Youth Being Served on Navy Defense

Sophomores abound on the depth chart for the Navy football team – especially on defense. 15 members, to be exact, from the class of 2010, are currently part of the three-deep rotation for the youthful Midshipmen unit. Two of those players, nose guard Andy Lark and cornerback Darius Terry, took different routes to get on the depth chart, but both are having a significant impact.

Andy Lark came to Navy as a highly-touted defensive lineman from Oviedo High School in Chulota, Florida. He possessed great strength and it was thought by many Navy followers that he may even push another stellar recruit, Nate Frazier, for playing time during his freshman year.  However, after having a good fall camp, Lark, suffered his first of two set-backs.


"I went through all of camp and then just before school started – I thought I was playing well, everything was going good and [then] I broke my ankle. It was pretty miserable," said Lark.  "And everything went down hill from there."


After recovering from the ankle injury, Lark was looking forward to showing the coaches that he was back to full strength entering spring camp this year.  But a week into practice, he broke his foot and was forced to miss more valuable time.


According to Navy's defensive coordinator, Buddy Green, Lark missed out on an opportunity to learn how to compete for a job.


"He had two injuries and he was never really part of the mix of getting ready to play.   Fighting for a spot in the two-deep – he's wasn't a part of that," said Green.


So just like in the fall, during spring ball, Lark was forced to stay on the sideline and work on his conditioning.


"My abs got really good," said Lark.


After the spring, Lark was determined to once again make a full recovery and to once again make a good impression at the end of the summer.


"I came into fall camp, and I hadn't played football in six or seven months.  I tried to condition well over the summer and just try to get faster –anything that would have given me an advantage to move up the depth chart."


It worked. 


Although Lark didn't play in the first game of the season against Temple, he soon found himself number two on the depth chart behind Frazier.  And once he got into the Rutgers game, it didn't take long for him to make his presence felt.  Lark made his first tackle in Division I football on the very first play he was on the field.


"It was an awesome experience.  I huge thrill…a huge rush.  As you get that first contact,   you snap back to reality real quick and you realize it's the same stuff you do everyday in practice," said Lark.


Lark went on to make two more tackles in the Rutgers game and added another in the Ball State game.


Navy head coach Paul Johnson thinks Lark could be a big part of the team's future.


"He's like a lot of the young guys, he's gaining some valuable experience and he's got to build on it.  A lot of them have some athletic ability.  Some of them are more athletic than guys who have played (in the past), said Johnson.  "Now they have to transition into being good football players and the quicker the better.  It's like I told our kids [on Monday].  We need to grow up in a hurry."


Green concurs about Lark's potential.


"He's made some mistakes but there have been some positives.  There are enough positives that we can build on," said Green.  "For a guy that's playing Division I football as a true sophomore for the first time – he didn't get on the field last year.  He's got a chance to help us.  He's got a chance to play more.  And we need him to play more."


Another sophomore both Johnson and Green are excited about is cornerback Darius Terry.  And can you blame them?  Last week against Ball State, in his first start, Terry led the Midshipmen in tackles (12) and tackles for a loss (2).


Unlike Lark, Terry didn't receive much attention coming out of high school which probably could be attributed to his size and his position.  At only 5'7" and 168 pounds, Terry could easily have passed as a slot back, but even at Navy he is considered small for a defender.


"All through high school everybody was telling me I was too small.  So I tell myself that I have to play big," said Terry.  "So each down [here] I tell myself that I can play with those guys.  I don't think there is any difference besides their height and your heart.  If you go out there and play hard each play and show them what you can do, they'll start to respect you." 


"I don't think I've earned that respect yet, but I'm going to earn that respect.  That's just the way I feel," he added.


In order to put himself in a position where he could even think about earning the respect of an opponent, Terry had to first get promoted off the scout team.  And according to Terry, the key to doing that was to make the most of every practice.


"I had to show these coaches that I could play because that's what they want to see…competition.  That's all they care about – playing hard."


Terry's effort during practice didn't go unnoticed by the coaching staff.


"Darius played really well last year on the scout team," said Coach Johnson.  "He worked hard, and you know when he's gotten in there, he's played hard."


Terry said that being on the scout team helped him going into spring ball because he became very familiar with how the receivers ran their routes and some of the subtleties associated with when they would break and cut.


The hard-working Houston native continued to work hard in the fall and as the season opened, he found himself on the depth chart, and eventually on the field.


"In the first game, I had a lot of confidence in him.  He came in on nickel and played about 23 snaps," said Coach Green.  "He did a good job.  He didn't get very many reps against Rutgers, but when Deliz went down we had to move Buffin to safety.  That opened the left corner spot and Darius won that job."


Terry was officially awarded the starting job the week leading up to the Ball State game, but he decided to keep the news to himself.

"I didn't tell anybody the whole week.  I just wanted to go out there and show everybody in the school that I could play, show the coaches I could play, and show the other team especially that I could play because I knew they were going to pick on me because I'm short," said Terry.


But he told his family, right?


"No, I didn't tell anybody," said Terry.


"[My family] saw the game on tv and they called me right afterwards. They were mad that I didn't tell them (that I was starting).  I didn't want to tell anybody because I thought it should be something that is expected.  I'm going to work hard and maybe it will be expected out of me eventually."


Now that he has a game under his belt as a starter, Terry isn't taking anything for granted.


"[Being the starter] sounds wonderful but you never want to get a sense of complacency. You always want to get better and that's what Coach Green always tells us.  Everybody else in the country is getting better and working hard.  That's exactly what everybody on this team is trying to do.  We know we have to get better…and constantly build on what we have and never settling for doing the same or going backwards."


It turns out that when Coach Green talks, Terry listens…he really listens.


"Before the first game, I remember something Coach Green told the whole defense.  He said ‘run to the ball and when you get there I want you to arrive at the ball with a nasty disposition.'  [After the game] I was talking to my sister who said that I must have anger management issues because I was everywhere [on the field] trying to hit people.  I told her I guess I do because I just want to arrive at the ball with a nasty disposition…like my coach told me."


"I don't want to hurt people but I want to hit somebody.  I want them to know…I want them to feel that I'm there," said Terry.


Several Ball State players are probably very familiar with Terry after his stellar performance in the losing cause.  But even though the Navy defense as a whole struggled, it never discouraged the sophomore during the game.


"I was telling myself on the sideline that I'm not tired and that I can run around even harder."  And then [Ketric] Buffin overheard me and he said, ‘I'm not tired either.' So I said ‘let's run around even harder…let's go make some plays because that's all that matters,'" said Terry.


It turns out the performance of the football team also matters, especially to the brigade, according to Terry.


"Everybody is looking for the football team to make a difference.  If we win [against Duke] the whole brigade is going to get something."


When asked if he thought the brigade would get rewarded for a victory over the Blue Devils, Terry responded by saying:


"I most certainly do think so.  I think it is long overdue.  Everybody in the brigade has been working hard in school with everything…I think its time for a reward.  People like to be rewarded.  It makes people do better.  It makes you want to do your best."


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