2009 New Mexico Preview - Defense
New Mexico LB Clint McPeek
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - New Mexico Lobo Defense
Preview 2009 - Defense
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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.
Tackles: Clint McPeek, 103
Sacks: Ian Clark, 4
Interceptions: Several with 1
Star of the defense:
Senior LB Clint McPeek
Pass rush, Size
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Unsung star on the rise: Junior DT Peter Gardner
Best pro prospect:
Top three all-star candidates:
1) McPeek, 2) FS Ian
Clark, 3) SS Frankie Solomon
Strength of the defense:
Weakness of the defense:
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Solomon was a decent
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
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.