LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO (KTSM) – There are still far more questions than answers regarding the college football season, but as of now, teams around the nation are proceeding as they normally would.
New Mexico State opened up fall camp on Friday night in Las Cruces, despite pleas from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham not to play, and with three of the games on its 2020 schedule already canceled.
The vast majority of the Aggies’ roster was on the practice field for NMSU; however, three players have opted out of the season due to the pandemic. Head coach Doug Martin announced that star linebacker Rashie Hodge and defensive lineman Myles Vigne will sit out the season, joining defensive lineman Jomaious williams, who opted out last week.
“If they have those concerns, that’s their right to do that,” Martin said. “But the real story is the guys out here on the field.”
Hodge led New Mexico State in tackles in 2019 and Vigne was expected to be a starter on the defensive line before both opted out. Throw in Roy Lopez, who transferred to Arizona for his final season, and three of the Aggies’ projected starting defense are not playing in 2020.
For the NMSU players still practicing, they understand why the players opting out made that choice.
“Everyone has their own personal decisions. No one will tell you what to do. If you feel it’s a health concern for you, I wouldn’t blame you, I wouldn’t blame anyone on our team,” said sophomore offensive lineman Max Wilhite. “I just feel like football is my life and I really want to be out here. Obviously it’s a scary disease, but I think we’re taking the necessary precautions.”
New Mexico State’s schedule is still very much in-flux; games against UCLA, Florida and Texas Southern have been wiped from the slate, and others could still be in jeopardy as well. The Aggies are just taking things as they come right now.
“We’re just going day-by-day and worrying about today,” said Martin. “We can’t predict what’s going to happen this season down the road and a couple weeks from now. We don’t control any of it either.”
For the players opting out, Hodge and Williams still have a redshirt year available to them to potentially use and return to play in 2021. Vigne is already a fifth-year senior and would have to apply for a sixth year of eligibility.
Per NCAA regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, all three players that opted out will remain on scholarship at NMSU.