Can Ag football exploit talent?
For a football team on a 10-game losing streak and considered one with a big hill to climb – cbssports.com ranks New Mexico State University No. 123 out of 128 teams in the country – NMSU has still found respect in the form of preseason award nominees.
The Aggies, 2-10 in 2014, enter their 2015 campaign with several potential all stars.
Let’s take a look:
• Offensive lineman Isaiah Folasa-Lutui has been selected to the 2015 Rotary Lombardi Award watch list. The Rotary Lombardi Award is limited to linemen or linebackers. The 6-3. 311-pound Folasa- Lutui played and started in all 12 games during the 2014 season. A native of Corona, Calif, he was part of an offensive line that helped quarterback Tyler Rogers complete 268 of 436 throws for 2,779 yards and 19 touchdowns. Additionally, the senior’s aid of the offensive line allowed running back Larry Rose III to rush for 1,102 yards. Semifinalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award will be announced on Nov. 5.
• Wide receiver Teldrick Morgan was named to the 2015 watch list for the Paul Hornung Award given annually to the “most versatile player in major college football.” He’s also been named to the 2015 Biletnikoff Award watch list, an award presented annually to the nation’s outstanding college football receivers. Last year, Morgan had 75 receptions for 903 yards to average 12.0 yards per catch and 82.1 receiving yards per game. The Hanover, Md.-native amassed four games of at least 100 receiving yards and took back 16 kick returns for 369 yards. Morgan also produced 73 yards on five punt returns.
• Seven Aggies have also been named to Phil Steele’s Preseason All-Sun Belt Team. Morgan and Folasa-Lutui were first-team picks. Linebacker Rodney Butler earned a second team All-Sun Belt selection after he led the Aggies with 119 tackles, which included 58 solo in 2014. Running back Larry Rose III earned third-team honors after he led the Aggies in rushing with 1,102 yards on 186 carries and had nine touchdowns. Defensive end Kalei Auelua, linebacker Derek Ibekwe and Morgan, who was also NM State’s kick returner, joined Rose III on the third team. Ibekwe amassed 102 tackles in 2014, while Auelua racked
On the field up 43. Offensive lineman Andy Cunningham was selected to Phil Steele’s Preseason fourth team.
As you probably already know, the Aggies open up their 2015 schedule Sept. 5 in The Swamp against the University of Florida. Now these will not be the same Gators as the glory teams under former head coach Steve Spurrier, but still a road game in humid Florida against an SEC program is a tough way to start the season.
NMSU will again be in SEC land Oct. 10 when they travel to Oxford, Miss., to take on Ole Miss.
Add in the fact that none of the games on the schedule will probably be a walk in the park, although Idaho and Georgia State are both ranked lower than NMSU, 2015 is a difficult season to predict.
As always, injuries will play a significant role. Football is a rough-andtumble sport and teams need to have quality backups ready for the inevitable injuries. The Aggies have been able to recruit good talent, but smaller programs like NMSU often have trouble recruiting talent two and three deep that is on par with bigger schools.
Clearly NMSU has some talent, it wouldn’t have the preseason honors without such. Clearly, though, there is work to be done.
Brook Stockberger may be reached at 680-1977 or brook@lascrucesbulletin.