Aggie Players Like Look Of New Defense

Written by: Felix Chavez/Sun-News Reporter

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Nobody knows for sure how the New Mexico State football team will react to the 3-5-3 defense installed by new defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn.

But at least for now, players and head coach Hal Mumme are excited about the change and it's possible ramifications.

The Aggies gave up 36.2 points per game and nearly 430 yards per game last season, going 4-9 in the process. The team is hopeful that won't happen in 2008.

"We're excited about the change to a new scheme, this is a system that I played under in high school under our new linebackers coach Barris Grant," said junior linebacker Jamar Cotton, who hails from Irvington, N.J. "When I heard about the new defense, I was all smiles. I'm a pass rush type of player and this defense allows us to make plays in the backfield. You really get after it and play hard. This type of defense can do a lot of good things and create opportunity for us."

Grant and new defensive backs coach Kendall Roberson have a past history with Dunn as a coach and player respectively.

Cotton said Grant helped his former high school, Frank Memorial High, get to the playoffs after a long drought.

Dunn, who replaced longtime coach Woody Widenhofer, has an extensive history in the sport as a coach, working mostly on the Division I level. He's coached at Memphis, New Mexico, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Mississippi State and South Carolina.

"We've looked at some tapes of his defense," safety Derek Richardson said. "It's a fun defense, you have to get after it. But I like this defense. It utilizes our strengths, which is team speed and our quickness. Coach Dunn is all about business. He's a good guy."

Dunn is an intense coach as witnessed by Wednesday's first day of spring practice at NMSU. The team went through a variety of drills and Dunn was in midseason form, encouraging the team and getting after them to be in the right spot.

New Mexico State head coach Hal Mumme compared NMSU's new 3-5-3 to New Mexico's defensive scheme. Texas-El Paso just hired defensive coordinator Osia Lewis from New Mexico, so expect the Miners to run what the Lobos did.

"It's going to be helpful to see that kind of defense in practice now, it should help us get a good look at what others do," NMSU quarterback Chase Holbrook said.

Among some of Dunn's highlights as a defensive coordinator came at Memphis and Mississippi State.

At Memphis, the Tigers ranked in the top 10 overall in 2003.

At Mississippi State, the Bulldogs led the nation in rushing and total defense and in that same year, he was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top assistant coach.

"Our new hires on defense are familiar with each other and that helps," Mumme said. "One of the main areas of spring practice is seeing how we adjust to the new defense. I've known Joe Lee for a long time, I've seen his type of defense before and know it way too well."

Felix Chavez can be reached at fchavez@lcsun-news.com