The Navy Midshipmen concluded their spring football practice in April with the annual Blue & Gold game which gave head coach Ken Niumatalolo had a chance to look at his newly rebuilt defense. The Mids return just three starters on defense from last year's team. Navy loses star defensive back Wyatt Middleton, its best cover cornerback Kevin Edwards, leading tackler Tyler Simmons and its sack leader, Billy Yarborough. Fortunately for Navy its best player, senior co-captain Jabaree Tuani returns. Navy does return 21other players that were on the defensive depth chart last year. Defensive coordinator Buddy Green does have talent to work with but it is obviously inexperienced and unproven.
Jabaree Tuani missed spring practice as he recuperates from minor surgery of his right knee. Tuani was elected co-captain for this fall which is an honor richly deserved by one of the most talented defensive ends in Navy's football history. Tuani has been a terrific player since becoming a starter in his fifth game of his freshman year. He plays with leverage, has speed, is relentless and is powerful. It's amazing that he makes so many plays behind the line of scrimmage since the Navy front plays two-gap defense.
Before spring practice GoMids.com said Jamel Dobbs was ready to make a push for a starting spot.
While Dobbs won't unseat Tuani he had an impressive spring. Dobbs (6-1, 255) has 4.7 speed in the forty-yard dash. Dobbs is a very good athlete, with long arms, a fast up field burst and the ability to move laterally. He can chase, pursue and make the big hit.
Junior Wes Henderson entered last fall as backup to Billy Yarborough but dropped on the depth chart by opening day. Henderson only played in five games and had one tackle. Henderson (6-2, 250) has good size and mobility for a Navy defensive end. In order to see more playing time, he needs to play with improved consistent effort and technique.
The player to watch is sophomore defensive end Drew Kinsella. Kinsella is a very athletic and talented lineman who is the biggest Navy defensive lineman in recent history, standing 6-foot-7 and weighing 286 pounds. The impressive thing about Kinsella is his athleticism. The Texas native was recruited by Rice as a tight end. Kinsella has the potential to get bigger and stronger. He has long arms, quickness, speed for his size, agility and balance. He's not ready yet but maybe next year to make an impact.
Right Defensive End
Starter: John Dowling-Fitzpatrick #59 Jr.
Back up: Collin Sturdivant #49 Jr.
Third String: Ryan Paulson #94 Jr.
Player to Watch: Josh Jones #73 Jr.
Juniors Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick and Collin Sturdivant fought for the right defensive end job this spring. Right now the competition is still too close to call and will be decided this summer. Dowling-Fitzpatrick is an undersized defensive end (6-2, 220) who was converted from outside linebacker. He lettered two years at defensive end in high school and shows some pass rush ability and will hustle and chase. In the week two scrimmage Dowling-Fitzpatrick showed his athleticism with four tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and a pass break-up.
Collin Sturdivant entered last fall in a battle for the backup linebacker spot. He lost that battle and his place on the depth chart. He was converted back to defensive end which seems to be a better fit for him. Sturdivant had a productive week two scrimmage when he led the defense with seven tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack. He had four tackles and a pass break up in the Blue & Gold game. Sturdivant (6-3, 219) is a former track athlete who is quick off the ball, can pursue and rush the passer.
Junior Ryan Paulson started spring battling for the starting spot only to be bypassed by the more athletic Dowling-Fitzpatrick and Sturdivant. Paulson is 6-4, 260 and offers more size than the others at the point of attack. Paulson had four tackles in the Blue & Gold game. Josh Jones (6-1, 248) had a good spring but finds himself at the bottom of the three deep depth chart. Jones isn't as fast as Dowling-Fitzpatrick and Sturdivant but can move and has some pass rush potential. Jones had three tackles in the Blue & Gold spring game and generated some pressure a few times. In the week three scrimmage Jones posted five tackles including two of his stops behind the line of scrimmage. There is talented depth here and Buddy Green hinted he may get one or more defensive ends in the mix at nose guard this summer.
Oct. 23, 2010; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Dayne Crist (10) is tackled for a loss by Navy Midshipmen defensive end Jabaree Tuani (98) in the second quarter at New Meadowlands Stadium. (Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE)