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Of the eight returning starters on offense, three of them are up front. In 2006, the offensive line as a unit yielded 40 sacks. Last year, that number dipped to 28, good enough for fifth in the WAC. By comparison, Fresno State led the way with only 18, but considering the Bulldogs attempted 215 passes to the Aggies’ 429, that 10-sack difference isn’t a bad thing.
The three returning starters are senior center Richie Bolin (6-1, 291), senior right guard Polo Gutierrez (6-2, 304) and sophomore left guard Chuck Taylor (6-3, 345). Having the three inside guys back means Mumme has to find several tackles ready and able to pass protect. Mike Martinez and James Farrelly did a good job last year, but they’re gone, leaving Mumme with some gaping holes to fill.
He’s bringing in junior college transfers Joe Suder (6-6, 346) and David Norman (6-5, 300) to try and fill them. The two juniors will be competing for playing time at tackle against two sophomores in Kyle Smith (6-6, 312) and Patrick Blount (6-3, 275). Smith red-shirted last year but played in 10 games as a freshman. Blount played in 11 games as a backup at right tackle and right guard. Junior Joseph Palmer (6-3, 308) will fill in at left guard and could even start if needed.
There’s some depth here when you add red-shirt freshman Derek Thompson (6-2, 290), sophomore JR Saulietis (6-3, 310), red-shirt freshman Mike Grady (6-3, 302), freshman Spencer Mauai (6-0, 295) and redshirt freshman Wallace Jennings (6-2, 277) to the mix. “We’ve got a lot of young guys coming up we believe will help us get better,” Mumme said.
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).