Paden Hopes To Fill Linebacker Gap In New Defense

Written by: Felix Chavez/Sun-News Reporter

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Last season, Dante Floyd had a solid season at middle linebacker for the New Mexico State Aggies with 124 tackles and 10 tackles for a loss.

This year Floyd is no longer around. Enter junior college transfer Nick Paden.

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker is getting an early look at being one of the starting linebackers in Joe Lee Dunn's new 3-5-3 defense.

"Nick has good feet," NMSU head coach Hal Mumme said. "He runs well and he's solid. He'll get a chance to compete for time."

Paden has never played in a defense like Dunn's, which emphasizes speed and aggressive.

An athlete like Paden, with good footwork and speed, could make an immediate impact on the defense.

"I wanted to do well in school and get to a Division I school early," Paden said. "I wanted to get in and learn early. It's good that it happened because of the new defense. Joe Lee Dunn is well respected in the world of college football. He has a good football mind and his defense is very good. We are adjusting with each practice and I'm learning a great deal."

Paden played two years at Butte Junior College in California, leading the team in tackles with 71 last season. He also had 10 tackles for a loss and five sacks and was named the team's top defender. As a freshman, he was also named the team's top defensive player.

"I just want to keep improving," said the native of Folsom, Calif. "It was always my hope that I could play Division I and I felt like I had a chance to come in here and contribute. There is an adjustment period to Division I and there are good players everywhere. I'm looking forward to competing in the WAC, it's a good conference and there are some good offenses in this conference."

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The Aggies will participate in the first of two scrimmages before the April 26 spring game.

Mumme said the defense has improved in the first few days of spring practice, but he noted he'd like to see the defense continue that improvement.

The offense and defense got a chance to square off some last weekend, but Saturday's scrimmage will allow the teams to go up against each other over an extended period of time.

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•Paden is one of eight junior college players that NMSU signed in their 2008 recruiting class.

•Boise State, Fresno State and Hawaii have combined for 140 wins since the 2003 campaign. The total is tied for fifth most of any Division I-A conference's top trio.

•New Mexico State and Utah State return 15 starters from last year, just behind Fresno State and Idaho with 16 starters returning.

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