2013 Navy Preview – Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Navy Midshipmen Defense
Preview 2013 - 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: Junior CB Parrish Gaines
Tackles: Parrish Gaines, 69
Sacks: Jordan Drake, 2
Interceptions: Parrish Gaines, 2
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DE Paul Quessenberry
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Kwazel Bertrand
Best pro prospect: Gaines
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Gaines, 2) LB Jordan Drake, 3) S Wave Ryder
Strength of the defense: Cornerback, Depth
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Takeaways
The pass rush was non-existent in the 3-4 and the run defense struggled, and now the front three has to undergo an overhaul. It starts with 6-2, 260-pound Danny Ring on the nose, an undersized anchor who started the final two games of last season and against Indiana. Quick off the ball, he came up with a sack and two tackles for loss with 17 tackles, but he needs to be part of a rotation because of his size. That's where 6-1, 303-pound sophomore Bernard Sarra comes in. He saw a little bit of time as a backup throughout last season getting more work late, finishing with six tackles.
The pass rush needs to start coming from the outside, with junior Paul Quessenberry needing to go from being a nice backup to a steady starter on the left end. Fast and with 6-2, 251-pound size, he has the ability and potential to become a playmaker in the backfield after making a sack with 17 tackles last year. Now the job is his with 6-0, 251-pound junior Aaron Davis backing him up after seeing a little time throughout the year making 11 stops.
6-3, 257-pound senior Evan Paleilei is back at his right side spot after starting every game and finishing with 29 tackles. While he has a good burst and excellent athleticism, he's not a proven pass rusher and has to be more of a playmaker. He'll rotated with 6-3, 260-pound senior Michael Huf is a bigger option who can hold up better against the run, but has to see time.
Watch Out For … Sarra. The line desperately needs bulk and toughness against the run, and while 6-1, 302-pound Barry Dabney will eventually be a part of the equation, it's Sarra who needs to hold up well in a rotation with Ring.
Strength: Options. Navy always keeps the players working in a rotation to keep everyone fresh, but unlike the last few seasons, there's decent size in the interior to hold up better against the run.
Weakness: Pass rush. The Midshipmen don't do enough with their speed and quickness to get behind the line with a mere 18 sacks and 54 tackles for loss. The defense has to come up with more big plays overall, and it starts with the play up front.
Outlook: The line kept the starting three together throughout most of last year with mediocre results. Paleilei is back at one spot and Ring returns after taking over, but there needs to be more disruption and far tougher play against the run. The line has to find one thing it can do well, and simply trying to be slightly more than a speed bump won't do.
Unit Rating: 4.5
The linebacking corps has to replace leading tackler Matt Warrick in the middle and Keegan Wetzel and Brye French from the outside, but two good options are back in outside linebacker Jordan Drake and inside defender Cody Peterson, who'll form the rock for the run defense. The 6-3, 228-pound Peterson took over the outside starting job midway through the season and finished with 67 tackles with two tackles for loss. He's quick enough to work on the outside but is tough enough to handle himself in the middle, while the 6-4, 220-pound Drake is trying to come back from a wrist injury after holding up through every game making 49 tackles with two sacks and 4.5 sacks with a pick. Along with decent size, he has the speed and athleticism to work in a variety of roles.
Stepping in on the inside is senior Vinny Mauro, a 6-2, 231-pound prospect who's one of the biggest options on the team, but he needs time to figure out what he's doing after spending most of his career on the bench thanks to a back problem. If he can't hold up, 6-1, 238-pound sophomore Will Anthony will step in if he doesn't work as a defensive end. A good pass rushing prospect, he kicked off his career as a special teamer and has been great in kickoff coverage while finishing the year with five tackles with a tackle for loss overall.
With Drake trying to come back healthy, junior Josh Tate and Chris Johnson will be a part of the mix with good quickness. Tate, who's able to fit in at any spot in the linebacking corps, made 23 tackles with a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss, while Johnson is looking to make an impact with some of the best wheels in the corps. 6-3, 231-pound junior Obi Uzoma and 6-3, 234-pound sophomore A.K. Akpunku will split time at the other outside spot. Uzoma is a good open field tackler making 13 stops last year, while Akpunku has been a special teamer making two stops.
Watch Out For … Mauro. The Midshipmen have to find an all-around playmaker and big tackler to replace Warrick, and while Mauro might not be it, he's a good, active option who should put up big stats. He's not big, but he'll be aggressive.
Strength: Outside options. Even with the loss of Keegan Wetzel and his seven sacks and 15 tackles for loss, this should be a plus. Drake is expected to be fine, but Tate isn't a bad option and Johnson brings speed. The combination of Uzoma and Akpunku will be strong on the other side.
