2008 New Mexico Preview - Defense
New Mexico CB DeAndre Wright
New Mexico CB DeAndre Wright
Posted May 9, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - New Mexico Lobo Defense

New Mexico Lobos

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN New Mexico Preview | 2008 New Mexico Offense
- 2008 New Mexico Defense
| 2008 New Mexico Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN New Mexico Preview
| 2006 CFN New Mexico Preview 

What you need to know: Defensive coordinator Osia Lewis took off for UTEP with Troy Reffett taking over, but there won't be much of a change in styles. This is really still head coach Rocky Long's defense with the 3-3-5 system looking to attack and blitz and be disruptive. The corner tandem of DeAndre Wright and Glover Quin is the team's biggest strength, while the safeties aren't far behind. The problem is in the front six where there's no pass rush to count on and absolutely no depth, especially at linebacker. The system and the defense will be better than the players, and there will be production as the season goes on, but it could be a long first month or so until everyone gets used to what they're doing.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Ian Clark, 79
Sacks: Zach Arnett, 2
Interceptions: DeAndre Wright, 3

Star of the defense: Senior CB DeAndre Wright
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Kevin Balogun
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Jerome Jenkins
Best pro prospect: Wright
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wright, 2) CB Glover Quin, 3) S Ian Clark
Strength of the defense: Cornerback, safety
Weakness of the defense:
Pass rush, depth

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The Lobo line loses the ends but gets back senior Wesley Beck on the nose after a 34 tackle, 5.5 tackle for loss season. The former walk-on might not be the ideal anchor, but he bulked up to 279 pounds and has been tough, durable, and very strong. The problem is his consistency. While he's been decent for the run defense, and is growing into more of pass rusher, he wasn't productive enough early last year and lost his starting job. He got it back over the second half of the year and now he needs to be the main man up front as the only returning starter.

6-4, 281-pound senior Kevin Balogun played in every game as a reserve making ten tackles and 1.5 sacks. While he's not a premier pass rusher, he brings good size to the line at 6-4 and 281 pounds. He won't be Michael Tuohy when it comes to getting to the quarterback and he's had problems with injuries over his career, hurt most by a torn Achilles tendon a few years ago. Now he has to blossom as a regular on the left side.

Stepping in for Tyler Donaldson on the right side will be junior Phillip Harrison. A tackle playing end, the 6-3, 291-pound junior saw time on the nose making 17 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss as a key reserve. He'll flip-flop between tackle and end needing to do whatever he can to stop the run. He's not going to get to the quarterback on a regular basis, but his bulk will be a big help to the smallish front three.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Kendall Briscoe was groomed to be a starter going into last year but quickly got passed over for Michael Tuohy. A regular in every game, the 6-1, 271 pounder made just nine tackles and did nothing for the pass rush after a promising freshman season when he made 19 stops and 1.5 tackles in a limited role. He has the experience and the big body to do more.

Wesley Beck is an undersized nose tackle at 279 pounds, and Jeremiah Lovato is really smallish at 6-2, 260 pounds. The senior walked on to the team and has been a nice reserve making 32 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss last season and 42 over the last two years as a good reserve. He never stops working and is always going 100%, and he proved he could start at times and be effective. Extremely strong, he was the leading defensive lineman in the weight room and he plays bigger than his size.

Junior DeAndre Davis is still trying to find his niche after moving over from tight end. The 6-2, 245 pounder redshirted last season after coming in from the JUCO ranks. He was a high school defensive end and is hardly starting from scratch, but he needs to get into the backfield on a regular basis to see meaningful time.

