The Navy Midshipmen defense was dominated in the opener against Notre Dame and the bowl loss to Arizona State. Once you put aside those two bookend losses, Navy defense coordinator Buddy Green should be proud of his players. Green's defense allowed just 18.8 points per game over the final ten weeks of the regular season. Navy was outstanding in red zone defense all year, tying for the19th-best red zone defense in the country. The Mids really improved over last season. Navy ended the season ranked 54th in scoring defense, allowing 25.69 points per game. Their biggest improvement was that the secondary which was ranked 40th nationally in pass defense allowing 215 yards per game. GoMids .com will grade how each position fared during the 2012 season.
Defensive Line: B
Navy entered the season with the defensive line a major concern. Defensive coordinator Buddy Green had to replace two defensive linemen including his best player, former defensive end Jabaree Tuani., from the 2011 team. Defensive line coach Dale Pehrson rotated a lot of players this year since the defensive line was comprised mostly of underclassmen often seeing their first varsity action from scrimmage.
One of the major reasons for the improved play of the defensive line was senior Wes Henderson. In 2011 Henderson played in nine games and started three. This year he put it all together and had his best season. He started every game and made 42 tackles, five tackles for a loss, 3 ½ sacks, forced a fumble and he knocked down three passes. Henderson had two of his best games against the fellow service academies. Wes made a career-high six tackles in the victory over Air Force. He batted down Connor Dietz pass on fourth-and-6, in overtime win to seal the win over Air Force. Against Army he equaled his career high with another six tackles in the win that secured the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
Junior Evan Palelei was Henderson's back-up at the end of spring practice after being moved from linebacker. During the summer Palelei was moved to right defensive end. He won the job and started every game this past season. Palelei posted 29 tackles, 1 ½ for loss and assisted on a sack. He knocked down a pass and forced two fumbles. Palelei added nearly twenty pounds over the last year and performed well in his new role. He was a big part of a defense that did not allow a touchdown for nine consecutive quarters at one point in the season.
Nose guard Barry Dabney opened the season as starter. Dabney played in every game and started ten. Dabney (21 tackles) has a big body but often didn't get off blocks or get much push off the line to make any negative plays. During the break leading up to the Army game he was bypassed on the depth chart by sophomore Dan Ring and freshman Bernie Sarra. Dabney ended up the hero against Army when he was inserted in the lineup on the final drive and recovered Army's fumble to preserve the Mids victory. Danny Ring played in 13 games and started three including the final two games of the year. Ring rang up 17 tackles, two for a loss and made a sack. He made the defensive coaches notice him against Texas State when he penetrated into the backfield and made two key stops. Ring outplayed Army's Remington watch list center Ryan Powis before leaving the game with an ankle injury. Ring plays with perfect pad level and is quick off the snap. Freshman Bernie Sarra appeared in eight games and made six tackles. Sarra is very strong and has benched pressed well over 400 pounds. He offers a wide body frame but has the ability to slide off a block and fill a gap. Bernie doesn't provide much as a pass rusher but he can definitely hold up against the run.
Sophomore Paul Quessenberry (17 tackles, 1 sack) played in every game but his snaps declined later in the year. Quessenberry is more of a pure pass rusher at this stage of his career and probably needs to bulk up to be more effective in stopping the run. He is a big effort player who goes all out every play.
Seniors Collin Sturdivant (7gms, 5 tackles, a sack) and Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick (10 gms, 14 tackles) kept their two year tradition alive of battling for position on the right defensive end depth chart in the spring only to be bypassed by other players in the fall. The Mids had some inexperienced players like nose guard Travis Bridges, defensive ends Aaron Davis and Will Anthony see some playing time this year. All have the talent to contribute this fall.
2012 Navy Report Card: Defensive Line
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