2011 Navy Preview – Defense
Navy DE Jabaree Tuani
Navy DE Jabaree Tuani
Posted Jul 4, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Navy Midshipmen Defense

Navy Midshipmen

Preview 2011 - Defense

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- 2011 Navy Defense | 2011 Navy Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Buddy Green's 3-4 style doesn't generate any production into the backfield, and it doesn't hit the quarterback, but it's effective enough to get by … usually. Last year's defense was a disappointment considering the experience and the talent level compared to previous Midshipmen teams, and while there might be a little bit of panic considering all the turnover, the results shouldn't be so bad. End Jabaree Tuani might go down as one of the greatest defensive linemen in school history, but he needs help. The D needs inside linebackers Matt Warrick and Max Blue to stay healthy and shine, and strong safety Tra'ves Bush needs to come up with a huge year. The secondary has to come up with more big plays, the linebackers have to be more disruptive, and the line has to prove it can hold up against the better running teams. More than anything else, the defense needs the offense to control the ball.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jabaree Tuani, 72
Sacks: Jabaree Tuani, 5.5
Interceptions: Several at 1

Star of the defense: Senior DE Jabaree Tuani
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior FS Jordan Fraser
Unsung star on the rise: Junior S Tra'ves Bush
Best pro prospect: Tuani
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Tuani, 2) LB Matt Warrick, 3) LB Max Blue
Strength of the defense: Quickness, Tuani
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Size

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The Navy defensive front doesn't get into the backfield and it doesn't do too much to get to the quarterback, but that's not its job. The front three is supposed to hold up against the run, and it has been effective over the years despite not do much to be disruptive. Last year's line was one of the best in recent Navy history, and now it has to replace two key starters and work around a fantastic veteran.

6-1, 265-pound senior Jabaree Tuani is a terrific, do-it-all defender who made 72 tackles with 5.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss at left end. No, Navy doesn't get behind the line enough, but Tuani does his part. Arguably the team's most talented defensive lineman in over a decade, he was wanted by several BCS schools with the strength to hold up against the run as an anchor in the 3-4, and the quickness to be used as a pure pass rusher from time to time. It's not a stretch to call him the team's most valuable player.

Taking over for Chase Burge on the nose will be Jared Marks , a big 6-5, 288-pound run stopper with a nice frame and good toughness. He's not going to do much of anything to make things happen behind the line, but he has been a part of the rotation and should be ready to handle the work after making three stops last year. The potential is there, and while the junior doesn't really have the frame for the job, he should be good with a little bit of time.

There will be a rotation at all three spots, but the most switching will come on the right side where juniors Ryan Paulson and Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick will work the position in place of Billy Yarborough. After seeing time in every game and making four tackles, the 6-4, 260-pound Paulson needs to be a factor getting to the quarterback like Yarborough, who led the team with six sacks. The 6-2, 220-pound Dowling-Fitzpatrick is a former linebacker who has the speed to be a pass rushing specialist. He only made four tackles last year working mostly on special teams, but he has the toughness to make up for his lack of size and can see plenty of action on a variety of roles in the front seven.

The understudy behind Tuani on the left side will be junior Wes Henderson , a 6-2, 250-pound pass rushing prospect who'll likely be the starter next year, while 6-3, 254-pound senior Neil Doogan is purely a backup who'll have to fight for playing time with Henderson being groomed for the job.

Bringing the size on the inside is 6-3, 298-pound sophomore Chris Mayes and 6-1, 289-pound sophomore Barry Dabney , two young tackles who'll form a backup rotation working behind Marks. Each has the ability to work as a 3-4 end if needed, but they're tackles. Mayes has a great frame for a 3-4 end and has the strength to be a stud on the nose, while Dabney is a run-plugger who was a high school teammate of Tuani's.

Watch Out For … Marks. He's an interesting-sized nose guard with a little too much height for the position, but he's quick off the ball and could be tough to run around. He's not going to come up with any tackles for loss, but he should be effective beyond his statistics.
Strength: Tuani. He might be the only returning starter, but he's a special one to work around. He'll be the focus of every opposing team's blocking scheme, and the other two starters up front should have plenty of room to move. It won't matter; Tuani will still produce.
Weakness: Pass rush. It's by design, though, that Navy's linemen do go all-out to get to the quarterback. After coming up with a nation-low 52 tackles for loss in 2009, the 51 last year stunk and the 18 sacks were way low. The secondary can use more help.
Outlook: The more Navy can come up with a steady rotation, the better. Tuani is a star who'll do his part, and the other two spots should be fine, but it would be a huge help if Paulson, Dowling-Fitzpatrick, and Mayes could all produce early on to take the pressure off. The run defense will be fine, the pass rush will be non-existent at times, and the line will be okay, but not great compared to last year. If Tuani goes down, though, the results could be disastrous.
Unit Rating: 5


State of the Unit: The inside linebackers make a ton of plays simply by the design of the defense, but it's still going to be asking for too much to replace everything Tyler Simmons brought to the equation both as a producer and a leader. The 132 tackles will be missed, but the attitude will be impossible to match. Three other starting linebackers have to be replaced, and this could be a rocky year compared to the productive foursome of 2010.