Watch Out For ... Harrison. Wherever he plays on the line he's ready to grow into a bigger role and have a huge season as a run stopper. He won't get the normal stats of a defensive end, but he could prove to be a dominant tackle on the right side.
Stopping the run. It's the scheme as much as the players, but the front three has the strength to once again be a brick wall again inside running teams. The nose tackles are smallish but very strong and very tough, while the ends are slow but tackle-sized. This is a bigger front three than normal for the Lobos.
Pass rush. There's no Michael Tuohy or Tyler Donaldson, who combined for 10.5 of the team's 23 tackles, to count on. The sacks will likely come from the linebackers.
Outlook: Last year's group was great at getting into the backfield and was tough against the run, but it didn't close too often on the quarterback. This year's front three should be fantastic at the run, but it'll still only get behind the line on a limited basis. There isn't any all-star talent to count on even though there's a lot of playing experience, good strength, and a nice rotation of serviceable players. The whole will be better than the sum of the parts.
Rating: 6


Projected Starters: Linebacker is the team's biggest issue, so it desperately needs long-time reserve Zach Arnett to go from good to fantastic. After originally coming to New Mexico to play baseball, he turned into a key defender with 120 career tackles finishing fourth on the team last season with 64 stops, two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss as a backup. Ridiculously undersized for a middle linebacker at 5-10 and 205 pounds, he uses his speed, smarts and strength to get by.

Along with Arnett, senior Herbert Felder has experience in the linebacking corps making 31 tackles last season. The team's top outside reserve linebacker over the last few seasons, he's good when he's turned loose into the backfield, which he should do more of after bulking up to 230 pounds; he can be used as a modified defensive end. A nice hitter with a good nose for pressuring the quarterback, he should blossom in the bigger role.

Sophomore Terel Anyaibe spent last year on special teams making one tackle, but now he has to be a major factor on the right side. With a defensive lineman's mentality in a 6-2, 217-pound body, he's tough and can move, but he has to learn how to become a regular pass rusher.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Seth Johannemann is about 20 pounds bigger than Zach Arnett in the middle, and while the 6-3, 224 pounder won't push for a starting job, he'll see plenty of action in the rotation after making four tackles on special teams. The former walk-on can move a little bit and could end up playing on the outside if needed.

Redshirt freshman Carmen Messina was a good high school running back and an Illinois all-state high school linebacker who needs to blow up as an all-around playmaker behind Herbert Felder on the left side. While he's not all that big at 6-2 and 210 pounds, he's an excellent athlete was good upside.

6-2, 210-pound redshirt freshman Jonathan Rainey is very raw but very promising. A basketball player by nature, he jumped over to football late in his high school career and blossomed as a defensive end. Tremendously athletic, he's the disruptive force of the future. It just might take a year or two of seasoning behind Terel Anyaibe on the right side to get there.

Watch Out For ... an ongoing rotation to find the right combination. With so many new faces to the playing mix, it's going to take half the year until the right threesome is found.
rnett. He might not be that big and he might be a career backup, but he's tough as nails, knows what he's doing, and will be a feisty leader for a green corps that needs to work through its kicks.
Experience. There's Arnett, there's Felder, and that's it. Forget about any developed depth; that was Arnett and Felder last year.
Outlook: The early goal will be to get production no matter what the cost. There will be a world of mistakes with no returning starters and no experience whatsoever among the reserves, but there's a lot of athleticism and a lot of upside. This is too raw a group to make any sort of an impact right away, and things could be absolutely devastating if Arnett and/or Felder go down. Next year the corps will shine. Getting there will be the key.
Rating: 5.5

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, and last year it was Ian Clark who was the main man leading the team with 79 tackles and two tackles for loss with two forced fumbles even though he didn't start until late in the year. The former cornerback is extremely fast, but he didn't do enough in pass coverage and he got beaten up. At only 6-0 and 210 pounds, he's not built like a pounding linebacker/safety, and he needed off-season shoulder surgery. He should be back to his spot by the start of the year and he should be even more productive.

The strength of the team is at corner where first team All-Mountain West selection DeAndre Wright is back after making 36 tackles and three interceptions with nine broken up passes. A premier kick returner as well as one of the league's top cover corners, the senior is fast, can hit, and is still getting better. At 5-11 and 193 pounds he has good size and he's not afraid to use it.

