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2009 New Mexico Preview - Defense
New Mexico LB Clint McPeek
New Mexico LB Clint McPeek
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 20, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - New Mexico Lobo Defense

New Mexico Lobos

Preview 2009 - Defense


- 2009 CFN New Mexico Preview | 2009 New Mexico Offense
- 2009 New Mexico Defense
| 2009 New Mexico Depth Chart
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2008 UNM Preview | 2007 UNM Preview | 2006 UNM Preview 

What you need to know: New defensive coordinator Doug Mallory comes over from LSU and will incorporate his attacking style to try to utilize all the team's speed and quickness. However, this is a very small defense with only three starters returning and a whole bunch of question marks, most notably, health. The move from a 3-3-5 alignment to a 4-3 will help the back seven, because now Clint McPeek can be a full-time outside linebacker and Ian Clark and Frankie Solomon can take on traditional safety roles, but there's a big problem up front with concerns at the end and uncertainty at tackle. Where's the pass rush going to come from? If there isn't a regular push into the backfield, there will be a big problem considering the corners are extremely green after the departure of Glover Quin and DeAndre Wright. There's a lot of work to be done, but this could be a D that improves by leaps and bounds week after week.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Clint McPeek, 103
Sacks: Ian Clark, 4
Interceptions: Several with 1

Star of the defense: Senior LB Clint McPeek
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Sophomore CB Anthony Hooks
Unsung star on the rise:
Junior DT Peter Gardner
Best pro prospect:
Gardner
Top three all-star candidates:
1) McPeek, 2) FS Ian Clark, 3) SS Frankie Solomon
Strength of the defense:
Safety, Quickness
Weakness of the defense:
Pass rush, Size

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The line might be starting from scratch, but it has a good tackle to build around in Kendall Briscoe, a 6-2, 285-pound senior who made 15 tackles last year, but is a long-time veteran who has grown into a decent interior pass rusher. He's not exactly a star anchor, but with 35 games of experience and after an improved spring, he's a reliable inside presence.

Briscoe might be the veteran, but fellow tackle Peter Gardner should be the star of the interior. The 6-4, 295-pound JUCO transfer got to school early and should instantly be the one the team works around. Strong, big, and tough, he was courted by several BCS schools out of Lackawanna JC, but the junior could now be the key to the New Mexico defense.

Sophomore Jaymar Latchison saw time in every game and finished with 18 tackles with 1.5 sacks. At 6-3 and 245 pounds, he's built more like a rangy linebacker than a defensive end, but he's extremely quick off the ball and should be a good producer if the tackles do their jobs on the inside.

6-2, 252-pound senior DeAndre Davis has an arm issue, but he also has the size and the experience to be the team's top end early on. he saw time in 11 games and finished with 24 tackles with two tackles for loss. The former tight end saw time as a defensive end in high school before going to the offensive side as a JUCO player, and now he knows what he's doing on the right side.

Projected Top Reserves: Originally a linebacker, 6-2, 225-pound sophomore Johnathan Rainey beefed up and looks like the pass rusher the line is desperately looking for. A former basketball star, he jumped over to football late in his high school career and blossomed as a defensive end. Tremendously athletic, he's ready to take on a big role after a great spring and after making 15 tackles as a reserve.

Still improving, 6-3, 272-pound sophomore Brett Kennedy is a nice tackle prospect who saw a little action in his true freshman season and made seven tackles with an interception. A nose tackle, with the toughness to take on multiple blockers, he'll be the first tackle in the rotation at both spots in the 4-3, but he'll start out in a rotation with Kendall Briscoe.

