The prospect of facing off against New Mexico State doesn’t exactly inspire fear in the heart’s of college football programs throughout the nation, but the NMSU may provide a challenge for Arizona State nonetheless. The Aggies haven’t had a winning season since 2002, but there is still a chance for New Mexico State to provide some competition against a Sun Devil squad that has consistently underperformed for the past few years.
Here are some New Mexico State players who could give ASU some trouble in Thursday’s season-opener:
Larry Rose III (Senor RB):
New Mexico State is a team that certainly likes to run the ball and their most effective runner last season was Rose III. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry and led the team with 865 rushing yards and 1,045 yards from scrimmage despite playing only nine games due to injury. Rose III unfortunately doesn’t have much help in the backfield, but his combination of agility and down the field speed could give the Sun Devils trouble. If ASU wants to erase the memory of Arizona running all over them in last year’s Territorial Cup it starts with shutting down the Aggies running game on Thursday night.
Jaden Wright (Senor DB)
While New Mexico State’s defense lacks a lot of physicality in its front seven, it somewhat makes up for with a decently talented secondary. Wright is a perfect example, as the team’s leader in interceptions (five) from a year ago. Wright also managed to secure 80 total tackles last season, good for the fifth most on the team. It’s likely he will see a lot of time shadowing ASU’s best receiver in N’Keal Harry, and he could give Harry a bit of a challenge in the first game of the year.
Xander Yarberough (Freshman TE)
The Aggies like to run a spread offense and a big new target for them in the passing game is freshman Xander Yarberough. At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Yarberough is a big, physical target for New Mexico State to throw to and he could use that physical presence to cause trouble for ASU’s shaky secondary. Yarberough was one of the best recruits in the Aggies most recent class, so they certainly want to utilize him coming out of the gate.
While ASU should certainly handle New Mexico State with ease, if the Sun Devils do face any troubles, expect it to primarily come from these three guys.