New Mexico Preview 2006 - Defense

Posted Aug 7, 2006

New Mexico Lobos Preview 2006 - New Mexico Lobo Defense

What you need to know ... The whole is better than the sum of the parts. The line isn't big, the secondary isn't particularly fast, and there isn't a big run stuffer anywhere, but the defense always produces. Well, almost always. The secondary had problems last year and the D gave up an unLobo-like 29.7 points per game. There should be more big plays with outside linebackers Cody Kase and Quincy Black about to grow into stars, and safeties Blake Ligon and DeAndre Wright about to go from being green freshmen to dynamite sophomores. The concerns are at corner and with size up front with the tackles going around 250. However, New Mexico's system usually produces results.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Quincy Black, 63
Sacks: Cody Kase, 5.5
Interceptions: Quincy Black, Tyson Ditmore, DeAndre Wright, 1

Star of the defense: Senior LB Quincy Black
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior NT Billy Brittain
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB Juamar Hall
Best pro prospect: Black
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Black, 2) LB Cody Kase, 3) SS DeAndre Wright
Strength of the defense: Safety, outside linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Tackle, corner

Defensive Line
The Lobos always get away with having a small line, but this is pushing it. There isn't a Marcus Parker on the nose to clog things up, but Michael Tuohy has found a home at end and should have a tremendous season. Billy Brittain is a weight room phenom who has to be a rock in the middle, while Stephen Hutchinson has to take advantage of the attention paid to Tuohy. There's no developed depth whatsoever while true freshmen Kendall Briscoe and Vincent Federico might have to provide the size.
The key to the unit: Make plays in the backfield and not get shoved around by bigger offensive lines.
Defensive Line Rating: 5

Projected Starters
- LDE Michael Tuohy, Jr. - 24 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 1 interception
The all-star candidate was never really right last year limited by an ankle sprain and moved around between defensive end and linebacker. At 233 pounds he's more of a linebacker, but he has the aggressiveness and drive to be a fearsome pass rusher on the end with 6.5 sacks as a freshman. He'll be a threat for double-digit sacks if he can stay healthy.

- NT Billy Brittain, Sr. - 5 tackles
He might only be 6-1 and 249 pounds, but he's ridiculously strong and will try to be a tough run defender on the inside. He doesn't have much experience with only nine appearances in three years and will need to be part of a rotation on the nose.

- RDE Stephen Hutchinson, Jr. - 11 tackles
The first man in the rotation last year will need to flourish on the other side of Michael Tuohy. Hutchinson is 6-3 and 239 pounds with a great motor, but limited pass rushing skills. He has to develop more as a consistent playmaker in the backfield.

Top Backups
- DE Phillip Harrison, RFr.
Harrison will rotate with Stephen Hutchinson on the right side. At 269 pounds he's the biggest lineman in the mix and could end up playing tackle.
- NT Ryan Boyd, Jr.
More of an end than a true tackle, the 6-3, 254-pound junior is a bigger option on the nose than Billy Brittain.

The outside is fantastic with Cody Kase and Quincy Black All-Mountain West candidates who'll combine for around 150 tackles. These two will wreak havoc, so the only question is whether or not Justin Clayton and Brett Madsen can clean up everything on the inside taking over for leading tackler Mike Mahoric. This will grow into a strength if a few quality reserves develop..
The key to the unit: Get all-star years out of the outside linebackers and make up for the overall size with playmaking quickness.
Linebacker Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- Cody Kase, Jr. - 62 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 11.5 TFL
The 212-pound junior is back for his second season on the outside after getting honorable mention All-Mountain West recognition last year. He's one of the team's smartest players in the classroom as well as on the field always finding ways to be in the right position to make plays.

- Justin Clayton, Sr. - 11 tackles
Clayton will take over in the middle for all-star Mike Mahoric providing safety speed and toughness. The problem is size at only 5-10 and 212 pounds so he'll have to make up for it with his quickness and aggressiveness.