Watch Out For ... the new tackles. Briscoe hasn't set the world on fire, but he started to do more this spring to suggest that he's ready to be a major producer. Gardner will be a stud from day one.
Strength
:
The potential. It might seem like it's doom-and-gloom time with all the starters needing to be replaced, but the offseason got good performances out of a few key players. There might not be a huge drop-off after all in overall production unless there's a problem with the ...
Weakness
:
Pass rush. The Lobos were average when it came to getting into the backfield last year, and now there's a big concern with no sure-thing pass rusher to count on. Rainey has the potential to be the best of the bunch, but he's not an every down end.
Outlook: All four starters have to be replaced from a line that was good, but not great. There's hope for a good season with a few key backups ready to step into starting roles, while the addition of Gardner is a godsend. This would be a much stronger line in the old Lobo 3-3-5 scheme, but it'll be stretched thin in a 4-3.
Rating: 5.5

Linebackers

Projected Starters: The linebacking corps will once again be led by Clint McPeek, a 6-1, 227-pound guided missile who worked at one of the hybrid Lobo positions last year and this year will play as a true outside linebacker. The senior led the team with 103 tackles after getting knocked out of the 2007 season with a neck injury. Extremely tough, the former walk-on played through last year with a knee injury and missed the offseason healing up. While he might not have been the most athletic free safety, he'll be an athletic, disruptive linebacker.

Working in the middle will be Carmen Messina, a 6-2, 210-pound sophomore who was the team's to reserve linebacker last year making 35 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. While he's woefully undersized for the position, he's a big hitter and he's extremely strong. If he can hold up, he'll be one of the team's top tacklers with his combination of range, athleticism, and tackling skills.

Taking over for Herbert Felder on the outside will be Tray Hardaway, a 6-0, 215-pound senior who was a top special teamer last year and finished with 13 tackles. The former JUCO star made 90 tackles for Copiah-Lincoln CC in Mississippi, and while he's not all that big, he's quick and he won't miss any open field tackles.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Terel Anyaibe has mostly been a special teamer so far, but he played a bigger role last year making 11 tackles. While he's only 6-1 and 221 pounds, he has a defensive lineman's toughness and he can move, but he has to grow into a pass rusher to see more time on the outside behind Clint McPeek.

If he's ready, Joe Harris will play somewhere in the linebacking corps. Very smart, very athletic, and very good, the 6-2, 215-pound redshirt freshman would've been a key factor as a true freshman, but he suffered knee injury and is just now trying to come back. When he's healthy again, he'll be one of the team's top playmaking linebackers.

Walk-on Cody Neely only saw time in three games last year and made two tackles, but despite having problems with a knee injury, and even through he's only 6-2 and 201 pounds, he'll be expected to see time in the middle behind Carmen Messina.

Watch Out For
... plenty of crossed fingers that McPeek can hold up. He bangs himself around so much that he has a hard time staying healthy. From his neck problem of a few years ago, to the knee surgeries that kept him out this spring, he has to show he can last another season. If he can't there will be a major void in production.
Strength
:
Quickness. Sacrificing size for speed, the Lobos have a slew of safeties running around at linebacker. Everyone is tough and everyone can tackle, but they also get banged up because of a lack of ...
Weakness
: Size. Because this is a very tall, lanky linebacking corps that doesn't exactly look the part, finding a rotation is a must to keep everyone fresh. That's a problem considering the backups are iffy, at best. The starting threesome of McPeek, Messina and Hardaway must stay on the field.
Outlook: A big problem going into last year is a small problem this year. McPeek is a playmaker, but he's not exactly the ideal linebacker to build a corps around because of his size and injury history. Forget about the backups, they need a ton of seasoning, but the starting three should be solid and productive.
Rating: 5.5


Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: While senior Ian Clark didn't have the huge season expected, partly because of problems with a shoulder injury, he had a decent year making 57 tackles with four sacks and six tackles for loss. The 6-0, 210-pound veteran has made 158 career stops and will now be a key player at free safety, after working at the Lobo position last year. He's a former corner who's extremely fast, but hasn't done enough when the ball is in the air. While he's not built to be a tone-setting hitter, he's a willing tackler who'll be the leader of the secondary. He's also an elite punt returner.

