2013 New Mexico Preview – Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - New Mexico Lobo Defense
New Mexico Lobos
Preview 2013 - Defense
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What You Need To Know:
It's a good news, bad news situation. On the bad side, this was one of the nation's worst defenses with next to nothing working well. The secondary was ripped to shreds, there wasn't much of a pass rush and the run defense was way too soft. However, most of the players who couldn't get the job done are gone with a mere three starters returning. Defensive coordinator Jeff Mills has a ton of work to do, but things might not be that dire with a Dallas Bollema and a potentially solid linebacking corps to work around, and a decent front three that could be far better if someone can emerge on the nose. The secondary is a concern, but there's enough versatility to juggle around the lineup.
Star of the defense: Senior LB Dallas Bollema
Tackles: Dallas Bollema, 89
Sacks: Jacori Greer, 5
Interceptions: Dallas Bollema, 3
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore DT Dominic Twitty
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Javarie Johnson
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Jacori Greer
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bollema, 2) Greer, 3) Johnson
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, Versatility
Weakness of the defense: Defensive Tackle, Pass Defense
The line welcomes back a beefed up Jacori Greer, who went from a speedy 6-3, 255 pounds to 272 pounds to hold up better against the run. Greer led the way with five sacks and eight tackles for loss to go along with 32 tackles, but now he's more of a 3-4 end while continuing to be a pass rushing threat. The athleticism is still there.
Working on the other side is a bigger Dominic Twitty, a 6-2, 288-pound tackle-sized run stopper who saw a little bit of work making five tackles. Tough to throw over, he batted down three passes. He'll work with 6-4, 260-pound sophomore Payton Hightower, a great athlete who's still learning football on the fly after mostly playing basketball in high school. He made two tackles in his limited work.
The concern is on the inside where Reggie Ellis and Rod Davis are gone off the nose. 6-2, 280-pound sophomore Gerron Borne might not be huge, but he's one of the defense's strongest players, while 6-2, 282-pound former JUCO transfer Fatu Ulale will work as a key reserve either inside or out.
Watch Out For … the new recruits. The Lobos need bodies up front, especially in the middle, hoping for 6-3, 280-pound Nik D'Avanzo to be some sort of a factor early on, while looking for 6-3, 265-pound JUCO transfer Brett Bowers to do something on the outside. Ends William Udeh and Donnie White were two of the team's better recruits.
Strength: Greer. He's the pass rusher who bulked up to do even more to be physical for the running game, and he's the one everything should work around. This will be a good-sized front three with tackle-sized players at each spot.
Weakness: Tackle. Twitty has to come up big, literally, at tackle while a nose guard has to emerge to hold tougher at the point of attack. Overall the run defense should be bulkier and better, but this only works if the interior is productive.
Outlook: The line was a problem last season when it came to getting into the backfield – other than Greer – but it should be stronger against the run and should allow the linebackers to roam free. There are some big changes going on, but overall this should be a decent group as the season goes on.
Unit Rating: 4.5
The linebacking corps needed to come up with tacklers, and it found one in Dallas Bollema on the weakside with 89 tackles with a sack, 6.5 tackles for loss and three picks. He turned into a key part of the defense a few seasons ago, but last season he came into his own as a smart, tough leader who seemed like he was in on every play. He has good size at 6-2 and 230 pounds, but he's tough and packs a punch.
The corps will be a puzzle to be put together throughout the year, starting with junior Javarie Johnson, a transfer from Maryland who had great upside and talent before tearing his ACL. Just getting back into the swing of things, he was a decent reserve making 23 tackles, and he showed a flair for getting into the backfield with 4.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. 5-11, 233-pound junior Toby Ball has been a career special teamer who spent last season as the backup in the middle making ten tackles with a tackle for loss. He's built for the position with good toughness in the interior, while 6-3, 230-pound former JUCO transfer David Orvick should play a bigger role somewhere in the lineup after making ten tackles as a backup on the weakside. 6-0, 202-pound junior Tevin Newman isn't all that big, but he's an athletic speedster who could turn out to be a dangerous pass rusher in the right situations after making 11 tackles with a pick.