Weakness: Tough stops against the run. Everyone will barrel through a wall to make a play and aggressiveness isn't a problem, but the group can be pounded on. There aren't enough plays behind the line and far too many stops come down the field. The linebackers have to make more of an impact.
Outlook: Linebacker has been a plus for the Midshipmen over the years, and considering the opportunities provided by a line that doesn't hold up well against the run, this group has to come through. This is a promising, active corps that should put up nice stats, but must come up with more impact plays.
Unit Rating: 5
The secondary needs to come up with more picks and more big plays, and it has to start with junior corner Parrish Gaines, the team's best all-around defender with 69 tackles and two picks. The left corner job has been his for the last year-and-a-half coming into his own. At 6-2 and 196 pounds he has good size, and while he gives up a few too many big plays, he'll handle the No. 1 receivers. Back on the other side after taking over halfway through the season is Kwazel Bertrand, who became a factor as a plebe making 39 tackles with three broken up passes and a sack. At 5-10 and 186 pounds he has decent size and is one of the team's quickness defensive backs. He needs to come up with picks, but he'll become a bigger factor.
Tra'ves Bush is gone at rover after starting every game and finishing second on the team, and now it'll be up to senior Wave Ryder, a perfectly-named senior from Hawaii with 6-2, 215-pound size and great hitting ability in the open field making 53 tackles with a pick. He worked mostly as a free safety late last season, but he has the toughness against the run to do more at his new spot. Back at free safety after starting nine times last season is Chris Ferguson, who was banged up a bit but still finished with 37 tackles. Now he has to show he can start coming up with plays when the ball is in the air.
5-11, 195-pound sophomore Quincy Adams turned in a nice first year as a plebe making 28 tackles with a pick and four broken up passes as a spot starter on the right side over the first half of the season. He'll move from corner to free safety, but he can play anywhere. With Adams moving over, sophomores Myer Krah and Shelley White will see more time at corner after getting a little bit of time. They're both decent-sized and they can both move – they can see time in nickel and dime situations if needed.
Watch Out For … Ryder. With his size and hitting ability, he should be able to shine at the rover spot and should be one of the team's top three tacklers. He should be a terrific all-around playmaker.
Strength: Corner. The secondary might have struggled a bit last year with no pass rush to help the cause, but there are nice prospects in Bertrand and White to go along with Gaines to give the Midshipmen good options on the outside.
Weakness: Anyone who can throw. There wasn't a problem against the mediocre passing games, but Arizona State and Taylor Kelly took target practice, and over the last two games of the year, Navy allowed 21-of-25 completions. On the year, teams completed a whopping 69% of their passes.
Outlook: The secondary could be the strength of the defense if it gets any help whatsoever from the front seven. Everyone can tackle and the corners are good enough to get by, but if the pass rush doesn't emerge – it hasn't over the last few years – it's going to be another rough year after getting picked clean time and again.
Unit Rating: 5
Sophomore Nick Sloan started fast, but ended rough nailing his first seven field goals but missing five of his last eight. He doesn't have a huge leg, but he was tried out from 51, missing against Florida Atlantic, while nailing 5-of-10 attempts from beyond 27 yards. Young, he's growing into the job and should be solid with a little more experience. The kicking game will be fine, while the punting game needs work with Pablo Beltran returning after averaging 43.6 yards per boot and putting 18 inside the 20. He needs to work better with the coverage team, but he's a good one.
The kickoff return game was fantastic with Marcus Thomas averaging 23 yards per try and the team averaging 23.5 yards per attempt. Shawn Lynch is a terrific punt returner, doing a great job at making the first man miss and getting up the field in a hurry, averaging 9.4 yards per try.
Watch Out For … more from Sloan. He missed both field goals against Texas State and a 33-yarder against Arizona State late in the season. Excellent from short range, he should turn out to be fine, but he needs a little more range.
Strength: The return game. Navy is great at setting up the offense with decent returns, and while there might not be any big game-breakers last year other than Gee Gee Greene's 95-yard kickoff return for a score, there's always positive yards.
Weakness: Kick coverage. The punt return team struggled way too much allowing 11.2 yards per try, and the kickoff coverage wasn't much better giving up 22.1 yards per attempt. The idea is to keep teams from coming up with huge returns, but there aren't enough cold stops for no gain.
Outlook: After a down year the special teams stepped back up and did a good job overall. There are concerns about Sloan's consistency and the coverage teams need to be far better, but the return game that was a problem in 2011 turned into a positive, and the punting became terrific.
Unit Rating: 6
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