2008 Navy Preview - Defense
Navy LB Clint Sovie
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Navy Midshipmen Defense
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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.
Wyatt Middleton, 88
Sacks: Michael Walsh, 3
Interceptions: Ketric Buffin, 4
Star of the defense: Senior CB Rashawn King
Pass rush, pass defense
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
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:
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
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
Strength: 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.
Weakness: 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
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.
Strength: 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.
Weakness: 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.
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.
Strength: 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.
Weakness: 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
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
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
Strength: 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.
Weakness: 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.