements.
Out of 15 players, eight were JUCO transfers plus a straight transfer from Baylor. The Baylor transfer – Tony Nicholson – plus three of the JUCO guys are wide receivers, and two more were offensive linemen.
Nicholson didn’t play much at Baylor, but he was a top 100 recruit in the state of Texas and passed on 10 other offers to go to Baylor. None of the receivers are massive, but they’ve all got experience and decent size (and will likely grow in a DI conditioning program).
Those offensive linemen though.
Sage Doxtater is a big dude at a listed 6’7″ 327 (and he maybe plays a tad heavier). Well, now that the Aggies have added JUCO transfer Blake Walker (6’8″ 330ish), Doxtater isn’t the Aggies biggest lineman anymore. I know size is only one component, but having eight guys on the o-line depth chart that clock in at 6’5″ 320 or bigger is a nice starting point.
NMSU also bolstered the other side of the ball with defensive back Christopher Bell who was at Independence CC for the third season of Last Chance U, and linebacker Michael Bowe Jr, who was at Independence the year before the cameras showed up and then shifted to CC of San Francisco last year.
Early returns suggest a team that will be new to each other and will take time to gel, but will have to do so amidst the fires of two opening weeks that feature 5,400 miles of travel and two road games against teams finishing the 2018 season ranked in the top 10.
Look for 2019 to be a season where the Aggies as a whole – if they stay healthy – play better, but don’t necessarily show massive improvement in the win column.

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