The lone starter is senior Max Blue , a 6-0, 200-pound popper who started five times last year and saw time in eight games making 58 tackles with a pick. He's not all that big and he's not built to be a run stuffer on the inside, but he's a blow-him-up type of tackler who flies all around the field making things happen. However, he has to stay healthy after suffering a neck injury and having problems with his wrist. Because of his lack of size and his health, he'll be in a rotation with junior Matt Brewer , a 6-0, 228-pound special teamer who made four tackles. Fast, he should be great at getting in on plays and should come up with a ton of assisted stops.

Matt Warrick started the final two games on the inside and finished the year with 18 tackles in his four games of work. The 6-2, 223-pound junior came to Navy as a running back and now is ready to grow into a big-time tackler with size and tremendous speed for the position. No, he's not Tyler Simmons, but it wouldn't be a shock if he came up with 100 tackles with a full season to work on the inside.

6-0, 207-pound senior Mason Graham made just five tackles last year, but now one of the outside jobs is his as he goes from being a special teamer to a starter. He's active and he can move, but he's built like a safety and he has to prove he can hold up. He'll take over for Jerry Hauburger, who made 73 tackles last year, while 6-0, 208-pound senior Jarred Shannon will step in on the other outside spot after spending time last year on special teams making four tackles. Shannon's problem is health, being banged up in his first three years, but he should be a stat-sheet filler if he can hold up.

With question marks on the outside, sophomores Evan Palelei and Andrew Glaize , and junior Keegan Wetzel will all get their chances in the rotation. The 6-3, 203-pound Wetezel is a terrific athlete with great quickness; the 6-3, 228-pound Palelei is big hitter who helped lead his team to two Nevada state titles; and the 6-2, 211-pound Glaize, a Georgia all-state triple jumper, might be the best athlete in the linebacking corps.

Watch Out For … Warrick. It took most of the year for him to work up the depth chart, but once he took over he became a major factor and showed the potential to be an excellent replacement for Simmons. He has the speed and the instincts to be the team's leading tackler.
Strength: Quickness. This is a small but fast group that can get all over the field and will make plenty of plays on hustle. The clean up everything the front three doesn't get to, and while the linebackers aren't asked to get into the backfield, this group has the speed to do it.
Weakness: Tyler Simmons and Aaron McCauley. The two combined to make 214 tackles with McCauley one of the team leaders in tackles for loss. McCauley can be replaced, but Simmons was a special producer who'll be missed.
Outlook: This is expected to be the year when the linebacking corps shines after going through some growing pains last year, but instead it's starting from scratch in two spots and has to hope that Warrick and Blue can hold up on the inside. Everyone is built like a safety; there will be problems against the power running teams unless the Navy offense controls the clock.
Unit Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: The secondary wasn't necessarily a disappointment last year, but no, it wasn't quite as good as expected giving up 225 yards per game and allowing way too many big plays. The seven picks, as a team, considering the secondary only came up with five, weren't a plus. Now, three starters have to be replaced including Wyatt Middleton, a long-time playmaking safety who finished second on the team with 86 tackles with five broken up passes.

Taking over the Rover spot from Middleton will be Tra'ves Bush , a 5-10, 192-pound junior who came up with a nice season as a spot starter and key reserve making 44 tackle with an interception. While he's built like a good-sized safety, he's tough enough to get the start against East Carolina at outside linebacker and aggressive enough to be one of the team's top special teamers. He has a nose for the ball and he should grow into a good one over the next few years.

The other big hole is at free safety where De'Von Richardson is gone after making 51 tackles with a pick. Getting the first look is junior Jordan Fraser , a nice-sized 6-2, 191-pound popper who got the start against Arkansas State and finished the year with 11 tackles. With his size and strength, he should be a big hitter with a bit more work, and he doesn't miss stops when he gets to the ball.

