2010 New Mexico State Preview – Defense

Posted Aug 10, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - New Mexico State Aggie Defense

New Mexico State Aggies

Preview 2010 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: Head coach DeWayne Walker made his reputation as a defensive coach, and he is known as one of the best in the business. So it shows just how low the talent level was when he took over (and also served as the defensive coordinator) that his Aggies finished 103rd in the nation in total defense, 114th against the run, and 112th in tackles for loss. However, there's plenty of athleticism returning and a few playmakers who'll be all-stars. The star of the show will be corner Davon House, who has grown into the type of defensive back who can take away half the field. There might not have been any semblance of a pass rush as a team, but ends Pierre Fils and Donte Savage did their part and should form one of the top sacking duos in the WAC. The problem is linebacker where there's no real experience and little proven talent. The line has to be better, but three starters return, and the secondary could be the team's best unit.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Stephon Hatchett, 98
Sacks: Pierre Fils, 7
Interceptions: Davon House, 3

Star of the defense: Senior CB Davon House
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior LB Boyblue Aoelua
Unsung star on the rise: Junior FS Ben Bradley
Best pro prospect: House
Top three all-star candidates: 1) House, 2) DE Donte Savage, 3) Pierre Fils
Strength of the defense: Secondary, Quickness
Weakness of the defense: Run Defense, Defensive Tackles

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The Aggies struggled to generate any sort of consistent pass rush, but junior Pierre Fils did what he could as the leading sacker with seven to go along with 53 tackles. Extremely quick with a linebacker's body, the 6-3, 249-pounder from New Jersey is a tremendous athlete and the one playmaker in the front four that every offense has to worry about. He might not be a rock against the run, but he's active and is good at chasing down the ball carrier.

Back on the other side will once again be Donte Savage , a decent prospect who was thrown to the wolves as a true freshman and came up with a decent second season making 53 tackles with six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. At 6-1 and 240 pounds he's a small, quick playmaker who turned the corner in a hurry and closes extremely well. He bulked up over the last year and should do even more against the run, but his job is to get into the backfield on a regular basis.

Trying to gum up the works on the inside will be senior John Finau, a former JUCO transfer who started every game last year and made 30 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss with two broken up passes. At 6-1 and 300 pounds he has a perfect build for the nose, but he has to start being more productive and needs to hold up better. He's athletic and quick, but he didn't get into the backfield nearly enough.

After spending last year as a key backup, 6-3, 245-pound senior Kawika Shook will start on the inside. While not all that big he's extremely quick and active making 23 tackles with a sack. However, he has to be used in a rotation and could see time on the end depending on the alignment. A good recruit, he had offers from a few Pac 10 schools and now he has to make more of an impact.

Projected Top Reserves: At 6-2 and 282 pounds, senior Branden Warner is a bigger option for the interior than Kawika Shook but he has to prove he can do something against the run. The former JUCO transfer was supposed to make an impact last year, but he only made one tackle in four games of action.

At 6-3 and 265 pounds, Rex Meikel isn't huge but will try to be a regular part of the rotation on the inside. A strong, active prospect, the redshirt freshman has the potential to be used in a variety of ways up front while potentially being one of the team's better interior pass rushers.

After spending two years on a church mission, junior David Niumatalolo returns to the lineup to be a part of the rotation both inside and out. The 6-2, 265-pound veteran started two games as a true freshman and finished the year with 26 tackles, but now he's bigger, stronger, and he could be a decent run stopper on one end or used as a quick tackle.

A pure pass rusher, 6-5, 230-pound redshirt freshman Chance Roberts will try to find a niche on the left side in a rotation with Pierre Fils. Tall and rangy, he has a big frame and a good burst off the line into the backfield. Active, he should be disruptive when he gets his chances.

