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2008 Navy Preview - Defense
Navy LB Clint Sovie
Navy LB Clint Sovie
Posted May 9, 2008 2008 Preview - Navy Midshipmen Defense

Navy Midshipmen

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN Navy Preview | 2008 Navy Offense
- 2008 Navy Defense | 2008 Navy Depth Chart
2007 CFN Navy Preview | 2006 CFN Navy Preview 

What you need to know:
The defense was supposed to be a problem last year, and it didn't disappoint as it allowed 439 yards and 36 points per game while getting shoved around too much against the run and doing nothing against the pass. Buddy Green's group should be far better with more experience and the expected healthy return of LB Clint Sovie from a broken ankle and S Jeff Deliz from an injured foot. The secondary has good talents in CB Rashawn King and FS Wyatt Middleton, but it won't matter if the anemic pass rush doesn't generate any pressure. The D has to find one thing it does well on a consistent basis and work from there.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Wyatt Middleton, 88
Sacks: Michael Walsh, 3
Interceptions: Ketric Buffin, 4

Star of the defense: Senior CB Rashawn King
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Michael Walsh
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Craig Schaefer
Best pro prospect: Sophomore FS Wyatt Middleton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) King, 2) Middleton, 3) NG Nate Frazier
Strength of the defense: Experience, safety
Weakness of the defense:
Pass rush, pass defense

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The line did absolutely nothing to get into the backfield last year, and now it'll be up to veteran Michael Walsh to change that. Built like an outside linebacker, the 6-2, 239-pounder made 57 tackles with three sacks. The team's best lineman, he had a good year, and now he has to have a great one to help out the secondary that struggled against anyone who could throw. With his motor and quickness, he should get into the backfield more.

Taking over on the other side will be 6-4, 244-pound junior Matt Nechak, a decent backup who made 22 tackles being used partly as a linebacker and partly as a defensive lineman. Speed and athleticism isn't a problem, and now the former outside linebacker will be sent in early and often to get to the quarterback.

6-3, 285-pound junior Nate Frazier is the anchor of the line and a strong all-around veteran to work around. He made 42 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss as he held up well playing in every game. The rare Navy lineman who could start at several other places, he's just scratching the surface on how good he can become.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-2, 240-pound junior Kyle Bookhout made nine tackles and a tackle for loss, and now he'll be used more as a pass rushing specialist behind Nechak. While he has linebacker size, he's an end who can move.

Giving Frazier a break once in a while on the inside will be 6-4, 251-pound junior Jordan Stephens after making 13 tackles as a backup. Just good enough to push for more playing time, even with Frazier firmly entrenched at the spot, he could line up at end if desperately needed.

6-4, 265-pound sophomore Maurice Cumberland has tackle size, for Navy, playing on the end behind Walsh. With D-I size for an end, he needs to use it be a good combination of run stopper and pass rusher.

Watch Out For ... Walsh and Nechak to provide more of a push into the backfield. These two are speed rushers who'll have to holdup in the running game, but will be most useful if they can get to a quarterback.
Frazier. He had a great first year, and now he needs to be the star of the defense as one of the best anchors the program has had in a long time. If he plays as expected, there should be an improvement all the way around.
Proven pass rush. The potential is there for things to be better, but only three teams came up with fewer sacks and only seven teams came up with fewer tackles for loss.
Outlook: As always, Navy will have an undersized, undermanned line that will go non-stop and should come up with just enough plays to be useful, but to be better, it needs a pass rush from Nechak and Walsh. Frazier is a good one to build around, but he needs help from everyone else to avoid getting beaten on by every blocking scheme.
Rating: 4.5


Projected Starters: Returning from a broken ankle suffered early last year, junior Clint Sovie returns to his spot on the inside after making ten tackles in two games. He came up with 61 stops and two interceptions in 2006, and when he's healthy, is one of the team's fastest, most active linebackers. While he's only 5-11 and 201 pounds, he's tough as nails.

Joining Sovie on the inside, replacing leading tackler Irv Spencer, is 6-0, 223-pound junior Ross Pospisil after a 67-tackle season. The fill-in for Sovie, Pospisil made a whopping 20 stops against Air Force and while he's not Sovie as an athlete, he has the toughness and the range to be a big producer.

The lead in the rotation at one outside spot will be 6-2, 192-pound Corey Johnson, a Navy basketball player who decided to make the switch over to football and made 20 tackles with a broken up pass. While he's built like a corner and has to continue to prove he can handle himself consistently against the run, he's phenomenally quick and potentially a big-time pass rusher.

Working on the other side will be junior Craig Schaefer, one of the most pleasant surprises of the off-season. A special teamer and an afterthought on the defense, finishing last year with 13 tackles, he turned into one of the team's star defenders this spring showing great range and pass rushing ability. At 6-2 and 215 pounds he's built like a safety and should be a guided missile of a playmaker.

Projected Top Reserves: Working in a rotation with Johnson at one outside spot is 5-9, 196-pound junior Ram Vela, a tremendously fast hitter who made 57 stops last year and showed good toughness after being moved from corner. Originally a running back, he has the quickness to make plays all over the field, and the toughness to hold up as a regular starter.

6-1, 229-pound junior Tony Haberer filled in when Sovie went down and made 44 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss. A good tackler with nice size and good speed, he's a strong backup who'll see time in the rotation at both inside spots and will start out behind Sovie.

About to make a big impact on the outside will be 6-3, 220-pound sophomore Trey Grissom. With good size and excellent range, he'll push for time behind Schaefer and will likely end up seeing time at both outside spots. He'll be a leading tackler before his career is over.

