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2010 Navy Preview – Defense
Navy PK Joe Buckley
Navy PK Joe Buckley
Posted May 29, 2010 2010 Preview - Navy Midshipmen Defense

Navy Midshipmen

Preview 2010 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Buddy Green has gotten plenty of production out of a group of try-hard, undersized types. After coming up with a big 2009 season after a disastrous 2008, the 2010 defense should be great up front and in the secondary with question marks at linebacker. Green’s 3-4 alignment relies on the linebackers to come up with the bulk of the plays, but all four starters are gone and there are few sure things to rely on. Everyone can run, and Tyler Simmons should shine as the veteran star of the group, but there might be problems early on. Up front, there should be a good rotation on the nose with size and quickness. Jabaree Tuani is a terrific end who should be the star of the front seven, while there’s enough experience across the front to finally start getting into the backfield after finishing dead last in the nation in tackles for loss. Wyatt Middleton and Emmett Merchant form a nice pair at safety, while the speedy Kevin Edwards could become one of the best corners in recent Navy history.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Wyatt Middleton, 68
Sacks: Jabaree Tuani, 3.5
Interceptions: Wyatt Middleton, 4

Star of the defense: Junior DE Jabaree Tuani
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior LB Caleb King
Unsung star on the rise: Senior NG Shane Bothel
Best pro prospect: Senior CB Kevin Edwards
Top three all-star candidates: 1) SS Wyatt Middleton, 2) Tuani, 3) Edwards
Strength of the defense: Secondary, Quickness
Weakness of the defense: Veteran Linebackers, Pass Rush

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: A case could be made that junior Jabaree Tuani is the best Navy defensive linemen in years. The 6-1, 265-pound run stopper is extremely quick at left end and always working following up a 43-tackle 2008 season with 54 stops, 3.5 sacks, and 5.5 tackles for loss. Wanted by several BCS schools, he’s a great talent who can get into the backfield when needed, and holds up well against everyone’s ground game. He stuffs things like a tackle and moves like an end.

Working as the anchor on the nose is senior Shane Bothel , an emerging playmaker who took over the starting spot after a terrific offseason. While he isn’t all that big at 6-3 and 252 pounds, he won’t have to hold up for all three downs for a full game with good bulk behind him. He got a little bit of work in a reserve role, making six tackles, and now he’ll use his quickness to get into the backfield on a regular basis.

6-5, 240-pound junior Billy Yarborough got a little bit of work last year starting at right end against Delaware, and now he’ll have the fulltime job. He made 14 tackles and a sack in his limited time, and he’s a good pass rusher who should lead the team in sacks with all the attention paid to Jabaree Tuani at left end.

Projected Top Reserves: Adding bulk to the interior will be 6-5, 288-pound junior Jared Marks, a big run stuffer who had a terrific offseason. While he won’t get the start and he won’t get into the backfield, he’ll be a key part of the rotation against the bigger running games and showed this spring that he can dominate at times at plugging things up in the middle.

6-4, 270-pound senior Chase Burge stepped in and started six times in the middle last season finishing with 29 tackles with a tackles for loss and three broken up passes. A veteran, he plays big and can be used as an extra tackle if the defense ever switches up to a 4-3. One of the team’s stronger players, he’s a valuable part of the rotation who’ll see plenty of action.

Former linebacker Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick could be used as a pass rushing specialist. At 6-2 and 220 pounds, he’s not all that big, but he’s extremely quick off the ball and should grow into a role in the rotation on both sides while working mostly behind Jabaree Tuani on the left side.

Even though he’s built like a big linebacker, 6-2, 240-pound Wes Henderson will be a key part of the line on the end. Extremely fast off the ball, he should be an interesting part of the right end rotation working behind Billy Yarborough. He proved this offseason that he’s ready to play.