The lone returning regular starter is left corner Kwesi Mitchell , a 4.5 speedster who was an Alabama state champion-caliber sprinter and was part of a juggernaut football team at Hoover High. Tough enough to work at safety if needed, starting against Louisiana Tech at free safety, he's not afraid to hit at 5-10 and 189 pounds, but he's a corner. Now he has to do more when the ball is in the air making just one pick and breaking up three passes to go along with his 48 stops.

6-2, 179-pound senior David Wright is ready to man a starting corner job after getting the call against Louisiana Tech. A key backup, he made 18 tackles with a broken up pass, and with tremendous quickness and a bit of experience, he should be fine with the size to handle the bigger receivers and the athleticism to handle the faster ones.

5-11, 173-pound corner David Sperry saw plenty of time throughout last year and will be a part of the rotation on the outside after making eight tackles. A special teamer so far, the junior has the speed and skills to be more of a factor, while 5-9, 196-pound sophomore Jonathan Wev was a special teamer last year and had a good bowl game. While he only finished with four tackles, he has the build and the quickness to be a physical defender.

6-2, 205-pound sophomore Wave Ryder is a very big, very physical prospect with the hitting ability to bring the lumber at Rover, while 6-0, 188-pound junior Shawn Lynch is a speedster with good enough size to be a nice free safety option.

Watch Out For … Bush. The junior isn't huge, but he's incredibly physical and he hits like a ton of bricks. He might not make a ton of plays against the pass, but he'll put up big numbers against decent running teams.
Strength: Safeties. Navy might have lost its stars from last year, but Bush is a banger and Fraser is a nice-sized defender with the potential to do some big things now that the starting gig is his. Middleton and McCauley will be missed, but the new guys should be solid.
Weakness: Decent passing teams. With no pass rush to help the cause, the defensive backs are sitting ducks. San Diego State's Ryan Lindley lit up the Midshipmen like a Christmas tree, and eight teams threw for 250 yards or more. The overall numbers are far worse than they appear considering Maryland, Georgia Southern, and Air Force combined for 130 yards in three of the first four games.
Outlook: Navy might take a wee bit of a hit here with so much turnover, but the new starters aren't going to be that much of a drop-off and it's not like last year's group was full of all-stars. The Midshipmen came up with just seven picks last year, and if nothing else, this year's secondary has to do more when the ball is in the air.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: The return game should be better with some continuity after all the key parts are back, but the key to the special teams will be Joe Buckley, who hit 7-of-10 field goals. The punting game was miserable last year, and while the coverage team didn't help, Kyle Delahooke didn't have a huge year. However, he wasn't as bad as his 38.4 net average.

Senior Jon Teague got a few chances last year connecting on both of his attempts, and now he'll get his chance to add more of a deep threat to the kicking game. The kickoff man over hit first three seasons, he has the led to add more range than Buckley. Now, Navy can try a few more kicks from 40 and beyond.

Junior Justin Haan was the holder last year, and now he'll get a chance to improve a punting game that finished 108th in the nation. A great athlete, he's not the typical punter, but all that matters will be his consistency and his accuracy. Keeping big returns to a minimum is his goal, and even though Navy's net didn't look too great, opponents only averaged 7.6 yards per return.

Sophomore Marcus Thomas is a small speedster who had a nice first year averaging 21.7 yards per kickoff return, while fullback Alexander Teich was good when he got his chances averaging 26.3 yards per pop. Gary Myers only averaged 5.4 yards per punt return and didn't crank out anything longer than 14 yards, but he can move.

Watch Out For … Teague. Buckley was a big kick performer and was great from midrange and in, but Teague is going to expand the range. He might not be as accurate, but he'll hit at least two bombs that Buckley couldn't have tried.
Strength: Kickoff returns. Whether it's Thomas or Teich, Navy will end up averaging more than 20 yards per try without too much of a problem. A weakness going into last year, it quickly became a positive. Thomas should be a great one with a bit more work.
Weakness: Coverage teams. Navy can't lose the field position battle on a regular basis, and it has to be better than last year when it allowed 7.6 yards per punt return and 23.4 yards per kickoff return.
Outlook: Navy's special teams were fine, but they struggled a bit too much to get the punting game going and the coverage teams were lousy. As long as Teague can be a steady placekicker, though, things will be fine with a good return game and with Haan a big-legged punter who should be solid. The special teams won't be a major plus, but they won't be a glaring problem, either.
Unit Rating: 5.5

- 2011 Navy Preview | 2011 Navy Offense
- 2011 Navy Defense | 2011 Navy Depth Chart