Watch Out For … lots and lots of shuffling. Bollema will get one of the four spots and Johnson is a natural for the Rush job, but everything else is up for grabs. There are several young players looking to become factors, but it's going to take a little while to get the right rotation.
Strength: Good hitters. There's no shortage of want-to in this group. Bollema and Ball will run through a wall to make something happen, while there's speed and athleticism from several untested players looking to do more.
Weakness: Pass rushing. Johnson should be right and should be able to be a dangerous playmaker, but the rest of the linebackers are merely trying to come up with stops. Can this group get into the backfield on a regular basis? It's going to be a work in progress.
Outlook: The Lobos lose three starting linebackers, but they should be just fine with Johnson and Bollema two potential all-stars to work around. There are plenty of good, feisty players and lots of hitters, but finding the right two-deep will likely take a while.
Unit Rating: 5
The secondary was a disaster, hurt by a lack of pass rush and big plays up front. Losing three starters won't help, with sophomore Cranston Jones the lone returning starter at corner after making ten tackles and a pick, working in the rotation throughout the season before starting in the last three games. He's only 5-9 and 167 pounds, but he's feisty and a great worker who's going to want the job of taking on the No. 1 targets. The overall tools aren't there, but he'll be a decent part to start with.
The secondary needs so much help that wide receiver SaQwan Edwards is moving over after making six catches. The 6-1, 188-pounder has good size and decent speed, and now he's going to work at corner along with 5-9, 175-pound sophomore Rashad Jackson, who worked mostly on special teams and now needs to be a factor at corner. A speedster, he has the wheels to handle the faster targets.
There are just as many concerns at safety with starters Matt Raymer and Freddy Young gone. 6-0, 182-pound senior Dante Caro was a backup at strong safety making 12 tackles, while 5-11, 187-pound sophomore Brandon Branch is a versatile option who can play anywhere in the secondary but got three starts at free safety finishing the season with 14 tackles with a fumble recovery. 6-0, 188-pound junior Jamal Merritt is a starting strong safety who needs to come back healthy after suffering a knee injury. He started three games and finished with 17 tackles with two broken up passes before getting hurt, but he's a talent who can play in a variety of spots.
Watch Out For … JUCO transfer David Guthrie. The Lobos need an infusion of talent, and while several defensive backs were brought in, Guthrie is the one who should be able to see time right away after spending last year at College of the Siskiyous where he became a ball-hawker. He could find a safety spot right away.
Strength: Versatility. For good and bad, almost all the defensive backs can move around to different spots.
Jones a corner, but just about everyone else come move around depending on the formation and alignment.
Weakness: Experience. How bad are things in the secondary? The receiving corps might be one of the worst in America, and yet Edwards is making the move over to the defensive side. The secondary was a disaster last season, and now it's without almost all the top players.
Outlook: The secondary was ripped to shreds, allowing close to 270 yards per game with 33 touchdowns and taking it away just 11 times. There's a complete overhaul being done, but there's enough speed and versatility to play around with the lineup to find the right combination.
Unit Rating: 4
The placekicking wasn't special, but senior Justus Adams is back after connecting on 9-of-13 field goals and hitting his last four. However, his longest shot came from 42 yards away and he missed three makeable kicks from inside the 40. Also back is punter Ben Skaer after a decent year averaging close to 44 yards per punt and putting 15 inside the 20. The veteran is experienced, consistent, and strong enough to bail the team out time and again.
Chase Clayton became one of the nation's top kickoff returners averaging 30.4 yards per try with two touchdowns, and while the punt return game wasn't as strong, it wasn't bad with Tim Foley averaging 6.4 yards per try.
Watch Out For … Clayton. A weapon who was dangerous whenever he had the ball in his hands, he's going to force teams to stay away from him. The Lobos should improve on field position in a big way with more squib kicks coming their way.
Strength: Punting. The kickoff return game was a major plus, but it was Skaer who was one of the team's biggest positives with big kick after big kick.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. A total and complete disaster, the Lobos gave up a whopping 25.5 yards per kickoff return. The punt coverage team was fine, but time and again the defense was put in a hole.
Outlook: There are plenty of major positives from Skaer, to Clayton, to the expected emergence of Adams as more of a factor. The coverage teams have to be stronger, but the special teams don't need nearly as much work as other areas.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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