Taylor Moves Up Depth Chart

Written by: Teddy Feinberg/Sun-News Sports Editor

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The coaching staff confirmed on Monday that Chuck Taylor has surpassed Joe Palmer as the starting left guard along the offensive line. Taylor played the last two seasons at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia before joining the Aggies.

"He's a little bit more intense, just a little more hustle in his muscle than Joe right now," offensive line coach Mason Miller said. "That could change Thursday night, it could change next Tuesday. Both of those guys are young in this offense and it's nice to have two people who can play."

Palmer started, and played well, at the tail end of last season. But Taylor has grown more comfortable with the NMSU offensive system since coming to Las Cruces this spring. At 6-foot-3, 345 pounds, he's also 25-pounds heavier than Palmer.

"He's not really a true freshman, he's 20 years old," Miller said. "He's as strong as an ox."

Aggies coach Hal Mumme said that he expects both players to share duties at guard, at least for now.

"Chuck Taylor and Joe Palmer will probably end up splitting time," Mumme said. "But that's a good thing to have. Last year at this time we had four (starters) and were looking for a fifth. This year, we know that we have seven or eight."

One of the main backups along the line, Alex Gottlieb, has gone down with a knee injury. Gottlieb was expected to back up Richie Bolin at center. Miller said that Gottlieb is expected to sit out Thursday's game and possibly more, as the nature of the injury remains unclear. If Bolin gets hurt, right tackle James Farrely would shift over to center and Patrick Blount would come in off the bench to man right tackle.

"He (Gottlieb) probably won't dress for the first game but he'll be back soon," Miller said.

Mumme said that, while young, the depth along the O-line has improved greatly.

"A lot of them are green," Mumme said. "Chuck's green. Joe played a lot last year. Patrick Blount is a redshirt freshman but he's had a great camp. Those guys are kind of the main one's aside from the starters."

Harris will start

Mumme said that wide receiver A.J. Harris will in fact start Thursday night.

Harris' status has been called into question as legal matters regarding him being charged with misdemeanor battery are being sorted out. The charge stems from an incident between Harris and an ex-girlfriend. Harris is set to appear in a Las Cruces Municipal Court in front of Judge Jim Locatelli on Sept. 10.

"Oh yeah, he will start," Mumme said. "A.J. is a great player and he looks just like the old A.J. He really didn't miss that much work."

Jastram could be team's kicker

Mumme said that the kicking battle between Paul Young and Ryan Jastram continues to go on, but that Young's future for this week's game is up in the air as he has not yet been cleared to play by the NCAA clearing house.

"We're hoping to have it done by Thursday," Mumme said. "That clearing house deal is a pain every year and they're doing it again."

Mumme said that he likes both kickers and that even if Young was eligible, he wouldn't be guaranteed the spot.

"We like Ryan too," Mumme said. "It's a close contest and they're both kicking well."

Other players who are waiting for thumbs-up from the clearing house are freshman wide receivers Chris West and Stephon Hatchett

"We won't know until probably noon on Thursday," Mumme said.

Teddy Feinberg can be reached at tfeinberg@lcsun-news.com