To say the New Mexico State Aggies’ defense struggled last year would be entirely accurate. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t completely describe their performance either. Out of 128 defenses, NMSU’s was only statistically better than seven of them.
There is a silver lining, however.
But what silver lining could there be from allowing 60 touchdowns, 496.7 yards per game and 6.56 yards per play?
The silver lining is that almost everyone is back. With that experience, some added JUCOs and a graduate transfer (not to mention being in the second season of Spaziani’s scheme), improvement is inevitable.
The expected leader of the defensive line, Kourtland Busby, was released earlier this summer due to academics, leaving an already thin group even more thin. Even so, the defensive line looks to improve with a bigger and more experienced group.
Returning along the line is senior DE Stody Bradley, sophomore NT Roy Lopez and junior DE Jassavia Reese. All have starting experience and look to improve on promising numbers.
In a surprise, redshirt freshman Myles Vigne will start at defensive tackle with graduate transfer Calvin Allen, who comes in from Arizona at 6’6”, serving as his backup.
Linebacker is easily the Aggies’ biggest strength on the defensive side as they have three returning players who have had 100 or more tackles in a season.
Junior Terrill Hanks returns after having an amazing 2016 campagin in which he was third on the team with 103 tackles and lead the team with 10.5 tackles for loss. He will be the starter at the Sam position.
Also returning is senior Dalton Herrington, who will start at Will linebacker after posting 113 tackles a season ago. He will be the leader of the defense.
Rounding out the starting linebacker group is newcomer Lui Fa’amasino, a former JUCO player who comes in with plenty of talent and experience. He’ll take over at Mike linebacker.
There is a JUCO transfer and two other linebackers with experience in the two deep making his the most talented and deep group on the team. Look for a lot of production from these guys.
The defensive backfield also returns a lot of experience for the 2017 season with senior Jaden Wright leading the charge. The 2nd team SBC safety will look to improve a group that greatly under-performed 2016’s expectations (allowed 23 touchdowns).
Helping to decrease that number is fellow senior Jacob Nwangwa, the free safety who had 88 tackles and three pass break ups last year.
The two corners will be Shamad Lomax (66 tackles, two INTs as a freshman last year) and Jared Phipps who started three games last year tallying 28 tackles and three pass break ups.
This unit didn’t lose much in production from last year and will certainly improve on 2016s disappointing numbers. Another year in Spaziani’s scheme and lots of experience has me hopeful for positive turnaround!
There is plenty of talent across the Aggies defense. Coach Martin and company did a great job of bringing in JUCO talent to bolster the 2-deep and give this defense a chance to stop some people. Defensive Coordinator Frank Spaziani is back again giving the players some familiarity in scheme and I have read that they have added some new looks in spring camp. Look for the defense to be much improved and help the Aggies reach their first bowl since 1960!