2004 UNM Football Season Outlook: Part VI
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  08/04/2004
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Aug. 4, 2004


For the first time in four years, New Mexico returns a pair of starting corners in junior Gabriel Fulbright and senior Brandon Payne, as well as a five-game starter in junior Jerrell Malone. The trio turned in an up-and-down 2003 campaign in what was their first significant Division I experience at the position. However, all three showed outstanding promise, led by Fulbright, who earned second team all-conference honors last fall. Though a bit undersized at 5-10, 161 pounds, Fulbright brings a tremendous combination of speed, tenacity, instincts and confidence to the corner. After making a late conversion from safety during fall camp, he quickly moved atop the depth chart and became one of the top playmakers in the UNM secondary. Fulbright's four interceptions were tied for third in the league, while his 10 passes defensed were good for sixth. He was also surprisingly strong in run support, notching 43 tackles. Though the coaching staff would like to see him improve his strength in the weight room and focus off the field, Fulbright appears primed to establish himself as one of the premier shut-down corners in the Mountain West following a tremendous spring campaign. After splitting starts last year, Payne (6-0, 183) and Malone (6-1, 180) both gained valuable experience that should serve them well in 2004. Payne brings solid size and strength, and has improved his understanding of the defense. Malone is also a good-sized corner who coaches would simply like to see make more plays in pass coverage this fall. Both players will enter preseason practice battling for the starting spot opposite Fulbright once again. The presence of junior Aaron Brack (5-11, 209) and redshirt freshman Juamar Hall (5-11, 171) gives UNM two more solid, athletic reserves. "We've got some real experience coming back at corner, which is nice because we haven't had that in the past," said Long. "Plus we have a couple of young guys coming up who we think can play and give us some solid depth this year."


Senior Josh Bazinet is probably the team's most dependable defensive back, in addition to being a special teams star.

One of the most experienced units on the defense over the past few years, the Lobo safeties will feature all new starters in 2004 after losing veterans Terrell Golden, Brandon Ratcliff and Sidney Wiley to graduation. The trio combined for 91 starts in 115 career games and teamed to record 181 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and seven interceptions in 2003. However, New Mexico does return a pair of experienced and capable safeties in seniors Josh Bazinet and Kevin Walton, who could be in line for breakout seasons. A self-made player, the 5-11, 202-pound Bazinet has worked tirelessly to become a special teams star and one of the team's top defensive backs since joining the squad as a walk-on in 2000. The Albuquerque product enjoyed a career season in 2003, notching 39 tackles in 13 games, including a pair of starts at the wolf (strong) safety spot. Probably the team's most dependable defensive back, Bazinet enjoyed a strong spring campaign starting at right wolf safety, despite missing some time due to a separated shoulder. Walton, meanwhile, will be looking to make his mark in the secondary at the left wolf safety position. The 6-0, 203-pounder has shown tremendous potential during his career, combining good size, great athleticism and a strong knowledge of the defensive system to the mix. Walton, however, will battle rapidly improving junior Art Haynes for the starting left wolf safety spot during preseason practice. An imposing

Senior Kevin Walton has shown tremendous potential during his career, combining good size, great athleticism and a strong knowledge of the defensive system to the mix.

physical presence at 6-3, 199 pounds, Haynes gradually increased his comfort level and emerged as a solid special teams contributor last year in what was just his second full football season since 1996. This spring, he displayed much improved confidence, a better grasp of the defensive system and appears ready to be an impact player this fall. Junior college transfer Charles Brown (6-0, 203), meanwhile, could push Bazinet at the right wolf safety spot after turning in a solid spring. Brown has made steady progress since joining the squad and impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic and attitude. A pair of redshirt freshmen in Martelius Epps (5-10, 179) and Darius Ferguson (5-9, 184) are penciled in as the top-two options at the Lobo safety position after both turned in surprisingly strong spring practice campaigns. Although a bit undersized and raw, in terms of game experience, Epps and Ferguson bring an elite element of speed and athleticism to the secondary. The Lobos should also get a big boost this fall from the arrival of Ken West (5-11, 180), another tremendous athlete who was ranked the nation's 12th-best junior college safety by CollegeFootballNews.com. "We play a lot of safeties and we count on those safeties being playmakers," said Long. "This is probably the least experience we've had at safety in a long time, so it's a real concern. We've got some quality athletes, but not much experienced depth right now."