2012 Navy Preview – Defense
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CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Navy Midshipmen Defense
Preview 2012 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: The Navy 3-4 defense doesn’t get into the backfield and it doesn’t generate any sort of a pass rush, but it has to be more aggressive and far tougher against the run. The line shouldn’t be bad with good size in the middle and nice veterans on the outside, but again, it won’t make anything happen behind the line. The linebacking corps will be solid in the middle with the aggressive Matt Warrick and Brye French making a slew of stops. The secondary can tackle, and the safeties will be good, but it has to stop allowing big plays and has to be better against the better passing teams.
Star of the defense: Senior LB Matt Warrick
Tackles: Matt Warrick, 103
Sacks: Brye French, 1.5
Interceptions: Several at 2
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DE Collin Sturdivant
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Parrish Gaines
Best pro prospect: Senior S Tra’ves Bush
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Warrick, 2) LB Brye French, 3) Bush
Strength of the defense: Linebacker Rotation, Safeties
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Plays In The Backfield
Gone is the top pass rusher Jabaree Tuani, the anchor of the line and arguably the team’s top defensive player. He was the only one who got into the backfield on a regular basis, and now it’ll be up to senior Wes Henderson to take over and become a more productive force. Serving as Tuani’s understudy last year, Henderson came up with 26 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss to go along with three recovered fumbles. At 6-2 and 255 pounds he has decent size and enough speed to be the leading pass rusher up front.
Taking over on the right side is senior Collin Sturdivant, a 6-3, 242-pound athlete with excellent speed and quickness got a little bit of work in last year making three tackles with a sack, and now he should be a dangerous playmaker with the job all to himself. He’s the cousin of former North Carolina star Quan Sturdivant.
The Midshipmen have a nice-sized plugger on the nose in 6-1, 297-pound junior Barry Dabney. A high school teammate of Tuani’s, he has a world of upside with great strength to go along with his size. Now it’s his time to be an anchor after seeing time in just one game. He’ll be backed up by Travis Bridges, a 6-0, 318-pound junior who moves over from the offensive line to add more bulk to the middle.
Senior Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick is one of the team’s most experienced returning linemen making ten tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss in the rotation. At 6-3 and 242 pounds he has decent size and good speed. The former linebacker has the toughness to hold up against the run in the mix on the right side. 6-3, 247-pound senior Evan Palelei will back up Henderson on the left side. While not a speedster, he has good moves and enough quickness to make an impact in his final year.
Watch Out For … Dabney and Bridges in the middle. Throw in the 6-2, 323-pound Alex Doolittle, and the Midshipmen have bulk and toughness on the inside to work around. Dabney and Bridges need to be rocks in the tackle combination.
Strength: A rotation. For good and bad, there’s not much of a drop-off from the ones to the twos. It’s only a three-man front so there’s no need for too many options, but the Midshipmen have them to keep everyone fresh.
Weakness: Pass rush. There wasn’t any last year, and that was with Tuani making 5.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. No one else came up with two sacks and the plays in the backfield were non-existent for long stretches.
Outlook: It’s a strange year for a line that was supposed to be a bit different than what’s going to come out of the tunnel to start the season. Key end Jamel Dobbs was supposed to be in the mix, but he’s gone after an unexplained medical problem, as is Josh Jones, a starting end who left the team to work on his schoolwork. Even so, there’s good quickness on the outside and good bulk on the nose. After finishing 112th in the nation in sacks and 117th in tackles for loss, there has to be more of a pass rush and the run defense has to be far better.
Unit Rating: 4.5
Senior Matt Warrick is back on the inside after leading the team with 103 tackles and a sack and four tackles for loss. Also good in pass coverage, he made a pick and a team-leading seven broken up passes after showing great promise at the end of the 2010 season. The 6-2, 229-pounder came to Navy as a running back and now should finish up as one of the program’s better linebackers over the last few years.
Warrick is an all-around playmaker, while senior Brye French can move, too, making 55 tackles with 1.5 sacks, six tackles for loss and three broken up passes as he took over a starting job last season. At 6-1 and 216 pounds he’s not big, but he’s quick and is always around the ball. He’ll be backed up by junior Jarvis Cummings, a promising 5-11, 220-pounder who started out his career at quarterback and now will use his speed and quickness on the inside.
Combining forces at one outside spot are sophomores Josh Tate and Jordan Drake. The 5-11, 203-pound Tate isn’t big, but he’s tough and should be used as a pass rusher as well as a run stopper. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, Drake is a much bigger option and has the speed and athleticism to work in a variety of roles. Part of a rotation on the outside, he should be one of the team’s leading tacklers as he moves around where needed. He’ll also work on the other side with Keegan Wetzel, a 6-3, 218-pound veteran who made just six tackles with a tackle for loss in a limited role. A terrific athlete with great quickness, he should be decent when sent into the backfield.
