2011 New Mexico State Preview – Defense
New Mexico State DE Pierre Fils
New Mexico State DE Pierre Fils
Posted Jul 20, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - New Mexico State Aggie Defense

New Mexico State Aggies

Preview 2011 - Defense

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- 2011 New Mexico State Defense | 2011 New Mexico State Depth Chart
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What You Need To Know: Alright, head man, it's time to show your stuff. DeWayne Walker made his reputation on defense, and this is the year he has to prove his skills with more than enough returning experience, and decent enough depth, to hope for a big improvement. Even with the loss of top player, CB Davon House, the secondary is deep and talented with Donyae Coleman and Jonte Green two strong tacklers. With linebackers Boyblue Aoelua and B.J. Adolpho back, the team's top four tacklers are in place. Now the back seven has to do less, meaning the front four has to start to produce. 119th in the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss, the line needs to get into the backfield, and the run defense has to be far stronger. It's going to take a rotation up front to make that happen.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Donyae Coleman, 92
Sacks: Donte Savage, 3
Interceptions: Boyblue Aoelua, 1

Star of the defense: Junior LB B.J. Adolpho
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore DT Augafa Vaaulu
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Bryan Bonilla
Best pro prospect: Senior S/CB Donyae Coleman
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Adolpho, 2) Coleman, 3) Senior CB Jonte Green
Strength of the defense: Experience, Tacklers
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Run Defense

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The defensive front has had a hard time getting used to the 4-3 over the last few years, and while there's been decent athleticism on the outside, there hasn't been any pass rush whatsoever. The Aggies finished second-to-last in the nation in sacks, coming up with just nine sacks, and was also 119th in the country in tackles for loss with a pathetic 42. The line is the key to the season; it has to be better.

Senior Pierre Fils was supposed to be a major factor after making seven sack and 53 tackles in 2009, but the 6-3, 240-pounder struggled with just 36 tackles and two sacks. The New Jersey native is a tremendous athlete and has the ability to become a major playmaker and the line's star, but if he's not getting into the backfield, he's not helping the team. It's not his job to be a rock against the run, but he's going to have to show he can produce when moved from the end to the inside. He'll start out the season at tackle, or will at least get a look, while 6-3, 280-pound senior David Mahoney will add a bit more bulk after making eight tackles.

With the line going relatively small at tackle, that means 6-3, 299-pound sophomore Augafa Vaalulu has to literally play big on the nose. After seeing a little time as a true freshman and doing a nice job with 24 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, he needs to be an anchor. Athletic, he got a start against Utah State at end. He'll be backed up by junior Tommy Stuart, a 6-3, 315-pound battler who came up with 17 tackles and two tackles for loss in just seven games before getting knocked out for the year with a knee injury.

If Fils really does stay at tackle for any length of time, that means 6-1, 247-pound senior Donte Savage has to do more. He's a smallish, quick playmaker who turns the corner in a hurry and has had a decent career. After showing tremendous promise as a true freshman, he came up with six sacks and 53 tackles as a sophomore. Expected to break out last season, instead he was average with just 36 tackles to go along with three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. With his experience and quicks, he has to be a difference-maker up front. He'll be backed up by freshman Stephen Meredith, a versatile 6-4, 240-pound prospect with a great motor and good toughness. More of a smallish defensive tackle, he'll work on the end.

Looking to be a major factor right away on the nose, and allowing Fils to move back to end, is JUCO transfer Walton Taumoepeau, a 6-3, 300-pound JUCO transfer who can get off the line in a hurry and could be more than just a block against the run. He has to solve the problems of the run defense right away.

Starting on the other side of Savage will be David Niumatalolo, a 6-2, 247-pound pass rusher who got a little bit of time making 19 tackles with three tackles for loss. A small defensive tackle by nature, he has shown decent quickness and pop in a backup role. Now he has to be a consistent starter, or JUCO transfer Sean Brown will quickly take over. The 6-5, 253-pound junior has good size, but he wasn't much of a pass rusher for Chabot College. He's a great athlete, but now he has to use his skills.

