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If there is one phase of the offense that won’t keep Mumme up late nights pacing the floor, it’s the wideouts. All three starters are back, including senior Chris Williams (5-8, 157), who missed the last five games of the season with a shoulder injury. (bleedCrimson.net Editorial Note: Chris Williams' season ended after he suffered a broken collarbone against Idaho)
In only eight games, he caught 56 passes for 772 yards and 11 touchdowns. This all-purpose player also returned five kickoffs for 116 yards and six punts for 100. He was still chosen a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, despite missing the last month of 2007. Williams was also second-team All-WAC. In his best game of the year, he corralled nine receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns in the big win over rival UTEP.
After Williams went down, senior A.J. Harris (6-0, 210) tried to fill in, but he doesn’t have the same bigplay capabilities. He led the Aggies in receiving with 81 catches for 611 yards and two touchdowns.
Harris is now the Aggies’ all-time leading receiver with 191, breaking a 10-year mark held by Duane Gregory. Mumme needs him to find the end zone more often this season to be an even more viable threat. He averaged only 7.5 yards a reception a year ago. In fact, the receivers averaged only 10.1 yards a catch as a unit.
Rounding out the returning starters is sophomore Wes Newman (5-10, 190). As a red-shirt freshman, he caught 44 passes for 423 yards and three scores. He is part of a youth movement at this position, where Mumme has a solid senior representation, but he also has five freshmen, two juniors and three sophomores waiting for their opportunity on the playing field. Last year, Mumme spread the ball around through the airways. He had 10 players with at least 21 receptions. Williams will return at the Z position of Mumme’s offense. The top X-man is Harris, with Newman getting a hard look at the H-back or slot, where the departed Derek Dubois did his damage.
And it doesn’t end there. You may call it the tight end, but it’s usually just a big receiver in the grand scheme of things. Like Dubois, Nick Cleaver and Brandon Allen have graduated, leaving a big hole to fill. These two combined to catch 80 passes last year.
The top prospects this year are sophomore Kyle Nelson (6-4, 232) and red-shirt freshman Ryan Franzoy (6-4, 238). Nelson played in 13 games last year, but made only two catches for six yards.
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).