McCauley, Second Half Adjustments Key Navy D

Before halftime this season, Navy's defense has been exposed on the ground and through the air. However, after halftime, they have looked like the 2009 version of the defense - tough to score on and opportunistic. A major reason why Navy is 4-2 and not 3-3 or worse is because their LBs have improved and their DBs aren't getting beat deep. So far in 2010, they have played better than the offense.

Defensive Line

I'm not sure if this will make much sense, but in my mind Jabaree Tuani is the best player, on either side of the ball, for Navy. However, I don't think he is even the MVP for the defense so far this season. To me, it was a given that Tuani was going to be awesome and if not for a soon-to-be-mentioned linebacker, his stats would be the best of all the defenders. Still, they aren't too shabby (38 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks), especially when you consider that the junior sometimes plays without his helmet on. Senior Billy Yarborough has also been solid at the other end position, and his sacks against Louisiana Tech and Wake Forest came at pivotal moments. Nose tackle, on the other hand, has been an inconsistent position so far for the Mids. Shane Bothel leads the position with 13 tackles and he has missed the last two games due to an injury. Chase Burge and Jared Marks need to do a better job in his place. It will be extremely important for Navy to create pressure against pass-happy Notre Dame, Duke and East Carolina in the second half of the season.

STATISTICS OF NOTE: Navy is 78th in the country against the run (163 yards per game) and 91st in the country in sacks (1.33 per game).

2009 FIRST-HALF GRADE: B

2010 FIRST-HALF GRADE: B-

Linebackers

Raise your hand if, after six games, you thought a linebacker for Navy would be leading the team in tackles, tackles for a loss, sacks, and fumble recoveries. Keep your hand raised if you thought that linebacker would be Aaron McCauley. Well, my hand surely isn't in the air, probably because the first time I saw the junior, I thought he was a slot back. After all he wears number 29 on his jersey and he's all of 5-10 and 194 pounds. Looks and sounds like a slot back to me. However, it turns out he is probably the defensive MVP so far for the Mids. McCauley has come up with several huge plays at crucial times including his 14 and 13 tackle performances against Louisiana Tech and Wake Forest. Not far behind McCauley in terms of performance are senior Tyler Simmons, 48 tackles, and junior Max Blue, 41 tackles. Simmons' interception against SMU helped secure the win, and Blue's 15 stops against Air Force are a team high for the season. In addition, Jerry Hauburger is coming off his best effort of the season against SMU (8 tackles and 3 tackles for a loss). The mass confusion displayed by this foursome against Maryland, when they combined for only 9 tackles and zero tackles for a loss, seems like a distant memory.

DID YOU KNOW? : Aaron McCauley can bench press over 400 pounds.

2009 FIRST-HALF GRADE: A

2010 FIRST-HALF GRADE: B+

 

Secondary

Navy's pass defense is ranked ninth in the country. To put that number into perspective, in 2007, the Mids finished the year ranked 106th in pass defense and 119th (dead last in the country) in pass efficiency defense. That's a pretty amazing turnaround when you consider how little pressure the team still manages to put on opposing quarterbacks. True, Air Force and Georgia Southern aren't exactly throwing the ball 40 times a game, but Louisiana Tech and SMU sure are. In fact if you put the second halves of those games together the opposing quarterback's stats would read as follows: 24 of 37 for 171 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. Talk about keeping everything in front of you…the Navy secondary is the best at it in the country, allowing less than 9 yards per completion for the season. The unit has managed to be this efficient even while missing Emmett Merchant, who has been out of three games with a concussion.

THIS TIME LAST YEAR: Navy's pass defense was ranked 44th in the country after six games last season.

2009 FIRST-HALF GRADE: A-

2010 FIRST-HALF GRADE: A

Overall Thoughts and Looking Ahead

This very well may be Buddy Green's best performance to date. Sure, last year's defense will probably be remembered as being more talented and probably even statistically better when all is said and done, but his second half adjustments so far this season have been as good as ever. Navy opponents are averaging just 5.5 points per game after halftime. If his defense can keep up that in-game improvement and the offense can continue to build on its recent success then the Mids will be in great shape for the second half of the season.

OVERALL DEFENSE GRADE: B+

 


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