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They have nine back on defense, and will be led up front by an Illinois transfer by the name of Reggie Ellis. He could make a huge impact, as he did play in a few games last year—starting only one.
Developing as a youngster, look for Ellis to jump on the scene as the top interior linemen on the team. Joe Harris is another youngster that did not start a season ago that should make this line much better.
The two returning starters in Calvin Smith (solid talented sophomore) and Jaymar Latchison struggled a season ago, but will only improve. Overall, the line should avoid being a joke like last season, and it may actually be impressive in conference play when they are not against the big dogs.
The linebacking core will be sensational for their standards, and it will be arguably the best core after TCU and Boise State. They will be led by Carmen Messina (115 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) and Maryland transfer Javarie Johnson, who should drastically improve the front seven.
Still, it will still be in the middle of the conference in terms of overall talent, behind the usual suspects of Boise State, TCU and probably SDST as well.
Air Force and Colorado State are right there with the Lobos, also. The secondary will be led by Bubba Forrest and Anthony Hooks (both seniors). New Mexico only picked off seven passes, which was tied for 105th in the nation (another stat that makes the D look awful).