Navy Captains Evaluate Team's First Half

You've seen GoMids.com hand out its grades for the first half. Now it is the team captains turn. Ok, sort of. After Monday's practice, David Ausiello had a chance to catch up with senior quarterback Jarod Bryant and junior linebacker Clint Sovie to get their impressions of the team's first half performance. They both also spoke about Army's recent success and what they did during their bye week.

Believe it or not, neither Jarod Bryant nor Clint Sovie watched their arch-rival Army play Eastern Michigan this past Saturday during their bye-weekend. However, they both offered their thoughts on the Black Knights recent two-game winning streak.

"I did not see the Army game, but I wish I did," said Sovie. "I heard they did well, and the guys [on our team] who did watch it said they run their offense similar to ours. I know our offense is the one I hate to run against the most, so I know I'm going to hate to run against them."

Bryant said that he "slept all day Saturday" but that he does keep up with Army and "hopes they do well except one day a year."

About Army, Sovie added, "I hope they do well.  When we get to them, we are going to fight and scratch to win the game, but I like to see them do well.   It just proves that we, including Air Force, can all come out and play hard and win games." 

Since Bryant had a lot of rest this past weekend, he probably had a lot of time to think about Navy's offensive performance this season. However when asked if the unit he has led at some part of every game this season (including three starts) has played a complete game, Bryant did not hesitate with his answer.

"We have not…no way. Now I can't speak about the defense – they have played great, but the offense hasn't put together a complete game yet," said Bryant.  "It's something we talk about.  We have to continue to get better.  Generally every year we have gotten better as the year goes on and it's not going to be any different this year."

Bryant admits that the injury to senior right tackle Andrew McGinn affected the team's chemistry, especially along the offensive line in the Ball State and Duke games.

"McGinn was a guy we were relying on.  He played a lot the last two seasons and he's been a good player for us.  It hurt losing him, but I think we have gotten back and regrouped.  Not that we can completely replace him but we have found a way to step up to the plate [without him]."

One player in particular that Bryant said has shown a lot of promise is Jeff Battipaglia. Prior to the season, the 6-4, 260-pound tackle was third on the depth chart at right tackle but when the season started he was starting at left tackle.

"A lot of offensive lineman came in and no one knew a whole lot about them…like Jeff Battipaglia, [he's only a] sophomore, and he's just gotten better each game."

Another part of the team that Bryant has been impressed with is the entire Navy defense.

"They are playing together, and they are playing with confidence.  I think last year they may have lost some of their confidence because of the injuries.  [But this year] they've been playing great.  They are a good defense and we are glad to have them.  I don't want to say that we can lay back and relax, but if we do have a bad quarter, we can make up for it [with the defense's help]."

Speaking of defense, what does their captain, Clint Sovie, think of the unit's performance thus far?

To no surprise, the junior linebacker said the Wake Forest game was the unit's best effort, and the Duke and Ball State games were its worst. However, he was somewhat disappointed with their performance against the Falcons.

"I think we took a step back against Air Force. I don't think we played with the same intensity we played with against Wake Forest.  Call it the altitude; call it what you want.  We played our butts off, but I think we need to continue to build, and hopefully we can continue to get better," said Sovie.

When asked which player's performance had stopped and made him take notice thus far this season, Sovie looked at the defensive line for his answer.

"The biggest surprise on d-line is [Jabaree] Tuani.  He has been playing great.  That's our biggest surprise on the defense."

Overall, Sovie said that there is definitely a lot of room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball, and at first he was hesitant to play professor and give the unit an official grade.

"I don't want to give us a good grade because Coach Green is going to see this. But I will say that I think right now we are working our way up."

However after some encouraging, Sovie managed to put his professor hat on for a second to give the unit a mark.

"We are in between a ‘D' and a ‘C+' right now."

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I also had the chance to talk to Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green.  Here are some of the quotes from our conversation:

On facing Pitt sophomore running back LeSean McCoy

"He makes everybody look silly. He's the best back that we will see. He's got all the tools. It's critical that we don't give up big runs and big plays." 

Regarding what he considers the current strength of the defense…

"The biggest strength I have seen so far has been our d-line.  I like the way they have played, especially the last three or four games.  That's the biggest improvement so far."

On having a healthy defense for most of the season…

"It's been huge.  Anytime you lose a lot of people there is going to be a drop-off.  Luckily we have been able to play with our starters for the most part with the exception of Mike Walsh.  It has made a difference."

Regarding the impact of Jabaree Tuani…

"Tuani has emerged as a guy who has played beyond our expectations early [in his career].  I think he will keep getting better. He's learning everyday.  The biggest thing about Tuani is he is dialed in everyday at practice."

On how Clint Sovie has responded since being dropped on the depth chart…

"Clint has responded really well.  He has made a lot of plays over the last two or three weeks.  Really all three of our inside linebackers play the same amount.  Clint ends up playing as much if not more than the other linebackers.  He is a true leader whether he is starting or coming off the bench."

 END NOTES

- In the past five years when the calendar turns to November, Navy's offense is usually in high-gear which would probably account for the team's 18-3 record (excluding bowl games) during that span. However the team has struggled in the last five years at the end of the month of October. Specifically in the last two games of October since 2003, Navy is 4-6. Two of those losses have come against Delaware.

- Could a Navy victory over Pitt earn the Mids a spot in the national polls like one ESPN reporter believes is possible? Probably not – and here's why.  Ball State, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Oregon and Notre Dame have all received more votes in the two polls than Navy; and all of them are idle this weekend. That would mean that in all likelihood, five teams in the Top 25 would have to lose as well as any other non-idle teams who have currently received votes. However, a victory over Pitt should garner the Midshipmen several of its own votes when the next polls come out. To make things even more interesting, a Navy victory, along with a Georgia Tech victory over Clemson could put the two teams side-by-side in the ‘Others Receiving Votes' portion of the rankings. 

 


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