Watch Out For … the rotation in the middle. The Midshipmen actually has enough size and enough talent at tackle to run a 4-3, but in the 3-4 there should be a great setup in the middle with Burge and Marks adding good bulk on the nose behind the quick Bothel.
Strength: Run defense. The Midshipmen get plenty of plays made by the back eight, but the front three does its part. Temple ran amok for 274 yards and Air Force had its moments with 183 yards, but Ohio State (153 yards), Wake Forest (135), Pitt (126) and Notre Dame (60) were held in check. The line has to work for it, but it holds up well.
Weakness: Pass rush. Sort of by design, with the linemen generally staying at home and not doing anything crazy, the line doesn’t get into the backfield. The defense came up with 22 sacks and a mere 52 tackles for loss, the fewest in the nation, and aren’t going to make a slew of big plays behind the line.
Outlook: Don’t get too hung up on the sacks and tackles for loss. Navy might have been 94th in the nation in sacks and dead-last in tackles for loss, but it was 103th in the nation in stops behind the line in 2008 and came up with 17 sacks. This could be one of the best lines the program has had in years with real, live size to count on in the middle and a star in Tuani to work around at one end.
Unit Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters: The linebacking corps needs a new star and a new playmaker to replace Ross Pospisil, and the hope is for Tyler Simmons to be it. The team’s third leading tackler last year with 68 stops, even though he played in a reserve role, the 6-3, 237-pound senior will be the key to the linebacking corps once he returns after missing the offseason hurt. He spent last year as Pospisil’s understudy, and while he’ll work on the inside, he could play any of the four spots with great range and the strength to hold up against the run.

Taking over the other inside spot will be junior Caleb King, a 6-0, 223-pounder, he’s not all that huge but he can really, really move. He made two tackles as a reserve and a special teamer, and now he’ll bring his 4.46 speed to the inside where he’ll be all over the field and will be ultra-active. He was everyone this offseason and was terrific in the spring game; he’ll be a statistical star.

There are several prospects for the outside spots, but junior Aaron McCauley will get one of the jobs after spending the last two years as a decent special teamer with four tackles last season. The 5-10, 194-pounder is built like a safety, but he has held up well against the run in practices and he should be fine in space on the outside.

There will be a rotation at the other outside job with senior Jerry Hauburger getting the first look. He was supposed to play a big role last year, but he suffered a leg injury and wasn’t part of the mix. At 6-2 and 220 pounds and with good speed, he’ll put up big numbers as long as he’s healthy. He could see time on the inside if needed.

Projected Top Reserves: Jerry Hauburger will get plenty of work on the outside, but he’ll have to fight off Collin Sturdivant for time. The 6-3, 219-pound sophomore has seen practice time as an undersized defensive end but is a far better fit at outside linebacker. He should be used as a pass rusher who can be disruptive on pure passing downs.

Junior Andrew Sharp will find a spot somewhere. The 6-0, 214-pound practice veteran had done little to nothing in his first two years, and then he emerged as a possible part of the rotation on the outside. Very active, he’s always working and always with a high motor who’s looking to make things happen. Now he needs to se time on the field.

Watch Out For … King. With his speed and his quickness, he’ll be an extremely active tackler with space to move. While he’ll work on the inside, Simmons will make most of the tough plays and King will chase everything down.
Strength: Activity. The linebacking corps has to make plays in this defense and have to clean up everything with the front three’s job to hold up between the hashes. There are more than enough high-motor, high-energy players who’ll gang up to make play on want to.
Weakness: Experience. There’s Simmons and … uhhhh … prayers. There’s talent and there’s upside, and everything will be fine after the rotation is set up and everyone gets a little time on the field, but the linebacking corps is losing several excellent veterans like Ross Pospisil and Terry Haberer, who combined for 185 stops.
Outlook: The linebacking corps will be one of the team’s biggest strengths … in 2011. It’ll be fine with so many active tacklers and so many quick athletes, and with a good veteran in Tyler Simmons who’ll be the rock on the inside, but it might take a little bit of time. There doesn’t appear to be a big concern after losing so many key players, but there could be an adjustment period that’s not all that pretty.
Unit Rating: 5


Projected Starters: While he only came up with one interception and six broken up passes, senior Kevin Edwards had an excellent season starting every game at the right corner spot. A great tackler, he came up with 51 tackles and was terrific in run support, and with 4.4 speed he’s arguably the team’s fastest player. Throw in the 6-2 187-pound size, and he has all the skills to be a shut down defender if he can stay healthy. He missed time two years ago with an ankle injury and was out for spring ball recovering from shoulder surgery.

While WR Mario Washington will get a look at the other corner job, the hope is for 5-10, 189-pound junior Kwesi Mitchell to be good enough to hold down the gig on the left side. Fast, with 4.5 speed, he was an Alabama state champion caliber sprinter and was part of the juggernaut of a Hoover High football team. With good tackling ability and enough experience to know what he’s doing, he made 29 tackles with two broken up passes. He worked a bit last year at safety, starting at Rover against Western Kentucky, but he’s more of a corner.

