Meet the new Mids: Defensive Backs

Navy recently announced the newest players to join the Navy football team.'s Jim Lawler will now introduce the new Mid defensive backs including John Gillis, Jarid Ryan, Sean Williams, Juan Hailey, Khaylan Williams, Brady Petersen, Connor Doyle and Forrest Forte.

Navy added nine new defensive backs on I-Day. The Naval Academy Prep School (NAPS) provides seven players. Navy lost some of its top NAPS defensive backs to attrition, like big play cornerback Chandler Hawkins who failed to make it to I-day. The prep school suffered a lot of injuries at safety last year. The Mids landed two direct admit defensive backs including a 3-star recruit.

Ken Niumatalolo and his staff added direct admit 3-star rated cornerback Elijah Jones. Jones played at Upland High School located in Southern California. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound cornerback committed to Navy last December at their practice facility in San Diego while the Mids were preparing for their bowl game against San Diego State. Jones had 67 tackles, two interceptions, nine pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery last year. He was named First Team All-League. Jones offers good speed, the ability to play man coverage and is aggressive in run support. Elijah was a three-year starter who selected Navy over offers from Air Force, Hawaii, Nevada, San Diego State, San Jose State, Dartmouth, Harvard, Montana, Pennsylvania and Yale.

John Gillis is a 5-11”, 170- pound cornerback who was probably the best all round defensive back from NAPS that made it to I-Day. As a high school senior Gillis made 64 tackles, picked off three passes to help Archer win the Regional championship in Georgia. Last year at NAPS, Gillis made five tackles and broke up two passes in the opener against Nassau Community College. John played extremely well in the final two games helping the Rams defense shut down the offenses of Hudson Valley Community College and a previously unbeaten Army prep team holding both teams to no offensive touchdowns.

John Gillis is a very athletic, smooth, quick, agile cornerback. He’s a good cover cornerback with the ability to smoothly change direction. Gillis was timed at 4.78 in the forty-yard dash at an ESPN high school combine but plays faster than that time. He has the ability to make plays on the ball. Gillis lacks great high end deep recovery speed but he's a good fit for the Navy bend-but-don't-break scheme that employs a lot of Cover 3. He is a willing hitter but is more of a wrap-up type of tackler. Gillis can use some time in the weight room to get stronger.

Jarid Ryan (5-11”, 203) saw a lot of time last year for NAPS at cornerback. Ryan is a local cornerback and wide receiver from the Severn high school in Maryland. His senior year he played both ways. Jarid recorded 65 tackles, seven interceptions and 10 pass breakups. Ryan caught 45 passes as a wide receiver and was dangerous as a kickoff and punt returner. He was named first team All-County. As a junior he made nine interceptions.

Ryan was one of the better defensive backs at NAPS. In the opener he made a nice play to breakup a long pass against Nassau Community College. Ryan picked off a pass versus Bridgton Academy. He intercepted a pass in the end zone and returned it 87-yards in the shutout win over #17 nationally ranked Hudson Valley Community College. He had an outstanding game in the victory over Army prep. He was an aggressive and the most physical cornerback at NAPS. He is a very good tackler and provides quality run support. Ryan has good hips and leaping ability. He is solid in coverage but he needs to work on his technique. He's added over twenty pounds since high school and should become a factor down the road.

Sean Williams is a direct admit from Cordova high school in Tennessee. Williams is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound cornerback who was a three-year starter. He started his sophomore season at quarterback, but a broken wrist cut short his season. As a senior he posted 52 tackles, an interception and knocked down 18 passes. Sean earned First team All-State and All-District at cornerback. He made six interceptions during his high school career. Williams is a tall, smooth cornerback who tracks the ball well in the air. Williams chose Navy over offers from Air Force, Army, Brown, Cornell, Georgetown, Howard, and Jacksonville State.

Juan Hailey (6-1”, 196) was in the cornerback rotation last year at NAPS. Hailey had played mostly free safety at Louisville Central in Kentucky. He was a three-sport athlete and earned honorable mention All-State as a senior. His team won three state championships. Hailey struggled a bit last year at NAPS early in the season and then broke his hand. He returned to the lineup wearing a club cast on his hand and actually broke up a few passes with it. I thought he played much better later in the season after he broke his hand then he did before he was injured. Hailey is a tough, aggressive and hard hitting defensive back. I'm not sure if he is a cornerback or a safety. He was not a fundamentally sound player at cornerback probably because of his lack of experience at the position. He has to improve his footwork and technique. He seems to lack the ideal hips for a cornerback and has average speed. He's added sixteen pounds since high school. A move to Rover may make sense since he's at his best playing downhill in run support. Juan plays hard and loves to hit.

Khaylan Williams attended NAPS school last fall but didn't play because he tore his meniscus before the start of the season. He had season ending surgery. Williams is a hard hitting, very physical 6-0”, 185- pound safety from Lithonia, Georgia. He forced five fumbles with some big hits during his senior year. Khaylan offered size, speed and strength before he was hurt. He has a lot of natural ability. Williams rehabilitated his knee that past year and if healthy he will probably eventually emerge as a contributor.

Brady Petersen (5-10”, 190) played safety at NAPS last season but like most of the safety rotation he missed time with injuries. He is the son of a former longtime Air Force assistant Chuck Peterson. Peterson played safety from Lutheran high school in California. He made 56 tackles, an interception and broke up five passes during his senior year. Petersen injured his shoulder in the middle of the NAPS season and missed time but returned to the lineup late in the year. Brady is a smart, hardworking fundamentally sound player. Being the son of a coach, he understands the game and the scheme. He has only average physical tools but is a solid player. He chose the Mids over Army, Houston Baptist and Azusa Pacific.

Connor Doyle (6-0”, 195) was another safety who was injured last year at NAPS . Connor injured his foot early last fall and missed most of the season. Doyle was on the All-State teams as a safety and running back for McKinney Christian high school in Texas. He was a three sport star who also earned a state wrestling championship. Doyle suffered a stress factor in the same foot the previous year as a high school senior and missed time. Hopefully its not a chronic issue and he can get healthy and contribute.

Forrest Forte was in the safety rotation at NAPS last year. He is a 6-1", 194 pound defensive back from Smithson Valley in Texas. Forte logged 41 tackles and four quarterback sacks during the 2013 season. Forte is a big safety with good straight ahead speed but lacks the ideal feet or hips. He struggles at times in man coverage. Forte is a bit of a tweener between Rover and striker outside linebacker. Forte's coverage skills could possibly improve with coaching. He spend most of his high school career running downhill in run support and blitzing.

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