2007 New Mexico Preview - Defense

Posted Jul 1, 2007

Preview 2007 New Mexico Lobo Defense

New Mexico Lobos

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 New Mexico Preview | 2007 New Mexico Offense Preview
2007 New Mexico Depth Chart
| 2006 CFN New Mexico Preview 

What you need to know: The 3-3-5 scheme will stay in place, but the Lobo position will be fifth defensive back more than a linebacker. As always, there are plenty of great athletes who can run and fly to the ball. Now there has to be more production against the pass and more big plays in the backfield. The linebacking corps with Cody Kase moving from the outside in, should be stellar, while the cornerback tandem of DeAndre Wright and Glover Quin should be among the best in the league. There's a ton of talent to get excited about, but, unlike last year, will it all come together to form one of the league's better defenses? It's possible.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: O.J, Swift, 74
Sacks: Tyler Donaldson, 5
Interceptions: DeAndre Wright, 4

Star of the defense: Junior CB DeAndre Wright
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore DE Kendall Briscoe
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore S Ian Clark
Best pro prospect: Senior LB Major Mosley
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wright, 2) LB Cody Kase, 3) DE Tyler Donaldson
Strength of the defense: Experience, cornerback
Weakness of the defense: Size up front, proven production against the pass

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The Lobo front three gets three starters back, but 6-1, 271-pound sophomore Kendall Briscoe will likely force his way in at left end after a big spring. With his size, he's like a tackle against the run, and he showed a little bit of pass rushing ability making 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries along with 19 tackles in a reserve role.

Former walk-on Wesley Beck, a former end who'll play on the nose, has been one of the team's biggest surprises. The junior beefed up to 264 pounds on his 6-0 frame, got much stronger, and came up with a nice year making 39 tackles. While he hasn't shown much as an interior pass rusher, he has the quickness to grow into one.

On the right end will once again be 6-4, 226-pound senior Tyler Donaldson, a quick end who's seen time as an undersized tackle. He finished fourth on the team making 49 tackles with a team-leading five sacks and nine tackles for loss. He's not necessarily a rock against the run when power teams run right at him, but when he's in space and on the move, he gets to absolutely everything.

Projected Top Reserves: Briscoe might have a spot as a starter on the depth chart, but that could quickly change come fall. 6-2, 250-pound senior Michael Tuohy has always had the talent, and he's just starting to turn into a dominant pass rusher. He came up with 4.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hurries, and 38 tackles last season. One of the Mountain West's top ends when it comes to getting into the backfield, he'll find a starting spot again soon.

At 6-4 and 260 pounds, sophomore Phillip Harrison will flip-flop between tackle and end. He doesn't have a lot of experience seeing time in just five games making four tackles and two tackles for loss. Needing to get a bit stronger to be a regular on the inside, he'll start out behind Donaldson.

6-2, 260-pound junior Jeremiah Lovato moves back and forth between tackle and end, and will start out playing behind Beck on the inside after making ten tackles as a key reserve. His versatility will allow several other players to move around where needed in the rotation.

Watch Out For ... a regular rotation. The Lobos always move around their undersized linemen to keep everyone fresh, and now they'll do it more than ever. Outside of Beck on the nose, there's no appreciable difference between the tackles and ends in this D. 
The ends. Briscoe, Tuohy and Donaldson should be dominant on the outside. Donaldson will be an all-star, Tuohy will get consideration, and Briscoe, if he's not a tackle, will be a big rock against the run.
Size ... but that's by design. New Mexico goes with smallish, quick linemen whose job it is to be disruptive forces. The line needs the bulk of Briscoe and Beck.
Outlook: The Lobos will be tremendous at getting into the backfield with their great ends, but the overall goal will be to do more  after only cranking out 66 tackles for loss. Expect even more production against the run, even after only allowing 118 yards per game. With a veteran core of players to work around, and promising reserves, the front three will be a positive.
Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters: Despite being hampered by a hamstring injury, senior Cody Kase made 43 tackles, three sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, ten quarterback hurries and and two interceptions. While that might seem like a fantastic year, that's nothing for an all-star outside linebacker who'll now move to the middle and become an even bigger star. At 216 pounds, he's not all that big, but he's very smart, very tough, and very active. He's always around the ball.

Moving into Kase's spot on the left side will be 6-3, 231-pound senior Major Mosley, after playing all of last year in the middle making 39 tackles, four sacks and seven quarterback hurries. He has the size along with phenomenal athleticism, able to play the Lobo position early last year, along with tremendous weight room strength. With all his experience and all his measurables, he should grow into one of the team's top tacklers.

Back on the right side is 6-2, 225-pound senior George Carter, who made 33 tackles, a sack and five tackles for loss. An extremely smart player who's great at getting into the right position, he's bulked up over the last few seasons and now should be more than a defensive back playing linebacker; he's a linebacker. Even so, he needs to do more against the pass.

Projected Top Reserves: At 5-10 and 205 pounds, junior Zach Arnett is a small, tough tackler in the middle making 36 tackles as a reserve. Originally a baseball player, he walked on to the football team and has grown into a key player. He doesn't have great skills, but he's all heart.

Senior Brett Madsen came over from the JUCO ranks making 35 tackles with 1.5 sacks as one of the team's best run supporters. Only nine of his tackles were unassisted, and he has to do more to be disruptive as a backup behind Carter on the right side.

