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2012 New Mexico State Preview – Defense
Posted Aug 8, 2012 2012 Preview - New Mexico State Aggie Defense

New Mexico State Aggies

Preview 2012 - Defense

- 2012 New Mexico State Preview | 2012 New Mexico State Offense
- 2012 New Mexico State Defense | 2012 New Mexico State Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: New defensive coordinator David Elson has a lot of work to do. The defense finished 112th in the nation in both yards and points allowed, mostly because the front seven couldn’t get behind the line and couldn’t make enough plays against the run. Enough veterans return to combine with a slew of JUCO transfers to hope for a little bit of improvement, but the D needs playmakers to come forward immediately. The front four is quick and active, and the linebacking corps has potential, but they have to cut down on the leaks so the secondary doesn’t have to make all the plays again. A ball-hawking defensive back has to emerge early on.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Bryan Bonilla, 71
Sacks: Walton Taumoepeau, 3
Interceptions: None

Star of the defense: Senior DE Donte Savage
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore LB Dylan Davis
Unsung star on the rise: Junior FS Justin Smith
Best pro prospect: Senior NT Walton Taumoepeau
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Savage, 2) Taumoepeau, 3) LB Alexander Lavoy
Strength of the defense: Quickness, Defensive Back Size
Weakness of the defense: Interceptions, Consistent Pass Rush

Defensive Line

The line loses its lone pass rusher, David Niumatalolo, and needs to find someone who can get to the quarterback on a regular basis. The spotlight will be on senior Donte Savage, who has been around long enough to know what he’s doing and be the one everything works around. The 6-2, 250-pound veteran ended up redshirting last year after making 36 tackles as a junior and 53 as a sophomore with six sacks. He’s not all that big, but he’s quick off the ball and should be the defense’s top playmaker.

6-4, 240-pound sophomore Stephen Meredith has a great motor and good toughness with the ability to play inside or out. More of a smallish defensive tackle than a true end, he worked outside last year making 21 tackles, but he didn’t come up with a sack and mad just two tackles for loss. Working in the rotation on both sides will be junior Nicholas Oliva, a 6-4, 245-pound JUCO transfer with good closing ability and nice pass rushing potential.

The team’s leading returning pass rusher from last year is on the nose. 6-3, 300-pound senior Walton Taumoepeau came up with three sacks and 25 tackles as part of the interior rotation, and now the former JUCO transfer should be the anchor and the interior pass rusher who can collapse the pocket. Working next to him is 6-2, 275-pound junior Kalvin Cruz, a JUCO transfer from Ventura College who dominated as pass rusher. He’s quick off the ball and is always working.

6-2, 295-pound junior Kevin Laudermill spent the last two years at West Los Angeles as a key defensive tackle. While he can get into the backfield, he’s strongest against the run, while 6-0, 290-pound sophomore Mark Brown is a smallish block of granite on the nose. The Florida native got his feet wet as a true freshman, and eventually he should be able to make things happen as an active interior option.

Watch Out For … the return of Savage. His loss was a big problem for the line last year, but he has to show he can regain his 2009 form and be the pass rusher the team needs. With his experience and quickness, the pressure is on to carry the D.
Strength: Quickness. The entire front four gets off the ball in a hurry with tackles that can cut into the backfield and just enough athleticism on the outside to provide the pressure to the passer. However …
Weakness: The pass rush has to be far, far better. The line loses Niumatalolo, who did most of the heavy lifting when it came to getting into the backfield. The Aggies finished 115th in the nation in tackles for loss while only coming up with 18 sacks.
Outlook: The line has to be stronger. There hasn’t been enough plays in the backfield and there holding up against the run has been a problem. The defensive front isn’t full of beefeaters, working mostly with smallish quick players who try to make plays by being active. The pass rush has to come from all four spots, and there needs to be a steadier and far more productive.
Unit Rating: 4


The defense loses most of the top tacklers, but junior Bryan Bonilla is back as the leading returning tackler after making 71 tackles with a sack. While he’s undersized at 6-1 and 220 pounds, he’s active on the strongside and showed he could be one of the team’s most consistent hitters.

Back in the middle after starting the first four games is Alexander LaVoy, who made 36 tackles with a 1.5 tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 230 pounds, the senior is one of the team’s biggest linebackers with just enough athleticism to work on the weakside if needed. He made 90 tackles at Butte CC, and this year he could grow into one of the team’s leading tacklers if he can stay healthy.

6-0, 230-pound junior Dylan Davis was a special teamer and backup making five tackles. After waiting his turn he’s getting a long look at the weakside job, but could move to the middle if needed. He has good size and nice toughness, while 6-1, 225-pound junior Trashaun Nixon will push for time after spending the last two years at Ventura College. A top special teamer and active playmaker, he could grow into a pass rusher on the outside.

Senior B.J. Adolpho started most of 2011 on the weakside, but he was a spot starter last year finishing with 41 tackles with three tackles for loss. At 5-11 and 225 pounds he’s not all that big, but he’s a mature veteran who spent two years on a church mission. He’ll be a key backup, as will 6-2, 235-pound sophomore Anthony Joyner, who saw a little bit of time last year before getting knocked out for the year hurt. Adolpho will see time on the outside, while Joyner will play in the middle.