Senior Glover Quin isn't Wright, but he's an all-star earning honorable mention All-Mountain West honors for the last two years. At 6-0 and 203 pounds he's a big, physical corner who hits like a safety and is terrific against the run making 103 tackles along with 30 broken up passes in his first two years since coming over form the JUCO ranks. He made a big leap in his consistency last year, and he should be even better this season.

Replacing second-leading tackler O.J. Swift at one safety spot will be 5-10, 173-pound junior Frankie Solomon, who hade 45 tackles, two interceptions and six broken up passes. While he's not that big, he hits like a much bigger player and he isn't afraid to get physical. Now he has to prove he can make the jump from being a good reserve to a consistent starter.

Back at safety on the right side is senior Blake Ligon, a steady three-year producer who finished sixth on the team with 57 tackles along with eight broken up passes. He's not the biggest hitter and has had injury problems suffering a broken arm two years ago and a shoulder injury last year, but he's good against the pass and is like a third corner at 6-1 and 187 pounds.

Projected Top Reserves: Ian Clark might be the best option at the Lobo position, but junior Clint McPeek might get some starts and should find a spot somewhere in the secondary after making 50 tackles and four broken up passes before getting knocked out for the year with a neck injury. While not lightning fast, he's a good free safety who's smart and is always all over the field.

Sophomore Jerome Jenkins will be groomed as the team's 2009 number one cover corner. The former safety moved over to corner last year and ended up making 30 tackles and five broken up passes in a spot starting role. He plays like a veteran, doesn't miss many tackles, and has a good jump on the ball. He'll be a good one after spending the year as an understudy.

Watch Out For ... Solomon. A major playmaker as a backup, now he should blow up as a full-time starter.
Corners. Wright and Quin were good to begin with, and then they took their games to another level last year. Now they're the unquestioned best corner tandem in the Mountain West.
Interceptions. As good as the secondary was last year, there were only 11 interceptions and just four over the final eight games.
Outlook: The corners are among the best around with Wright and Quin auditioning for the next level. The safeties should also be a strength with the tandem of Clark and McPeek combining at the all-important Lobo spot, while Ligon and Solomon are solid. The depth is average, outside of corner Jenkins, and there will be big problems if injuries strike and if there's no pass rush, but this will be a good, sound secondary.
Rating: 8

Special Teams
Projected Starters: The kicking game is starting from scratch. True freshman walk-on James Aho appears to have the job by a hair going into fall camp over Drew Zamora, who was a big placekicker recruit with the leg and the skills to be a good one. New Mexico always gets production out of its kickers, but it's asking a lot to be John Sullivan, who nailed 29 of 35 field goals.

The punting game was among the best in the nation last season with Jordan Scott averaging 40.6 yards per kick and putting a whopping 27 boots inside the 20 and forcing 41 fair catches. Junior Adam Miller will get the first look, and while he's a ridiculously strong 6-2 and 244 pounds and can blast the ball out of the stadium, he'll have to prove he can be consistent. JUCO All-American Matt Barnard will also get a shot.

The return game was mediocre last season, but that could change if top corner DeAndre Wright gets more work. The senior averaged 22.3 yards per try on kickoff returns, but he only got six chances. Frankie Solomon will be the main punt returner again, but he has to do more than average 4.5 yards per try.

Watch Out For ... Zamora or Aho to be fine. While neither might not be John Sullivan, they should be good enough to hit everything inside the 40
Coverage teams. New Mexico always has good special teams, and last year's coverage units were terrific. They should be again after allowing just 7.8 yards per punt return and 19.2 yards per kickoff return.
Kicking experience. A major strength last season, the kicking game has to undergo a total facelift. New Mexico won four games by three points or fewer; it needs to be solid in the special teams.
Outlook: The return game and coverage units are solid, and getting blast on the ball from Miller won't be an issue. However, Miller is new to the mix and Zamora is an untested prospect at placekicker. Even so, this shouldn't be a weakness by any stretch. It just might take a little while to be strong.


Related Stories
2008 New Mexico Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 9, 2008
2008 New Mexico Preview – Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 9, 2008
2008 CFN New Mexico Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 9, 2008

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