Behind Enemy Lines: The Round Up’s James Martin shares his thoughts prior to Alabama vs. New Mexico State


Photo courtesy of James Martin

James Benedetto, Assistant Sports Editor

When: September 7th, 2019 

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium

How to Watch: SEC Network, Channel 109

Kickoff: 3:00pm Central Time

James Benedetto (Q): New Mexico State has a tough schedule this season with the Aggies playing two ranked teams on the road in back-to-back weeks. Why is that?

James Martin (A): It’s been as tough as its been since my time here, almost two decades. Since we went  independent a couple of years ago, it’s been kind of tough assembling a schedule. We are getting some pretty good money out of these first two games so that’s helpful. It is kind of hard to evaluate where the team is at when you play schools with the type of resources and history of these couple of schools. We’re not sure what this team is at this point and I don’t think we are going to find out this week but it will be kind of interesting how you stack up against these type of programs and how you produce against the best of the best. 

Q: What did you see from New Mexico State that stood out to you in the 58-7 loss to Washington State?

A: Well the first drive of the game, I wasn’t sure if it was going to become a shootout or not. I know the style of play for both teams would have lent itself to that. Our head coach Doug Martin has talked about how lethal turnovers have been for this offense. Really in his time here in the seven years since he has been here except for the bowl year [turnovers] have taken everything apart. We ran effectively whenever we did but we barely run though, we are a pass happy team and that will work if you stay on schedule with that but if you are taking dinks and dunks and turning the ball over it is not really effective. Our offensive line has kind of been a question mark for the team. All offseason we lost a couple of starters, I think three guys made their first career starts last week which was a welcome moment. But they are kind of a mix-meshed group right now, they need some consistency. I’m sure this week will be a fun treat for them but protecting the quarterback is always tough. We have a playmaker in [running back] Jason Huntley so if we can try to give him space. 

Q: What is really impressive about Jason Huntley’s game to you and what do you think he can do against Alabama’s defense?  

A: It will be a challenge no matter what kind of scheme we get him in. But he is a good three-down back, most effective in space. He’s as elusive of a back as we have had and he is on par with Donnie Ross, one of the all-time greats. He can return kicks; I think he is going for the nation record for kick return touchdowns. That is his big goal this year. He is a great pass-catching back. If you get him on the edges he is dangerous so it is just about scheming into positions where he can be successful. It’s tough. You have to have the rest of the team perform to that level to get him there, but if you get him the ball he is good.

Q: What were some of the adjustments made on defense that finished 130th in total defense and how did those changes look last week?

A: Yeah, it was definitely down there. We actually, last year, started off pretty well on defense for the first few weeks. Our offense struggled to get into a rhythm so we were basically carried by the defense, I know we didn’t have a lot of success and then around week five or six it just really took a nose-dive. I’m not really sure what they are trying to do to fix it and I know they are trying for sure. We lost our best player, Terrill Hanks, to the draft last season so it made this pretty tough. It didn’t look like a whole lot of changes were made in Week one but when you go up against an offense like Washington State for your first week seeing how the group comes together, it is tough to fairly assess the steps they have made. I know we have returned a lot of people so it should be a group that is improving off of last season. It will again be tough to see going up against guys like Tua and Jerry Jeudy but I think it is a weakness of the team but they should be stronger whenever we get to our normal schedule. 

Q: Who are some of your players to watch coming into the game against Alabama?

A: Other than Huntley, last season we had a quarterback battle and Josh Adkins, our current starter, wasn’t in the mix. He was the potential future guy under center to look forward to in two or three years but he made such a big jump. I know he will be going against an Alabama defense that has pros all over the field. It’ll be tough to see how big of a jump year one to year two is but he is definitely the guy we want leading the team. No question he is the best quarterback we have and he has the big arm that [Aggies coach] Doug Martin wants, he has a pretty good football IQ. It’s tough with how much is taken away with the kind of defenses that we are playing but I’m relieved Adkins is the guy leading the team. Our receiving core is by committee, there really isn’t one standout guy. I don’t think anyone had a catch for longer than 20 yards so we have been limited as far as a big play potential. But, we have a couple of junior-college transfers and then we have a Baylor transfer, Tony Nicholson, who is doing pretty well. I think he was held to 40 yards but he led the team in catches last week so he fixes to be the guy going forward. But after we lost Jaleel Scott to Baltimore, we haven’t had that guy step up to be the true No. 1. So we have turned to our running backs, similar to what the NFL does which is use the running back as a receiving threat so we will get it to Jason Huntley and Naveon Mitchell

Q: What is your score prediction?

A: I’ve been waiting for this one. I think the line is around 54, which is not egregious given the week one result. I’ll have to say, maybe it is the optimist in me, I think we will cover. I’ll say 56-10.