Watch Out For … Fils on the inside. He didn't do enough as a pass rusher on the outside, but that's where he's better suited. He won't be an every down tackle, but he has to use his speed and quickness to grow into an interior pass rusher.
Strength: Experience. The Aggies have four players with significant starting experience returning and some decent options at the twos. This is the year when everyone is supposed to come together to form a terrific line.
Weakness: Pass rush. The run defense wasn't a plus, but the biggest problem is a consistent pass rush that did absolutely nothing to get behind the line. There's too much speed and quickness to not be better at making plays in the backfield.
Outlook: Can the defensive line finally produce? It's been years since the Aggies got any production from the defensive front, but now there are more than enough bodies to make the front four work. There's no excuse to not generate pressure from all four spots.
Unit Rating: 4.5


State of the Unit: The linebacking corps was supposed to be an issue going into last year, and it was. The stats were there because of the positions, but there weren't enough big plays and there weren't enough stops at the point of attack. On the plus side, the top players are back.

Junior B.J. Adolpho went from being a decent reserve to a 12-game starter on the weakside. At 5-11 and 224 pounds he isn't all that big, but he bulked up from last year and he moves well. Mature, after spending two years on a church mission, he finished second on the team with 77 tackle with two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. The team's most disruptive all-around defensive playmaker, he'll be counted on to provide a spark. 6-0, 230-pound sophomore Dylan Davis brings more size to the position in a backup role, but he only made four stops in his first season.

Getting the start again in the middle is 5-10, 234-pound senior Boyblue Aoelua after finishing third on the team with 75 tackles with an interception and 4.5 tackles for loss. About ten pounds bigger than last year, he's now better suited to hold up at the position after getting banged up early in his career. A pure tackler, he doesn't miss many stops. 6-2, 230-pound JUCO transfer Alexander LaVoy made 90 tackles last season for Butte CC. A natural for the inside, he's a big-time tackler who's good enough to potentially move Aoelua to the outside.

6-1, 217-pound sophomore Bryan Bonilla is the newcomer to the starting equation after making 11 tackles in his first year. While he's undersized, he's a nice tackling prospect on the strongside, while 6-2, 232-pound sophomore Anthony Joyner is a bigger option after making six tackles as a special teamer. He's a tough linebacker who'll put up stats.

Watch Out For … LaVoy. He's big enough and good enough to push for time right off the bat. Aoelua is a good veteran who can put up a ton of stats, but he could work on the strongside if LaVoy shows he can produce regularly in the middle.
Strength: Aoelua and Adolpho. The two combined for 152 tackles last year and could end up making 200 this year.
Weakness: Toughness against the run. The line didn't exactly help the cause, but the linebacking corps didn't do nearly enough to make things happen against the better running teams, the worse running teams, and everyone in between.
Outlook: As expected, the stats were there last season, but now the experience is there for the linebacking corps to do far more. This group should be more disruptive and more of a factor.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: Even with an NFL talent in corner Davon House, the pass defense was miserable. It didn't help that the front seven never got a breath on a quarterback, but the defensive backs didn't exactly do their part with just four interceptions on the year, and two coming from House. Three starters are back, and they have to make more big plays.

The team's leading returning tackler has to start coming up with picks. Senior Donyae Coleman made 92 tackles with four broken up passes as he starting free safety, he might be moved to strong safety, and he'll likely start at corner. The 5-10, 187-pounder stepped in from Compton College as a wide receiver and saw a little time on the offensive side, but he quickly showed that he can produce as a defensive back. Tackling isn't a problem, and he has the quicks to take over for House as the No. 1 corner. He'll be backed up by junior Jeremy Harris, a 6-2, 180-pounder from East Los Angeles Junior College with good speed to go along with his great size. He's athletic enough to be used as a kickoff returner.

