Navy Spring Review: Special Teams

Navy recently completed its spring drills. GoMids.com’s Jim Lawler will now review every Midshipmen position and name a starter, a backup and a third string player to watch. In this segment he reviews the special teams.

PUNTER
Starter: Gavin Jernigan Sr.
Backup: Alex Barta Jr.

Pablo Beltran was the punter for so long it seemed he was already earning his pension. It’s not easy to replace a man generally regarded as the best punter in Navy history. Senior Gavin Jernigan finally gets his chance after backing up Beltran the last three seasons. Jernigan made his first and only punt, a nice 56-yard effort, last year at VMI. He was originally a direct admit punter and kicker from Mira Costa high school in California. At high school kicking combine camps he was generally rated as one of the top 2012 high school kickoff/punt combo prospects on the West Coast. At Chris Sailer Kicking camp after his junior year in high school, Jernigan was awarded the camp's kickoff champion award. He was ranked by Sailer's camp as 26th nationally as a punter. Jernigan (6-3”, 208) showed last year against VMI that he has a strong leg.

Alex Barta is listed as the back-up punter. Barta (6-3”, 213) was a highly ranked punter by all of the major special team high school recruiting services. Alex was a terrific punter at NAPS in 2012. He possesses a very strong leg and he can really drive the ball. Barta can kick for both distance and hang time. Barta’s punting averages can be deceiving because, for example, rather than blast a punt into the end zone from midfield he’ll put air under the ball and force a fair catch inside the twenty yard line. A lot of his punts weren’t returnable because of the hang time he puts on them.

PUNT RETURNER
Starter: DeBrandon Sanders Sr
Backup: Calvin Cass Jr. Jr.

DeBrandon Sanders is back as the punt returner. Sanders averaged 4.3 yards per punt return but his decision making and ball handling were questionable at times. DeBrandon Sanders lost a fumbled punt deep in Navy territory against San Diego State that cost a field goal. Sanders didn't have a great year as a punt returner last fall but he has the skills to make big plays. Sanders has shown excellent quickness, speed and lateral agility. He has the potential to be a dynamic punt returner. The backup returner is junior Calvin Cass Jr. Cass who offers good speed and reliable hands. He has the ability to make people miss in the open field. Last year he returned four kickoffs for 77 yards.

KICKOFF RETURNERS
Starter: Demond Brown Sr.
Starter: Toneo Gulley Jr.

Senior kick returner Demond Brown (5-9”, 201) returns as Mids main kick returner. Brown averaged 19.8 yards on a team leading 17 kick returns last fall. In 2013 he averaged 22.2 on five kickoff returns. He had the two longest kickoff returns of his career against South Alabama. He ripped off a 45-yard kickoff in 2013 and a team high 42-yard kickoff return last year. Demond has nice run skills, 4.54 forty -yard dash speed and very quick feet. He can cut, juke and accelerate. He has the ability to makes the first man miss.

Junior Toneo Gully has been a special teams ace on the coverage teams. Last year he had the chance to show what he can do with the ball in his hands. Gulley (5-8”, 196) returned eight kickoffs for 155 yards, a 19.4 average with a season long of 27 yards. The highly recruited running back selected the Mids over numerous offers. At NAPS Gulley scored an amazing game winning touchdown on a kickoff return off a lateral against USMAPS as time expired. Gulley is a fast runner who can elude tacklers.

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