Defense is NMSU’s concern
Chase Holbrook and Chris Williams may be the most prolific passing combination in the nation, and there are plenty of other New Mexico State receivers for Holbrook to hook up with in 2008.
Editor's note: This is the 10th in a series highlighting the teams the University of Hawaii will face this season.
But can the Aggies defense slow anyone down enough for it to matter?
Defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer gave it his best shot, but retired at the end of last season.
Widenhofer is the legendary architect of the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense of the 1970s, considered by some the NFL's best-ever. But he didn't have anything close to Lambert, Greene and Ham to work with.
NEW MEXICO STATE
Coach: Hal Mumme (105-93-1, 8-29 at NMSU)
2007 record: 4-9, 1-7 in WAC (8th)
Hawaii series: UH leads, 4-0
Another veteran defensive schemer, Joe Lee Dunn, replaces him and brings a 3-3-5 base formation to Las Cruces.
"I asked him if he knew any young guys I could hire," head coach Hal Mumme said. "And he said, 'What about me?' I said, 'Yeah, you're young enough.' "
Dunn is 61, and the block he's been around is a big one, including head coach at New Mexico and defensive stops at South Carolina, Memphis, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Last year he was at Ridgeway High School in Memphis.
"Joe Lee Dunn is a guy to get excited about and I think our kids have adapted," Mumme said.
Safety Derrick Richardson had 108 tackles last year and is among seven returning starters on defense. The secondary should be a plus for the Aggies, as cornerback Davon House comes back from a true freshman year in which he intercepted four passes and knocked down eight others.
Several former Hawaii high schoolers are expected to contribute up front, including tackles Oren Long and Kawika Shook and linebacker La'auli Fonoti.
Even if the defense remains porous, NMSU could still be in games because of Holbrook, receivers Williams and A.J. Harris, and an improved offensive line.
"When I think back on Chase Holbrook, one word is toughness," Mumme said. "He is a tough individual. He's put up terrific numbers with not having as many people around him as some of the others have had."