Watch Out For … a rotation at tackle. The line did next to nothing against the run last year, and that's on the tackles. The ends are pass rusher and ended up looking more like outside linebackers in the way they played. There isn't a ton of beef on the inside, so the tackles have to be more active.
Strength: Fils and Savage. The Aggies as a team didn't get to the quarterback, but Fils and Savage had decent years and form one of the WAC's most dangerous pass rushing duos. Each demands a double team.
Weakness: Run defense. Anyone who wanted to try running the ball did it without a problem. There was absolutely nothing happening on the inside as the tackles failed to get into the backfield on a regular basis and didn't hold up against anyone's ground game.
Outlook: The defense scrapped the 3-4 last year and got some decent play out of the ends but nothing out of the tackles. There's little bulk on the inside to contend with the stronger running teams and the group has to be more physical overall. Basically, this was supposed to be among the worst lines in the country, and it didn't disappoint. With three returning starters, the hope is for some bit of improvement.
Unit Rating: 4


Projected Starters: At 6-4 and 236 pounds, senior Kenny Evora is a big linebacker for the strongside and almost like another defensive end. A former tight end and special teamer, he has seen a little bit of time throughout his career and now is trying to do something on the field before he's done. He's big and athletic, but he's going from zero to 60 in a key spot for the defense.

Taking over in the middle is the undersized Boyblue Aoelua , a 5-10, 217-pound junior who spent last year on special teams making two tackles. Woefully undersized, he has to prove he can be physical enough to handle himself on the inside on a regular basis after getting hurt at the spot early on as a true freshman. He's a pure tackler with great range, but size will always be a factor.

5-11, 215-pound sophomore B.J. Adolpho was a decent reserve and special teamer after coming back from two years off on a church mission making 11 tackles with a blocked punt. A spot starter, he got into the mix against Boise State and now he'll take his quickness to the weakside where he needs to be a factor against the pass while also holding up against the run.

Projected Top Reserves: Coming in from the JUCO ranks and looking to make an immediate splash is junior Frank Padilla , a 6-2, 230-pounder who made 26 tackles with a sack for the College of the Sequoias. Originally a Fresno State Bulldog, he didn't see any action and now will be a big option for the middle.

Sophomore Bryan Bonilla will be the future of the linebacking corps on the outside, and he could end up pushing his way into the starting job on the strongside as a smaller, quicker option than Kenny Evora. At 6-1, 208 pounds, he's like a safety and is a fantastic tackler making 191 stops and 29 sacks in high school.

6-1, 205-pound sophomore David Quiroga got his feet wet as a true freshman making seven tackles, mostly on special teams. A dangerous all-around player in high school, he worked as a runner and a receiver making 72 catches for 1,096 yards and ten scores in his junior year and ran for 670 yards as a senior. Originally a strong safety, he'll work on the weakside where he should be strong in pass coverage.

Watch Out For … a depth chart written in pencil. With new starters across the board and with so many different options, the Aggies will have a new lineup every other week. Anyone who can stop the run will get in.
Strength: Quickness. Helped by having a slew of safety-sized linebackers, the Aggie linebackers will fly all over the field and should be able to gang tackle without a problem. Considering the athleticism of this group, there's no excuse to not get more plays in the backfield.
Weakness: Experience. It's uh-oh time. There's no appreciable experience whatsoever across the board. None. Call this a learning-curve season as the coaching staff tries to figure out what it has and tries to find the right combination.
Outlook: The stats will be there only because they're linebackers, but this is the shakiest unit on a team full of question marks. After losing 206 tackles from Jason Scott and Ross Conner, there's work to do. Lots and lots of work.
Unit Rating: 4


Projected Starters: The team's one positive over the last few years has been Davon House , a 6-0, 190-pound senior who might be the WAC's best defensive backs. A pure cover-corner, he followed up a 40-tackle, two pick season with 68 tackles, three picks, a fumble return for a score, and 13 broken up passes on his way to first-team All-WAC honors. Always around the ball, he hits like a safety and has the speed to erase any receiver in the conference. He'll take away half the field.

Returning to his spot on the right side is junior Jonte Green , a 6-0, 185-pound former transfer from Benedict College who redshirted his first year before making a whopping 74 tackles with eight broken up passes. While he's a corner, he has to help out in run support like a safety. Now, even more than last year, he has to get used to being picked on with everyone staying away from Davon House.