Also looking great this off-season was 6-3, 208-pound sophomore Tyler Simmons, an active, tough inside presence who'll push Pospisil hard for a starting job. With the range to play outside, and the strength to play inside, he should be one of the team's most versatile linebackers.

Watch Out For ... the sophomores. While they might not start right away, Simmons and Grissom are two very promising prospects who'll soon be the cornerstones of the corps. Throw in promising outside option Travis Sudderth, and the Midshipmen should be more than set for the next few years.
Quickness. This will be an active, aggressive corps that'll be sent into the backfield more and will be asked to come up with more big plays. That should be possible with defensive back-sized linebackers and with the return of Sovie, one of the fastest players on the front seven.
Size. This is going to be a problem. Navy is always going to be small across the board, so it needs a good rotation to be able to hold up. There's just no bulk whatsoever. Basically, for good and bad, the Midshipmen play four extra safeties as linebackers.
Outlook: A major strength in 2006 was supposed to be a huge, glaring weakness last year, and for a while it was when Sovie went down. Now this is a promising corps with experience, athleticism, and upside with only one of the main options, Johnson, a senior. This will be one of the team's biggest strengths next year.

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: The secondary has a star in senior corner Rashwan King, and now he has to play like it. The 6-0, 190-pound speedster followed up a 50-tackle season with 53 stops and five broken up passes with an interception. He has the experience and the skills to be a shut-down, No. 1 corner, but he didn't make enough big plays and was at his most effective when he could play the run.

There will be a combination for the second corner spot with 5-11, 188-pound junior Blake Carter returning after starting the final nine games of last year. While he didn't come up with an interception and only broke up two passes, he was fourth on the team in tackles making 71 stops. A fantastic athlete and proven tough, he can be used as a nickel back when needed or could even be moved to safety.

6-0, 200-pound sophomore Wyatt Middleton did a little of everything at both safety spots making 88 tackles as the team's second-leading tackler. The most versatile defensive back on the team, he can play corner, free safety or Rover but will settle in at free safety where he can use his range to make plays all over the field.

Also returning is 5-11, 195-pound senior Jeff Deliz from a badly broken foot that cost him most of last year both on the field and in the classroom. In two games he made 13 tackles with a tackle for loss after a great 2006 as a nickel back. Extremely tough and a rock against the run, he instantly upgrades the secondary. He's still working his way back into the lineup, but he's expected to be 100% by the fall.

Projected Top Reserves: If it's not Carter at the corner spot opposite of King, it'll be 5-7, 170-pound senior Ketric Buffin, a smallish defender who hits like a ton of bricks. He has been a spot starter and a good producer making 30 tackles with four interceptions. He was one of the few Navy defensive backs who did anything against the pass.

Until Deliz is healthy, 5-7, 168-pound junior Darius Terry will work at the Rover spot after making 17 tackles and breaking up two passes. A good tackler for his size, he's a quick, powerful hitter who wraps up well. Now he has to show a nose for the ball when it's in the air like he has shown in practices over the last two off-seasons.

Combining to back up Middleton at free safety will be senior Kevin Snyder, a spot starter last year, and sophomore Emmett Merchant, a former slot back who'll bring his speed to the secondary. The 5-11, 192-pound Snyder made nine tackles and worked on special teams, while Merchant should be a more athletic option with bigger upside.

Watch Out For ... a big improvement. Having Deliz back is a huge help, while King and Middleton are excellent talents who should do far more now that they have appreciable experience.
Safeties. With the return of Deliz to go along with Middleton, the Midshipmen have two excellent run stoppers who should be doing more against the pass.
Pass defense. Everyone who could throw the ball, did. Navy ended up allowing 263 yards per game and a whopping 32 touchdown passes. Even worse, the pass efficiency defense was the worst in the nation. This group got toasted from deep, short, and everywhere in between.
Outlook: The starting foursome shouldn't be all that bad. With Deliz and Middleton at safety, and King and the combination of Buffin and Carter at corner, this could be one of the better secondaries the team has had in a while. There's even some appreciable depth. It won't matter much if there isn't a pass rush to help out the cause.
Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Step one is replacing Reggie Campbell, who averaged a whopping 14.3 yards per punt return and 27.5 yards per kickoff return. Sophomore DB Emmett Merchant is a speedster who should make things happen, along with RB Shun White, on kickoff returns, while QB/RB Jacob Bryant should be a star returning punts.

Senior Matt Harmon is a solid, serviceable placekicker who hit six of 10 field goals and showed a little pop with a 46-yarder against Duke, but now he has to get healthy after suffering a knee injury.

Taking over for Greg Veteto as the new punter is Kyle Delahooke, a decent prospect who should be an upgrade after Veteto averaged just 37.3 yards per kick putting a mere five inside the 20.

Watch Out For ... the return game to be fine. It might not be fifth in the nation in kickoff returns and 12th in punt returns again, but Merchant, White and Bryant will be more than just good.
Placekicking. Harmon got hurt last year and hade to spit some time with Joey Bullen, but he's a good, reliable veteran who'll come through when needed.
Punting and coverage teams. Delahooke is a bit of an unknown, but he needs to shine after a few down years for the team's punting game. The coverage teams, normally a plus in the Johnson era, allowed 11.8 yards per punt return and 21.7 yards per kickoff return.
Outlook: If the punting improves, the special teams should be a strength. Harmon is a good one, while the return game should have its moments. Considering field position is vital for the mediocre defense, Delahooke has to be great.
Rating: 6.5