2013 New Mexico State Preview – Defense

Posted May 18, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - New Mexico State Aggies

New Mexico State Aggies

Preview 2013 - Defense

- 2013 New Mexico State Preview | 2013 New Mexico State Offense
- 2013 New Mexico State Defense | 2013 New Mexico State Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: The defense finished 117th in the nation in points allowed and gave up 476 yards per game with no pass rush, no pass defense, and nothing happening against the run. Even so, defensive coordinator David Elson was kept around. With all the experience returning, there’s hope for a quick turnaround – or at least a little bit of an improvement – with most of the key parts returning in the secondary and outside linebackers Bryan Bonilla and Trashaun Nixon two decent veterans. The non-existent pass rush has to emerge in whatever alignment is used – the Aggies will play around with the 3-4 – and there have to be more takeaways after coming up with just four picks.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Davis Cazares, 116
Sacks: Trashaun Nixon, 3
Interceptions: George Callender, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Trashaun Nixon
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore LB Clint Barnard
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Matt Ramondo
Best pro prospect: Nixon
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Nixon, 2) SS Davis Cazares, 3) LB Bryan Bonilla
Strength of the defense: Experience, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Playing Defense

Defensive Line

The defensive front has to find some way to get into the backfield and has to be far, far stronger against the run. It all starts with Michigan State transfer Matt Ramondo, a Las Cruces native who had to sit out last year, but at 6-4 and 320 pounds has the size and the talent to be the star and the anchor up front. Depending on the alignment, he’ll either be great on the nose or he’ll end up finding a way to work in a 4-3. He’ll spend most of his time in the middle.

Part end and part tackle, 6-2, 295-pound senior Kevin Laudermill is better for the 4-3, but he’ll work as a big end to try stuffing up the run. The former JUCO transfer from West Los Angeles CC isn’t going to do much behind the line, making just one sack with two tackles for loss, but he made 35 stops. Working at the other end spot is another big option,, 6-2, 275-pound senior Kalvin Cruz, a former JUCO transfer from Ventura College who dominated as a pass rusher before coming to the Aggies, but failed to get behind the line last season finishing with just 18 tackles. He needs to camp out behind the line to be effective.

In a big of a hybrid role called the J, 6-4, 240-pound senior Stephen Meredith needs to be a disruptive force on the outside after missing all of last year getting over a knee problem. He has a great motor and good toughness, but even though he’s more like a smallish defensive tackle than an outside linebacker, he’ll be given every shot to make plays in space after coming up with 21 stops two years ago.

Watch Out For … JUCO transfer Frazer Taua, a 6-2, 245-pound Hawaiian from Riverside CC who’ll be used as a pure pass rusher. He’s quick, athletic, and should be perfectly suited for the J position.
Strength: Experience. The line might have been a disaster last season, but most of the key parts are back with enough experience and skills to do what the new coaching staff needs. If Ramondo plays as well as expected, there could be a night-and-day difference with the veterans coming through.
Weakness: Pass rush. Donte Savage led the team with three sacks, but he’s gone. The linebackers did their share of the sacking, and overall there simply wasn’t enough production finishing with just 11 sacks.
Outlook: There should be an improvement. The pass rush has to be far, far better, and the 3-4 alignment has to mean more for the run defense, but the experienced depth has to help form a good rotation and the starters have to find one thing they can do right.
Unit Rating: 4.5


The hope was for senior Bryan Bonilla to become a terror after coming back as the leading top tackler, making 71 stops in 2011, and he did his part making 78 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss and a sack. The 6-1, 217-pound weakside defender is undersized, but he’s active and consistent with the ability to work at either outside spot. Bonilla was good, but it was 6-1, 225-pound senior Trashaun Nixon who came through with the bigger year finishing second on the team with 96 tackles with three sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, a pick and four broken up passes. The former JUCO transfer from Ventura College went from being a top special teamer to one of the only bright spots on the defense. He’s not huge, but he’s active.

6-2, 215-pound sophomore Clint Barnard spent last season on the scout team, but now the middle job is his. The size and bulk aren’t there, but he’s a good athlete with great range and hitting ability. He’ll be one of the team’s top tacklers, while 6-2, 225-pound redshirt freshman Robert Wagner will add a little more bulk. Wagner isn’t a big pass rusher, but he’ll hold up well when he gets his chances in the rotation.

With the likely move to more of a 3-4, end Stephen Meredith will work a little bit as a hybrid, and there will be plenty of chances for junior Zach Daugherty, a transfer from New Mexico who was a special teamer for the Lobos and will be a 6-0, 215-pound hitter on the weakside behind Bonilla. However, he can play just about anywhere. A good recruit, he has the upside to be a big tackler.

