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Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Spring superlatives: New Mexico State

By Graham Watson

If you ask coach DeWayne Walker, he’d be hard-pressed to sell you on a strong position for his team. He was disappointed in last year’s effort and thought when his squad started the season 3-3 that it had the potential to win five or six games. But in the back half of the season, the offense failed to score consistently, which put more pressure on the defense and ultimately sent the Aggies into a six-game losing streak to end the year. But Walker is confident that his team will be better in 2010.

Here’s a look at the strongest and weakest positions for New Mexico State this spring:

Strongest position: Running back

Key returners: Senior Seth Smith (246 carries, 1,016 yards, one touchdown), sophomore Robert Clay (10 carries, 16 yards)

Key departures: None.

The skinny: The running game was one of the few bright spots for the Aggies last year and should be again with starter Seth Smith fully healthy. Smith played most of last season with a separated left shoulder and he injured his right one during spring drills, but he's expected to recover for the fall. He will have some capable backups in Robert Clay and junior college transfer Kenny Turner, who was an All-American. Running back is by far the deepest position for the Aggies and will be counted on to produce early while the quarterbacks and receivers get on the same page.

Weakest position: Linebacker

Key returners: None.

Key departures: Ross Conner (102 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack), Jason Scott (104 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss), Jamar Cotton (40 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack), Sam King (15 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack)

The skinny: The Aggies lost their three starting linebackers from a year ago and primary backup Sam King, who decided to leave the team in the offseason. That left the Aggies with a lot of unknowns at the linebacker positions and a lot of players with little experience. Junior college transfer Frank Padilla, junior Boyblue Aoelua and sophomore B.J. Adolpho appear to be the top candidates to take over, but none of them has played a meaningful snap at linebacker. Last year’s linebackers were among the team’s leaders in tackles, so these players will have a lot to live up to.