Junior Herbert Felder was the team's top reserve outside linebacker seeing plenty of time with Kase struggled with his hamstring injury. Felder made 17 tackles and was turned loose at times into the backfield making three tackles and five tackles for loss. While not an elite athlete, he's fast enough to fly around to the ball.

Watch Out For ... Kase to be special in the middle. He's always been one of the team's top defensive players, and now that he's healthy, will be all over the place with the extra responsibility in the middle. 
Veterans. Kase has been around forever, and Mosley and Carter have a year of experience. They should all do even more and make more big plays, while the good backups will step in and shine when needed.
Pass defense. Having five defensive backs puts the onus on the secondary for handle the pass defense, but the speedy, athletic linebackers should be doing even more on short to midrange passes.
Outlook: This will be among the Mountain West's best linebacking corps if Carter and Mosley turn into killers. Having Kase in the middle will allow everyone else to roam free on the outside, and the results should be excellent with more sacks, more tackles for loss, and more production.
Rating: 7.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: New Mexico's glamour position is the outside linebacker/defensive back Lobo, which helped showcase Brian Urlacher and Quincy Black as college stars. While one of several linebackers could end up in the spot, 6-0, 198-pound sophomore Ian Clark will get the first shot after making 22 tackles with two broken up passes as a backup. The former cornerback is extremely fast and should be great in pass coverage, but he has to prove he can be consistently tough against the run.

Junior corners Glover Quin and DeAndre Wright are back after each earning all-star honors. Despite struggling mightily against the pass, The 6-0, 203-pound Quin, who was an honorable mention All-Mountain West performer after finishing third on the team with 63 tackles with no interceptions and 12 broken up passes, and the 5-9, 196-pound Wright, who earned second-team honors after making 47 stops with four interceptions and ten broken up passes, were considered among the league's best, and they should be even better with more of a pass rush to help them out. They were inconsistent, but now that they have a year of starting experience, they should be fantastic.

Returning at strong safety is senior O.J. Swift, who's slightly undersized at 5-9 and 196 pounds, but extremely tough. After suffering a knee injury in his first season over from the JUCO ranks, and then he became a top playmaker with 74 tackles, two interceptions, and four broken up passes. He plays much bigger than his size able to throw his body all over the place.

The other safety job is up for grabs, with sophomore Frankie Solomon likely to get the first look. While he's a light 5-10 and 173 pounds, he's a smart, tough athlete who can jump out of the stadium. After making 17 tackles as a backup, he appears ready to step up as a top all-around playmaker in the rotation.

Projected Top Reserves: Even if Solomon starts, senior Tyson Ditmore will play a big role after making 77 stops in his first three years. He went from being a special teamer and a reserve to a good starter making 48 tackles. Even though he's a steady veteran, he doesn't do much in pass coverage.

Behind Swift at left safety will once again be junior Blake Ligon, who made 34 tackles and two interceptions despite suffering a broken arm early in the year. While he's not a big hitter, he's a great third safety with great speed. He can play either spot.

Watch Out For ... more from the safeties. With Quin and Wright on the outside, the safeties don't have to spend a lot of time helping out and can do far more to make plays elsewhere. Expect more blitzes and more chances taken.
Corners. Forgetting the problems they had against anyone who could actually throw, and some who couldn't (295 yards and five touchdowns to UNLV?!) Quin and Wright really are talented. Swift if a good one to count on game in and game out.
Actually defending the pass. The Lobos got ripped up last year allowing 200 yards or more to everyone but Portland State (in a loss), Missouri (allowed 199), Air Force (it's Air Force), and TCU (the one really good performance). Everyone has to play up to their talent and potential.
Outlook: The secondary is full of good veterans with the athleticism and talent to make a night and day improvement. There are several all-star candidates and good enough depth to form a decent rotation. Being consistent is a plus, but making more plays on third downs would be even more important.
Rating: 7

Special Teams
Projected Starters: Senior punter Jordan Scott has a big leg and had a much better year than the overall stats might suggest. New Mexico finished 61st in the nation in net punting, but Scott averaged 40.2 yards per kick putting 19 inside the 20 and forcing a whopping 20 fair catches. Senior Eric Garrison will take over for Kenny Byrd, who nailed 19 of 23 field goals including a 53-yard bomb. Garrison missed part of spring ball hurt, and while he has a great leg, he might have to battle with John Sullivan, despite a torn ACL suffered this spring.

Watch Out For ... more from the punt return game. A weakness last year, averaging just 6.39 yards per try, Ian Clark should provide a good burst with his speed and quickness. It can't be much worse.
Scott. He's the type of weapon who can give put opposing offenses in a jam, and bail the Lobo offense out of trouble. He showed last year that he's more than a big leg.
Deciding on a placekicker. Can Garrison be consistent, or will Scott have to double dip. Byrd was tremendous last season and will be tough to replace.
Outlook: Likely to be in several close games, the special teams will likely be the difference between a winning and losing season. If Garrison can be decent, the kicking game will be a plus thanks to the return of Scott. The team hasn't done much to return punts over the last two years, but it's been an emphasis this off-season.


Related Stories
2007 New Mexico Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 1, 2007
2007 New Mexico Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 1, 2007
2007 New Mexico Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 1, 2007

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