2008 Blue Ribbon Yearbook Aggie Football Preview :: Coach and Program

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Information in this team report is as of June 20.

While New Mexico State’s offense has come into its own since head coach Hal Mumme took over the program three years ago, the defense is still trying to find its way.

After another season of yielding numbers that left their scoring defense ranked in the triple digits nationally, Mumme turned to veteran Joe Lee Dunn to overhaul the unit. The new defensive coordinator promptly hired two assistants who crossed paths with him during his days at Mississippi State. His most recent college job was at the University of Memphis.

He was hired by the Tigers to head a reclamation project in the spring of 2003. In 2002, Memphis was 101st in the nation in rushing defense and a modest 57th overall. In 2003, the Tigers finished 18th in rushing defense, 19th against the pass and ninth overall, giving you an idea why Mumme hired him. "I wanted to stay with an odd defense, and because of our personnel, I thought the 3-5 would be a good fit and who better to put that in, but the guy [Dunn] who invented it,"Mumme said."I’m excited about having him here to help turn this thing around." Last year, New Mexico State finished 107th nationally in scoring defense, yielding a staggering 36.2 points per game. The pass defense came in at No. 105 (261.9 ypg) and No. 114 in pass efficiency.

Considering most of the teams in the WAC throw the football all over the lot, these numbers need dramatic improvement. "I’m ready to hit the ground running," Dunn said. "I’m excited to be back in college football, and I feel we have a chance to be a very good football team."

Despite winning only four games last year, including one in the WAC, Mumme tends to agree with his newest assistant. He has a powerful combination at quarterback and wideout, the defense has a better understanding of how to get things done in the strange formation Mumme has chosen, and the schedule is more favorable than in past campaigns.

Some good things happened last year before injuries began to chip away at what little depth Mumme had managed in his short tenure at Las Cruces. The Aggies beat UTEP to end a three-game losing streak against their rivals en route to opening the season 3-2. But it turned bleak after that, including a 58-0 shellacking in the WAC opener at Boise State. What was even more alarming, Mumme’s offense, after losing a starter here and another there, wasn’t really producing as it should. The result was a No. 87 ranking nationally with an average of 24 points per game. Considering the weakness of most WAC defense--only three were in the top 60 nationally — Mumme realizes some tweaking is needed. "We worked on a lot of things this spring to improve as a football team, "Mumme said."We’ve got to score more points, and we have to defend better if we want to compete.You can say all you want, but that’s what it comes down to in terms of wins and losses."

Mumme wanted to shore up some weaknesses quickly, that’s one reason he went out and signed eight junior college prospects. His hiring of Dunn is another sign he knows it’s time to climb out of the WAC cellar. He has nine seniors among the 15 returning starters, so experience is not a problem. He also knows Dunn has coached this defense before, so there was no real learning curve in the spring.

Say what you will about Mumme’s wide-open attack. If he doesn’t have the right defense to complement it, then victories will be hard to come by once league play begins. In three years, the Aggies have won only three league games. That’s not going to get it done if Mumme wants to be here three years from now. "I feel like we have a chance to be a good football team if we limit our mistakes and keep guys healthy," Mumme said. "If somebody does go down, we need somebody else to step in and play the position. I’m excited about the upcoming season. We have a lot of quality athletes at key positions."

Want to know about the rest of the WAC? How about NMSU's non-conference opponents New Mexico, UTEP and Nebraska? For the most comprehensive previews available on all 119 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college football, the 2008 Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).