Senior Wyatt Middleton might be the team’s best defender tying for third with 68 tackles to go along with a team-leading four interceptions and seven broken up passes. The veteran Rover has 6-2, 191-pound size, three years of starting experience, and great hitting ability. While he’s able to play either safety spot, he’s at his best against the run and working as the strong safety and quarterback for the secondary. Consider it a shock if he’s not one of the team’s top three tacklers.

5-10, 195-pound senior Emmett Merchant had a nice year as the starting free safety making 54 tackles with two picks and four broken up passes. He chose to leave the team last offseason for personal reasons, but he came back to be a key part of the secondary with excellent speed and quickness at safety. The former slot back is a reliable veteran who packs a good pop for his size.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Mario Washington has been a key wide receiver and he could play double-duty as he pushes Kwesi Mitchell for the left corner job. He was banged up just enough this offseason to not take the starting job, but he’ll get plenty of action in the rotation and will see time, potentially, as a nickel and dime back to get his speed and athleticism on the field. However, if he shines early on at receiver, his defensive days will be quickly over.

Junior David Wright has 6-2, 188-pound size and enough quickness to potentially be used as a kick returner. He was expected to be a part of the equation last year, but he only made three tackles. After looking more polished this offseason, he’s expected to be a part of the rotation at corner while working behind Kevin Edwards on the right side.

Watch Out For … The left corner position. Is Washington really going to be a corner? He’s not likely going to be an iron man who logs too much time game in and game out on both sides of the ball, but he’s too athletic and too good to not use on a regular basis somewhere. Mitchell might be good enough to start, while Washington isn’t worth as much as a backup defensive back.
Strength: Experience. Middleton and Merchant are solid-tackling safeties who know what they’re doing, while Edwards is a terrific corner who can hold his own against most No. 1s. The left side is fine with either Mitchell or Washington at the helm.
Weakness: Teams that can actually throw. The secondary hasn’t had the benefit of a pass rush in years, but it has tried to hold its own. The idea has always been to keep the plays in the front and not let anyone get deep, and it has worked. While the pass defense finished 50th in the nation in both yards allowed and in pass efficiency defense, it was a big help to the stat sheet to face Air Force, Temple, and Army. However, Hawaii and Notre Dame threw at will, and while Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert was held in check, he still threw for 291 yards.
Outlook: It’s not a stretch to call this one of Navy’s best secondaries in a long time. Middleton is special, Merchant is solid, and Edwards has developed into a nice all-around corner after a rough start. The depth might not have experience, but there’s speed and upside waiting in the wings. With three senior starters (and possibly four if Washington gets the call at left corner), getting the younger players some meaningful minutes will be important.
Unit Rating: 6

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior Joe Buckley came up big taking over the starting job and turning in big kick after big kick beating Air Force with three field goals and nailing a 24-yarder against SMU to win the game. He finished the year hitting 10-of-13 field goals and showed excellent, surprising range going 4-for-4 from behind 40 yards including a 50 yarder against Wake Forest. He nailed nine of his last ten attempts.

The punting game turned out to be among the best in the nation, finishing 12th netting 38.3 yards per kick. Senior Kyle Delahooke averaged 43.1 yards per kick putting 19 inside the 20. He doesn’t have a huge leg, but he was able to come up with a 68 yarder and cranked out 12 punts of more than 50 yards. He might not be the best punter in Navy history, but he’s on the short list.

The team could use more from Mario Washington as a punt returner after averaging just 6.2 yards per try in 2008 and 6.4 yards per return last year. He has the quickness and he has the experience, but he’s rarely able to break loose to show off his wheels in space.

Running back Gee Gee Greene sputtered on kickoff returns last year averaging 18.4 yards per try, so not it’ll be up to Alexander Teich to take over most of the work after averaging 27.6 yards per try on his five attempts.

Watch Out For … Teich to be great on kickoff returns. 116th in the nation in kickoff returns, Teich, who seems to have a knack for the job, should change that in a hurry.
Strength: The kicking game. For a team that lives on field position and plays close game after close game, having reliable kickers in Buckley and Delahooke will be worth at least two wins. The two kickers are tremendous.
Weakness: The return game. The coverage teams aren’t anything to be excited about, but the return game is the biggest problem averaging 18.52 yards per kickoff return and 6.81 yards per punt return. Teich will change the kickoff return game while Washington has too much speed and experience to not be better.
Outlook: Delahooke is one of the better punters in Navy history and Buckley has been a man in the clutch. If the return game can be better, the special teams will be a true strength.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2010 Navy Preview | 2010 Navy Offense
- 2010 Navy Defense | 2010 Navy Depth Chart
- Navy Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006