5-9, 182-pound senior Alphonso Powell has had a decent career. A starter over the last few seasons, he came up with 72 stops and an interception at strong safety, and while he's not all that big, he's extremely quick. Originally considered a corner, he moves well in space and gets to the ball in a hurry, and with his skill and experience, he should be a fringe all-star candidate.

Junior Ben Bradley was thrown into the lineup as a true freshman and saw a little bit of time, but he suffered an ankle injury and ended up missing most of the year and then redshirted last season. Now the 5-10, 181-pounder will step in and start at free safety where he has great range and excellent quickness. However, he has to show he can make plays when the ball is in the air.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Stephon Hatchett was a key backup earlier in his career and he turned into a decent starter when pushed into the free safety role last year. The team's leading returning tackler made 98 stops with an interception and eight broken up passes, and now the 5-8, 170-pound speedster could be used as a nickel and dime back along with his safety duties.

5-10, 171-pound junior Mike Zant was in the mix for a starting job after being a key safety as a redshirt freshman, but he only ended up playing in five games and made a tackle. Healthy and ready to play a bigger role, he's a good, tough hitter who's mature enough to handle whatever he needs to do. After spending two years on a church mission, he's a veteran who knows what he's doing. He made 28 tackles in 2008.

Junior Donyae Coleman came over from Compton College, where he was a wide receiver, and saw a little time on the offensive side making six catches for 28 yards. The 5-10, 181-pound veteran moved over to defense and ended up making seven tackles with an interception, and now he'll be an understudy behind Davon House while also working as a nickel and dime back.

Watch Out For … Green to come up with a few picks. No one will throw at House unless forced to, and Green, who's now an experienced veteran, will come up with a few big plays when challenged.
Strength: House. The team's best all-around defensive player by a ten-mile wide margin, everything else functions around what he can do for one side of the field. He's good enough to let the safeties worry about other things.
Weakness: Teams that want to throw. Yeah, NMSU finished 36th in the nation against the pass, but that was because the run defense was giving up a bazillion yards per game. The Aggies got picked clean whenever anyone with a good quarterback needed to throw.
Outlook: Helped by having a great corner tandem in House and Green, and with a veteran group of safeties with decent depth to count on, the secondary could be the team's best unit. It'll get ripped apart by good passing teams unless the pass rush can come up with a few new wrinkles, but it'll hold its own against most WAC offense. Coming up with more interceptions would be nice after picking off just six as a unit.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior Kyle Hughes has a great leg and was excellent blasting the ball as one of the WAC's best punters averaging 41.8 yards per try putting 18 inside the 20. However, he didn't show off much range on field goals hitting just 9-of-15 shots going 2-of-7 from beyond 40. He has the range to blast away from deep, but his longest make was just 42 yards against New Mexico. Hughes will be pushed by junior Jordan Davenport , who missed a 36-yarder in the opener against Idaho and wasn't heard from again.

The return jobs are open, but the most experienced option is WR Marcus Allen , averaged 21.9 yards per try as the team's No. 2 kickoff returner.

Watch Out For … the return game. The kickoff return team was hardly special averaging 20.5 yards per try, but the punt return team wasn't bad averaging 10.2 yards per attempt. However, now there's an open casting call with the top options from last year gone.
Strength: Punting. There were plenty of opportunities, a whopping 81, and Hughes came through averaging close to 42 yards per kick. He's going to be the best offensive weapon at times.
Weakness: Punt coverage. Hughes does what he can, but the punt coverage team had way too many problems last year allowing 11.9 yards per return with a touchdown.
Outlook: Hughes doesn't have a deep leg and he's not going to do much for the placekicking beyond 40 yards, but the overall kicking game is fine. There needs to be more explosion from a return game that has to jump-start the offense, and the coverage teams could stand to be tighter, but overall, the special teams aren't going to be a problem.
Unit Rating: 6.5

- 2010 New Mexico State Preview | 2010 New Mexico State Offense
- 2010 New Mexico State Defense | 2010 New Mexico State Depth Chart
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