- Quincy Black, Sr. - 63 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 5 broken up passes, 1 interception
Black had a tremendous year on the outside and should be poised for all-star honors. He's a tremendous athlete with NFL size at 6-3 and 232 pounds with great skills in pass coverage. Now that the former defensive end knows what he's doing, he should be even more of a playmaker.

Top Backups
- Jake Bowe, Soph.
It'll be hard for Bowe to see too much time playing behind Quincy Black, but he'll find a spot somewhere. The 200 pounder is more of a defensive back than a true linebacker.
- Brett Madsen, Jr.
The 221-pound JUCO transfer made 100 tackles and ten sacks last year for Snow College in Utah. He's a very fast former running back who'll play behind Justin Clayton in the middle.

Defensive Backs
The secondary had major problems last season giving up way too many yards and too many big plays, but it was able to help pick off 15 passes. The strength is at safety where Blake Ligon and DeAndre Wright are talented, experienced sophomores ready to make a big jump in production. The corners are untested and will be a big question mark early on. Developing all the young prospects to provide immediate depth will be important.
The key to the unit: Get veteran play out of the inexperienced corners and hope for the strong safeties to make the jump in production expected of them.
Secondary Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- CB Ian Clark, RFr.
Clark takes over for all-star Gabriel Fulbright on the left side and is expected to grow into a good one. He has the size and speed to become a steady cover-corner, and possibly a number one man this year, but he needs to take his lumps as a first year starter.

- SS Blake Ligon, Soph. - 44 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 broken up passes
Ligon was one of the big surprises of last year's defense with tremendous speed and a nose for the ball. He's not all that huge for a strong safety at only 177 pounds, so time in the weight room will be a key to his growth and development over the next two seasons.

- FS Tyson Ditmore, Jr. - 17 tackles, 1 interception, 2 broken up passes
A regular in the rotation for the last two seasons, the 203-pound junior will be more than a special teamer this season getting the start at the Lobo, or free safety. He's the team's biggest defensive back and has to be a physical hitter and tone setter against the pass.

- SS DeAndre Wright, Soph. - 46 tackles, 4 sacks, 6 TFL, 1 interception, 1 broken up pass
Wright is still learning the ins and outs of being a defensive back after starring as a running back in high school. He had a great first season growing into a top pass rusher and all-around disruptive force on the right side. He's an all-star waiting to happen.

- CB Juamar Hall, Jr. - 8 tackles. 4 broken up passes
Hall has been a reserve so far, but he has made the most of his chances showing the ability to make the big play when tested. He has the quickness and ability to grow into the team's top cover-corner taking over the job on the right side.

Top Backups
- SS O.J. Swift, Jr. - 19 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 broken up passes
Swift struggled in his first year with a knee injury, but he appears to be ready to go for the season as the main safety backup .He'll start out playing behind D'Andre Wright on the right side and could see time at all the safety spots. He plays much bigger than his 5-9, 183-pound size.
- CB Glover Quin, Soph.
The JUCO transfer is a bigger option on the right side playing behind Juamar Hall. He's a very quick former running back who can tackle.

Special Teams
Kenny Byrd is one of the nation's top placekickers and should be a major weapon again this year. Jordan Scott and JUCO transfer Matt Barnard will battle it out for the punting job. The biggest replacement is needed in the return game where Gabriel Fulbright, who handled all the duties last year, is gone. More pop is needed after averaging a mere 8.2 yards as a team on punt returns and 18.2 yards on kickoff returns, and the coverage units have to be far better.
The key to the unit: Get reliable punting, better kick coverage, and more explosion from the return game.
Special Tams Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- PK Kenny Byrd, Sr. - 13-15 FGs, 33-38 extra points
A Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year, Byrd is once against expected to be among the best in America. He was automatic from 45 yards with his two misses coming from beyond 40 yards. He has a solid deep leg who now knows what he's doing after only playing soccer in high school.
- P Jordan Scott, Jr.
Scott will battle with Matt Barnard to replace the steady Tyler Gaus and his 40.7-yard average. Scott has a big leg, but he has to prove he can consistently put it inside the 20 like Gaus did.

Related Stories
New Mexico Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
New Mexico Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
New Mexico Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006

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