Working as a traditional strong safety will be Frankie Solomon, a 5-10, 180-pound senior who was third on the team with 73 tackles to go along with six broken up passes. While he's not huge, he hits like a much bigger player and provides a huge pop when he gets to the ball. He does whatever is needed to make the play, and this year he should be in the hunt for all-star honors if he can improve upon his strong offseason.

Trying to take over for DeAndre Wright at the right corner spot is Edrick Boger,
a top prospect in last year's class who can play free safety or corner. Not all that big at 5-11 and 170 pounds, the redshirt freshman, and former Texas high school track star, is extremely fast. Tackling won't be a problem, but he'll have to take his lumps before he's comfortable in the full time role.

Working in place of Glover Quin at left corner is Anthony Hooks, a little-used reserve who got a start late in the year at right corner against UNLV. He made nine tackles with two broken up passes in his limited work, but even so, the 5-11, 170-pound sophomore is the most experienced of the corner options.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 190-pound senior Frankie Baca will work somewhere in the secondary after making 37 tackles in a variety of roles last year. The veteran has mostly starred as a special teamer, and while he'll start out playing behind Ian Clark at free safety, he could also move over to corner if needed.

The secondary needs options at corner, considering star-in-waiting Jerome Jenkins was booted off the team. Redshirt freshmen Freddy Young and Nathan Enriquez will work as the backups and should each see plenty of action. Both are 5-11 and 180 pounds and they can run. Young is the son of former NFL linebacker, Fredd Young, while Enriquez is a tough tackler who'll play in a rotation with Edrick Boger.

Watch Out For ... the corner jobs. All positions are open according to Locksley, but none more so than at corner where DeAndre Wright and Glover Quin will be missed. It'll be a fight for playing time, and while Hooks should get one of the spots, it's hardly a guarantee.
Strength
:
Safety. In a shaky secondary, Clark, Solomon, and Baca need to be steadying forces. If nothing else, they'll come up with a ton of tackles.
Weakness
: Corner. The secondary gave up a ton of yards last year even with an all-star tandem at corner. With little pass rush to count on, the young corners will have to show they can produce.
Outlook: It'll all come down to the corners. If they can be merely average, the secondary should be fine. There were too many big plays allowed last year and not enough stops considering the talent level. Everyone can hit, but with a smallish group, being able to hold up will be vital.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: The placekicking was a big concern going into last year, with the team counting on freshman walk-on James Aho to come through. All he did was hit 18-of-24 field goals while showing stunning range hitting 6-of-10 shots from beyond 40 yards. He doesn't have a huge leg, topping out at just under 50 yards, but considering the situation he was thrown into, he did a fantastic job.

The punting game went from one of the best in the nation to one of the worst in one year. Senior Adam Miller is back after averaging 39.8 yards per try. He has a big leg and can blast the ball out of the stadium if need be, he was kept under wraps as the Lobos worked on keeping the returns to a minimum. He'll get more chances to bomb away this year.

Frankie Solomon was a decent kickoff returner averaging 21.8 yards per try, and now he'll combine with Bryant Williams, who averaged 24.3 yards on his three attempts for the job.

Ian Clark
is an elite punt returner who helped the Lobos finish sixth in the nation thanks to his 19.7-yard average. Solomon, who struggled two years ago, was also great on punt returns averaging 10.3 yards per try.

Watch Out For ... Miller to blast away. He has way too good a leg to not have a few 69-yard bombs come flying out. 
Strength
:
Aho and the return game. The new coaching staff will dream about getting another season like the one Aho came up with last year. The return game gets all the parts back after finishing sixth in the nation for both kickoff and punt returns.
Weakness:
Punting productivity. Again, that should change, at least in theory, but the punting game was the one weak link on last year's special teams. Miller has to prove he can get the job done.
Outlook: The return game was the best in the Mountain West while the coverage teams were terrific. Aho was a find, and while he can't be expected to be amazing two years in a row, he'll be solid. All that's missing is more pop to a punting game that netted just 33 yards a shot. Basically, it's up to special teams coach Toby Neinas to not rock the boat.
Rating:
9