NCAA FB

CFN: New Mexico State Defense

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The Skinny: This is a very, very small group. The front eight in the 3-5-3 defense will have problems against anyone who can run with power while the secondary will get burned again if no one steps up on the line to provide a consistent pass rush.

Defensive Line
Projected Starters
- Defensive end , Sr. - Smith is supposed to play a huge role this season with his ability, but he has to produce.
- Defensive end , Sr. - At 288 pounds, he adds size to the small defense. He's expected to be the team's top pass rusher.
- Defensive tackle , Soph. - He started a little bit last year and made 12 tackles. Now he'll have to be the team's top run stopper.

Top Backups
- DE Dominic Jones, Jr. - The JUCO transfer came in this winter and could take over one of the end jobs. thi sfall.
- DE , RFr. - He's not big, but he's got the athleticism and potential to be a star.

Grade: C- ... The line isn't big and got next to no pass rush last year. The ends have to mature right away to help out Daniely.

Linebackers
Projected Starters
- , Sr. - One of the teams best linebackers, Durham is an All-Conference candidate on the outside. He'll start on the left side, but he'll try and play on the right as well.
- , Soph. - He'll start on the right side, he has the potential to be a blitzing terror.
- , Jr. - The man in the middle, he showed what he could do last year when he was 100% healthy last year and became a top player against the run.
- , Jr. - He was third on the team in tackles with 54 stops last year. The outside linebacker is more of a safety at 177 pounds.
- , Sr. - A superior athlete, the member of the MTSU track team will start on the right outside spot. 

Top Backups
- Charlie Myles, Jr. - The JUCO transfer adds very much needed size at 240 pounds. He'll push for time in the middle.

Grade: C+ ... In the bizarre 3-5-3 scheme, the five players all function as safeties as much as linebackers. They can all run, but are susceptible to power running games.

Secondary
Projected Starters
- Cornerback , Soph. - He's big, but inexperienced. A bit better a prospect at safety than corner, he'll have to learn on the job.
- Cornerback , Jr. - He's very, very fast, but he has work to do on his technique. He made 28 tackles last year and didn't pick off a pass.
- Free safety , Jr. - He's a big-time player. Woods led the team with 80 tackles last year and is big enough at 6-2 and 203 pounds to see time at linebacker.

Top Backups
- FS Will Martin, Jr. - The JUCO transfer is big and fast and could get on the field immediately.
- CB Tony Sutton, Jr. - Coming from Tyler junior college, Sutton made 46 tackles last year and will battle Rashada for the right corner job.

Grade: C- ... Here's the team's weak spot. Woods is a stud, but the corners, while fast, are raw and torchable.

Special Teams
- Placekicker , Jr. - He wasn't called on much last year, but he did hit six of his nine kicks. He's a consistent player.
- Punter Robert Billingsley, Jr. - Possibly the Sun Belt's best kicker, Billingsley averaged 42.3 yards per boot last year putting nine inside the 20.
- Kickoff and Punt Returners - He'll most likely handle all the return duties. He averaged 24.9 yards per kickoff return last year and brought one back 86 yards for a score.

Grade: A- ... Kelly and Billingsley are solid while Wright could be explosive.

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