Watch Out For … French. He might be a second-fiddle to Warrick, and he might be too small, but he’s all over the field and he should be one of the team’s most disruptive forces. He could become a dangerous pass rusher.
Strength: Quickness. It’s by design. The linebackers will never be huge, and they’re like beefed up safeties, but they can all run and they have excellent range. Navy does a nice job of swarming around the ball.
Weakness: Sure things on the outside. Warrick and French form a tough interior tandem, but the outside rotation is a bit of a question mark with the rotation needing to bring results. With a three-man defensive line, the outside linebackers have to be disruptive.
Outlook: The Navy linebackers should be a bit better than they were in 2011 but not as strong as 2010. Warrick and French are good, but they’re not big enough to hold up without help, while the outside should be fine in time as long as there are more big plays. This won’t be a rock of a group against the run, but it’ll clean up a ton of messes.
Unit Rating: 5
The secondary gave up way too many big plays and struggled against the more efficient passers. The safeties need to play better, especially against the pass, and that should start with veteran Tra’ves Bush, a 5-10, 192-pound senior who finished second on the team last season with 93 tackles with two picks and four tackles for loss. While he’s built like a decent-sized safety, and he tackles like one, he needs to help out against the midrange passes a bit more at the Rover.
6-2, 195-pound sophomore Chris Ferguson took over the starting free safety job over the second half of last year, and while he took his lumps at times, he showed excellent potential making 43 tackles with two picks and three broken up passes. He has good size and the range to become more of a playmaker.
Back at one corner spot is senior David Sperry, a 5-11, 182-pound veteran who started every game last season who went from being a nice special teamer to a steady all-around defender making 70 tackles with two picks and an impressive four forced fumbles. However, he needs to be better as a pure cover-corner, even though he’s a terrific tackler.
6-2, 196-pound sophomore Parrish Gaines took over a starting corner job halfway through last season and did a decent job making 30 tackles in just seven games of work. However, he didn’t come up with any plays against the pass. Big and athletic, he has a world of upside as a corner, even though he’s built to be a free safety.
5-9, 196-pound junior Jonathan Wev was a special teamer and a backup last season making five tackles, and now he’ll combine with 5-11, 195-pound sophomore Lonnie Richardson, a nice-sized prospect who can work at either corner spot and is just versatile enough to see time at safety at some point.
Watch Out For … the corners to be better. Navy is never good when it comes to pass efficiency defense, and it’s never a rock without any pass rush to help the cause, but Sperry and Gaines a are good enough to improve the overall secondary play.
Strength: Tackling. You can’t play in the Navy secondary if you can’t make a stop, and coming up with the open-field tackle won’t be a problem at all four spots. Sperry is a terrific tackling corner, and the safeties can all hit.
Weakness: Decent passing teams. It’s always going to be an issue that can only be corrected by an offense that hangs on to the ball and keeps the D off the field. Last year the Midshipmen only gave up 14 touchdown passes, but it was lit up by Southern Miss and East Carolina and allowed 345 yards in the key loss to San Jose State.
Outlook: There’s no pass rush to help the cause, so the secondary is going to be on its own. There isn’t a ton of star power, but there were more plays against the pass and there were more picks than in 2010. It’ll be a good-tackling group and it’ll be fine against the mediocre passing teams, but it’ll be toasted by the stronger quarterbacks.
Unit Rating: 5
Jon Teague came up with a nice year hitting 10-of-15 field goals, and he even showed a little bit of range with a 54-yarder against Delaware. Junior Stephen Picchini isn’t all that big, but he has a decent, accurate leg and should be just fine from inside the 45. Consistency will be the key from the start.
The punting game wasn’t a plus netting just over 35 yards per kick. Sophomore Pablo Beltran took over the job and averaged a mere 37.5 yards per try and put just ten inside the 20. However, he hung it up enough to force 14 fair catches and only came up with two touchbacks.
The return game needs to be stronger, but Marcus Thomas did a decent job averaging 22.1 yards per try with a 90-yard return for a score against East Carolina. Receiver Matt Aiken is one of the team’s leading receivers, but he needs to do more on punt returns after averaging just five yards per try. Bo Snelson will also get a shot at both jobs after averaging 19.3 yards per kickoff return.
Watch Out For … Beltran. He doesn’t have a booming leg and he’s never going to air it out, but he’s an accurate kicker who’ll put more inside the 20. He’s not a weapon, but he’ll be fine.
Strength: Punt coverage. No, Navy didn’t net enough yards in the punting game, but that’s sort of by design in a conservative style that helped allow just six returns and 4.7 yards per try.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. The Midshipmen were burned too many times allowing a whopping 24.5 yards per return. The new rules with the moved-up kickoff spot will help, but the team can’t lose the field position battle.
Outlook: The special teams took a step back. Picchini has all the pressure on his shoulders to make the kicking game fine, but the bigger issue is a return game that needs more pop. Overall the special teams will be decent, and they won’t be a liability, but they won’t be a positive.
Unit Rating: 5
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