Working on the other side is 12-game starter Jonte Green, a 6-0, 184-pound senior who finished fourth on the team with 74 tackles with eight broken up passes. The former transfer from Benedict College has been a great tackler, also making 74 tackles with eight broken up passes as a sophomore, but he didn't do enough when quarterbacks were staying away from House. 6-0, 185-pound junior Anthony Edwards, a transfer from Antelope Valley College, and sophomore Darien Johnson, a 5-9, 177-pounder who made 20 tackles with three broken up passes as a key reserve, will be part of the corner equation, and they'll also work in nickel and dime packages.

With Coleman moving to the outside, 6-1, 196-pound sophomore George Callender will get the first look at free safety. The Miami native and Kansas State transfer saw time as a true freshman playing in seven games, starting at strong safety against Kansas, and finishing with 29 tackles. 6-2, 197-pound sophomore Justin Smith has good size and was decent as a reserve making 18 tackles with a broken up pass, and he'll combine with 5-8, 170-pound senior Stephon Hatchett for time in the free safety rotation. The speedster missed all of last year after making 98 tackles as a junior, but now he's back and ready to roll after his academic issues.

5-10, 184-pound senior Ben Bradley was supposed to be a factor, but he got hit with an ankle injury as a redshirt freshman and hasn't played over the last two years. At 5-10 and 184 pounds he's not huge, but he's fast and he's a hitter … at least in practices. Considering his injury history, it's asking a lot for him to stay healthy for a full season at strong safety, so 6-2, 195-pound sophomore Josh Smith needs to be ready to do more after making eight tackles in six games of work in his first season.

Watch Out For … Coleman at corner. There are enough decent safety prospects to give Coleman a shot on the outside, and he's going to be asked to be House. That's asking for too much. He's quick and experienced, but he has to be a lockdown performer.
Strength: Tackling corners. Coleman won't miss a stop and Green was excellent in run support last year. Unfortunately, the defensive backs had to make too many tackles, but at least they can stick.
Weakness: Interceptions. Four. It's not like there weren't chances with 214 pass attempts from opposing quarterbacks. With the second-worst pass rush in America not helping the cause, the defensive backs got ripped up. They didn't make any plays, either.
Outlook: Even without House, this might be the most the most talented area of the defense. The Aggies have good tackling corners, athletic safeties, and depth. Now the front seven has to apply the pressure needed to help the cause.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: The Aggie offense might have struggled, but the kicking game was a plus with senior Tyler Stampler hitting 16-of-19 field goals. With decent range, he hit 5-of-7 kicks from beyond 40 yards, but his leg tops out at just under 50. He didn't miss a kick under 40 yards after whiffing on a 37-yarder against San Diego State to open up the season.

Sophomore punter Jake Capraro only averaged 36.9 yards per punt, but he put 18 kicks inside the 20 and forced 22 fair catches. He doesn't have a big leg, but he's experienced.

WR Taveon Rogers was a gamebreaker of a kickoff returner. He got plenty of chances thanks to the miserable defense, and practice almost made perfect averaging 27.1 yards per try. Todd Lee came up with a strong year as the main punt returner averaging 10.4 yards per attempt.

Watch Out For … Stampler to get a few chances to bomb away. The offense needs more pop and the points have to start coming from somewhere. After his terrific 2010, Stampler will get a couple of 50+ yard attempts.
Strength: Return game. The Aggies were only 88th in the nation in punt returns, but Lee was good on his few chances. Rogers is an elite punt returner.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. The last thing the Aggie defense needs is to deal with poor field position, but the coverage team allowed a whopping 24.3 yards per return. The punting game could use a few more yards per pop, too.
Outlook: The special teams could be the team's biggest strength. Stampler is steady, Capraro has an accurate leg, and the returners are strong with Rogers a dangerous playmaker to count on every time he has the ball in his hands. It would be nice, though, if the kickoff coverage was better.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2011 New Mexico State Preview | 2011 New Mexico State Offense
- 2011 New Mexico State Defense | 2011 New Mexico State Depth Chart
- New Mexico State Previews 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006