Watch Out For … Lavoy in the middle. The linebacking corps needs a tackle-eater who dominates against the run, and with a leaky line working up front, the chances will be there for Lavoy to put up huge numbers.
Strength: Experience. With the help of some JUCO transfers, the Aggies have several options for each of the three spots. Bonilla and Lavoy know what they’re doing, and Nixon, Adolpho, and Davis should combine forces for the other gig on the weakside.
Weakness: Toughness against the run. This has been a problem for the last few years, and the line didn’t exactly help the cause, but there are way too many missed stops and way too many plays made by the secondary.
Outlook: The potential is there for the linebackers to be the best the program has had in a long time. The key will be to find a steady producer on the weakside, meaning Davis has to hold up from the start. Lavoy and Bonilla need to be among the team’s leading tacklers and leaders.
Unit Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

The secondary has to replace the team’s two leading tacklers, strong safety Donyae Coleman and free safety Ben Bradley. Trying to step in and match Coleman’s 133 tackles Is junior George Callender, a 6-1, 195-pound junior out of Miami who was supposed to get a long look last year at free safety, and is built for the position, but he was mostly a special teamer and didn’t end up doing nearly as much as expected. Very fast and very athletic, the Kansas State transfer should be all over the field. 6-2, 195-pound junior Justin Smith is built more like a corner, but he’s a safety, making 28 tackles in a reserve role. He’s too athletic to not do more against the run.

6-2, 185-pound Jeremy Harris came in from East Los Angeles JC and made 27 tackles with two broken up passes, mostly as a nickel and dime defender. Fast and big, he has great size and the potential to be a No. 1 corner who takes down opposing top receivers. On the other side will be Darien Johnson, a 5-9, 180-pound junior who saw time in every game making 40 tackles with a sack, two broken up passes, and three tackles for loss. He’s not all that big at 5-9 and 180 pounds, but he’s a good, willing tackler for his size.

Junior Anthony Edwards came in from Antelope Valley College and redshirted last year. He’ll be needed as a key backup at both safety spots. At 6-0 and 190 pounds he’s not big, but he can move. Former Ole Miss prospect Deke Junaid went to Eastern Arizona on his way to NMSU. However, he only made 11 tackles at the lower level and now will be asked to be a main part of the safety puzzle.

JUCO transfer Cameron Fuller spent last year at Contra Costa College as one of the team’s top playmakers when the ball is in the air. The 5-11, 175-pounder will be a nickel and dime defender while also working in the corner rotation.

Watch Out For … Smith. He has the size and the athleticism to be a major force against the run. He needs to be all over the field to help out a secondary that should be okay against the pass, but not great.
Strength: Size. Johnson isn’t all that big, but the rest of the secondary is tall and lean. It’s a physical secondary partly because it has to be. The front seven doesn’t do enough against the run.
Weakness: Interceptions. The Aggies came up with ten last year, and they’re all gone. There isn’t one returning interception from last year’s team, and while there’s enough athleticism to make a slew of plays, a top cover-corner needs to emerge who can make teams pay.
Outlook: There’s no replacing Donyae Coleman, who might have been the WAC’s best defensive player making 133 tackles and six picks with three forced fumbles. Ben Bradley and Jonte Green will also be missed. The coaching staff has done a decent job of building the secondary back up, but this is an untested group.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

Senior Tyler Stampler nailed 16-of-19 field goals two years ago, but regressed last year hitting just 7-of-12 last season with two misses inside the 30. He has decent range, but didn’t show it off much last year with the long coming from just 39 yards out. He has the ability to be deadly from inside the 40, but he needs to prove he can come up with a 45-yarder now and then.

Junior punter Jake Capraro is back after averaging 39.3 yards per kick, putting 18 inside the 20, and forcing 20 fair catches with just two touchbacks. He doesn’t have a huge leg, but he’s experienced, consistent, and accurate. However, the NMSU punting game finished 116th in the nation.

Austin Franklin has the unenviable task of replacing Taveon Rogers on kickoff returns. Rogers averaged 24.8 yards per pop with three scores, and while Franklin won’t do that, he has good speed and can get up the field in a hurry. Kevan Walker will try to add more pop to the punt return game that struggled last year. Todd Lee came up with one 72-yard dash, but that was about it for the production. Watch Out For … Franklin. It’s asking a lot to do what Rogers did, but Franklin has the ability to make the kickoff return game a strength. RB Robert Clay can also pitch in on kickoffs.
Strength: Punting. It might not seem like it from the net average, but Capraro is a good, sound punter who’s better than the stats. He didn’t get any help whatsoever from the …
Weakness: Punt coverage team. The Aggies got killed allowing 15 yards per punt return with four touchdowns, and they were a bit leaky on kickoff returns allowing 23.1 yards per pop with a score. NMSU isn’t good enough to be bad in kick coverage.
Outlook: The experience is there for the kicking game to be stronger. Stampler and Capraro know what they’re doing, but they both have to add a bit more range to their games. The coverage teams need to be night-and-day better, and the return game could handle having a bit more pop from the new options. Special teams have to be a plus, but for NMSU, just holding serve this year would be enough.
Unit Rating: 5.5

- 2012 New Mexico State Preview | 2012 New Mexico State Offense
- 2012 New Mexico State Defense | 2012 New Mexico State Depth Chart