LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – In 2022, New Mexico State went from underdogs to top dogs. The Aggies started the season with four straight losses, but ended the season with a 7-6 record and as Quick Lane Bowl champions with a victory over Bowling Green. 

The Aggies exceeded expectations in every way in Jerry Kill’s first year as head coach, winning just the second bowl game in 60 years. Now, expectations have been raised for the program as it approaches its second year of the Kill era in Las Cruces, and most importantly, its first in Conference USA.

“The expectations are higher. I think we recruited really well,” Kill said. “Going into a new conference, every one of them have good coaches, so I think there’ll be a lot of close games and we’re going to have to learn how to win the close games.”


The Aggies return nine starters from the 2022 squad, including senior quarterback Diego Pavia. Pavia returns with more confidence after he caught fire in the back end of the season. The 2022 Quick Lane Bowl MVP started the last five games of the season and collected 934 passing yards, 350 rushing yards, and 14 total touchdowns to lead the Aggies to a 4-1 record.

This year, Pavia is hungry for more success on the offensive side of the ball that returns a lot of familiar faces.

“It’s a new beginning and we’ve just got more weapons on offense,” Pavia said. “Really, it’s just building a chemistry with them so it can help us offensively and then from there get a feel of our personnel and get ready for week one.”

Star Thomas (107 carries, 107 rushing yards, 5 TD), Jamoni Jones (111 carries, 383 rushing yards, 6 TD), and Ahmonte Watkins (39 carries, 248 rushing yards, 4 TD) make up the Aggies’ loaded running back group. 

Kordell David Jr. (343 receiving yards, 4 TD), and Jonathan Brady (23 receptions, 310 yards, 3 TD) will be the returnees to watch at the wide receiver position. Thomaz Whitford (12 receptions, 82 yards, 2 TD) returns for another year at tight end.

Four starters, who combined for 51 career starts, return to the offensive line. Look out for transfers Jacob Golden (Boise State) and Cedric Claiborne (Trinity Valley CC, originally UTSA) as well on the line.


Despite losing several key starters like linebackers Trevor Brohard and Chris Ojoh and defensive backs Bryce Jackson and Syrus Dumas, Kill is still confident the defense, led by defensive coordinator Nate Dreiling, has a chance to top what they did last year.

“We recruited very well on that side of the ball. Secondary wise, defensive line wise, we are going to be better,” Kill said. “ I look for us to exceed what we did a year ago because we have more actual talent on that side of the ball.”

The Aggies allowed just 336 yards per game and 23.9 points per game in 2022, but NMSU returns just four starters in 2023. Headlining the returnees is defensive back Andre Seldon (44 total tackles, one interception, four passes defended). New names to look out for include linebacker Jamari Buddin (Penn State transfer), defensive backs Keonte Gliton (Wyoming transfer) and Jordan Vincent (Eastern Illinois transfer) and defensive tackle Dion Wilson (Arizona transfer). 

Special Teams

NMSU lost punter Josh Carlson (Arizona State) to the transfer portal and added Zach Haynes, a Southeast Missouri transfer, to possibly fill Carlson’s spot. Ethan Albertson, a redshirt senior, returns at the kicker position. Albertson went 7-of-10 on field goals with his longest being 46 yards last year. 


2023 is set to be a big year for New Mexico State. The program is coming off a bowl victory and will compete in an FBS conference for the first time since 2017. There will be an even bigger emphasis on rivalry games against UTEP as both universities are part of Conference USA. This is the first time since 1961 and the days of the Border Conference that NMSU and UTEP will be in the same league. The Aggies head into 2023 with a rejuvenated program that expects the same, and possibly more, success for the upcoming season.

Expert prediction: 7-6