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April 14, 2013

Texas is big part of Martin's strategy

MORE: San Jose State

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Doug Martin believes in the power of positive thinking. He also believes in Texas.

Martin was tabbed the interim coach at New Mexico State on Feb. 1 before officially being named the head coach on Feb. 4. He replaced DeWayne Walker, who resigned Jan. 22 after going 10-40 in four seasons to take a position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Regarded as one of the best developers of quarterbacks, Martin has increased the offensive output at each place he has been in his career -- including his last stop at New Mexico State in 2011.

He said a new focus on the field and in recruiting can change the fortunes of a program that has been toward the bottom of the college football totem pole for more than 40 years.

"The last time I was here, everyone talked about what we didn't have and I think we improved dramatically," Martin said. "The kids need someone to believe in them and to coach them up.

"I think we have kids here who can succeed, but we will need to go and get more players."

That is where his philosophy is dramatically different than his predecessor's.

Martin is going to dive headlong into the Texas market. It will be a marked change in focus from the time under Walker.

"We were having four coaches recruit in California and only two in Texas. I think that needs to be flipped," Martin said. "Coach Walker had a lot of ties in California from his time at UCLA, but we are going to be a major presence in Texas.

"I think the football in that state is the best in the country, and I know for a fact that there are kids in Texas who didn't get recruited who could come and play for us right now."

The three highest-ranked high school recruits who signed with New Mexico State in the class of 2013 were from Texas.

Dallas (Texas) Kimball linebacker Brandon Hines and a teammate, receiver Prentavious Morehead, were three-star players who chose the Aggies. Mesquite (Texas) West Mesquite linebacker Andre Thompson also joined the class.

Martin said his approach to filling the field with Texas players will transform the results on the scoreboard.

"Dallas-Fort Worth has been good for us, as has Houston," he said. "We have to make a real effort to go into El Paso and get the best players from there, too.

"I think that starting to make this an option for players from Texas will elevate the program."

Following a season that ended with an 11-game losing streak, there are few places to go but up. Since 1978, no head coach of New Mexico State has ended his tenure with a record better than 20 games below .500.

Those facts are staring at Martin, but he is not going to allow either to be a scarlet letter.

"Last year was what it was," Martin said. "Our history is what it is, and we can either let that define us or we can start to change things.

"I think there is an opportunity here to make things better, or I wouldn't have accepted the position."

Martin thinks that an opportunity also lies within the state borders.

Since the class of 2002 -- when Rivals.com began tracking signing classes -- New Mexico has never produced a double-digit class of prospects. The state topped out with nine in 2011 and 2006, and it has totaled just 62 players signing in the 12 classes.

Of those 62 prospects, 10 have signed with New Mexico State.

That fact stands out as a major issue to Martin.

"It is a real problem," he said. "There has been a major disconnect between the people and the city of Las Cruces and this football program.

"I don't know why that is, but I would venture to guess that as a program we have not done a good job of spending time with players here and coaches here. There needs to be a comfort level with the administration, the staff, the city and the local community. We have to make that happen."

Outside of Albuquerque, Las Cruces is the best area in the state for talent. According to Martin, developing a way to get kids into the program will fix damaged relationships.

Part of his plan is creating a more comprehensive walk-on program to bring raw players into the fold.

"There are a lot of unfinished products right here in this state," Martin said. "The level of player is improving, and the level of coaching is improving. We need to get those kids in here and see if we can mold them and finish the job. Getting local players to give us a chance and start building a community tie will help us move forward."

The first player to give New Mexico State a chance in 2014 is Rio Rancho (N.M.) High linebacker Travis Parnell, who committed at the end of February. He is the fourth player from the school to commit to New Mexico State since 2004.

David Howes is the head coach at Rio Rancho. He said it is great that Martin is sticking to the rhetoric of giving New Mexico players a chance to stay home.

"We are excited that they are starting to recruit New Mexico talent, committing to high character and investing in the future of our local kids," Howes said.

For Martin, it is the first step on a long journey.

"It has to be a two-way street and not just lip service," he said. "For New Mexico State to get better, we will need to stay true to our word and go after these kids and then the coaches will start sending them our way.

"We have to remain positive and steadfast, and positive things will start to happen."



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