2008 New Mexico Preview - Defense
New Mexico CB DeAndre Wright
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - New Mexico Lobo Defense
Preview 2008 - Defense
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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.
Tackles: Ian Clark, 79
Sacks: Zach Arnett, 2
Interceptions: DeAndre Wright, 3
Star of the defense: Senior CB DeAndre Wright
Pass rush, depth
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
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:
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
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
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
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.
Strength: 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.
Weakness: 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.
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.
Strength: 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.
Weakness: 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.
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
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.
Strength: 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
Weakness: Interceptions. As good as the secondary was last year,
there were only 11 interceptions and just four over the final eight
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.
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
might not be John Sullivan, they should be good enough to hit everything
inside the 40
Strength: 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.
Weakness: 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.