Watch Out For … Brandon Hines, one of the team’s best defensive recruits. While he’s built like a safety at 6-1 and 187 pounds, he’s a linebacker who brings a huge pop making 130 tackles and seven sacks for his high school in Dallas. He’s a hitting machine.
Strength: Tacklers. They make too many plays down the field, and the stats don’t match the talent, but Bonilla and Nixon can produce big numbers and Barnard will end up putting up a big season in the middle.
Weakness: Big plays. Yes, the NMSU linebackers will make tackles, but there won’t be enough effective ones and they’ll get shoved too much against the decent ground games. The production simply hasn’t been there.
Outlook: The linebackers should be the stars of the defense, at least that’s how it should all work if the defense does what it’s supposed to. It’ll depend on the alignment, but it’ll be a shock if three of the top five tacklers aren’t in the linebacking corps.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Defensive Backs

Senior Davis Cazares turned into one of the team’s biggest and best surprises, going from being a nice special teamer to the team’s leading tackler, making 116 tackles with three tackles for loss. However, the Second Team All-WAC performer didn’t do anything against the pass at free safety, breaking up a mere one throw, and now he’ll be moved to strong safety. He’s more like another linebacker than a true defensive back.

With Cazares moving over, 6-2, 200-pound senior Justin Smith will step in at free safety after coming up with ten tackles. A veteran who has been a key part of the rotation over the last few seasons, he has too much athleticism and too much upside to not do far, far more. He’ll combine with senior George Callender, a 6-1, 195-pounder out of Miami who started out his career at Kansas State before transferring over and finishing third on the team with 86 tackles with a team-leading two picks. He’ll hit, but he has to be far more effective against the decent passing teams.

Senior Darien Johnson is back at corner after coming up with 29 tackles with four broken up passes, but he didn’t pick up pass. The 5-9, 180-pound veteran has seen plenty of action over the last few years and is a willing tackler, but he doesn’t do nearly enough when the ball is in the air. On the other side will be 5-11, 180-pound sophomore Samuel Oyenuga, a decent part of the rotation last season making 15 tackles with a broken up pass. Physical enough to move to safety if needed, he needs to hold his own on the outside.

Watch Out For … Winston Rose, a good JUCO transfer who can play just about anywhere in the secondary. The 6-0, 165-pounder from Los Angeles Valley College is a corner who won’t tackle much, but has good ball skills and should be a decent ball-hawker when he gets his chances.
Strength: Safety. Cazares and Smith have to be far, far better against the pass, but overall the safety situation should be a positive. They can hit and have decent enough range to make far more big plays.
Weakness: Pass defense. The secondary was torched by everyone who could throw the forward pass. The Aggies gave up 28 touchdown passes and came up with just four picks.
Outlook: There’s enough experience to hope for more production, but the secondary desperately needs help from a pass rush that didn’t show up last season and has to come up with more picks. A disaster, the defensive backfield has to hope the new coaching staff can get more aggressiveness across the board to help out against the better passers.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

The placekicking is a major question mark. The team attempts just six field goals with Tyler Stampler hitting just two of his four chances, with one kick getting blocked, and Maxwell Johnson missing his two attempts. Johnson has a decent leg, but he has to connect.

The punting game wasn’t too bad with 6-5, 230-pound junior Cayle Chapman-Brown bombing away for 44.3 yards per kick putting 22 inside the 20. He got plenty of chances getting 70 tries and doing a consistently good job with a mere four touchbacks.

Receiver Austin Franklin averaged a horrendous 1.1 yards per punt return, and now Darien Johnson will get his chances at the gig. Franklin will be the main kickoff returner after averaging 22.3 yards per pop.

Watch Out For … more field goals. Johnson will get two attempts in a game this year, not the season. The Aggies will be in a better position on a regular basis to crank up a few tries.
Strength: Punting. The coverage team was a disaster, but Chapman-Brown is a good one who could turn into the team’s most valuable weapon.
Weakness: Punt returns. It takes a lot to be the main weakness for a special teams unit that hit 2-of-6 field goal tries, but the Aggies were worse on punt returns averaging 1.2 yards on 12 tries. The offense needed more help.
Outlook: The experience and upside was there to be night-and-day better, and it didn’t happen. The placekicking has to be far stronger and get more chances, and the return game needs more consistency. The coverage teams that were so miserable have to give the team better field position.
Unit Rating: 4.5

- 2013 New Mexico State Preview | 2013 New Mexico State Offense
- 2013 New Mexico State Defense | 2013 New Mexico State Depth Chart