Preseason Conversation: Navy Def. Coaches

With the start of fall camp rapidly approaching, Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green has been hard at work in prepping for the 2009 season. Together with defensive line coach Dale Pehrson, Green has been kept busy with film study, player evaluations, and recruiting trips since the conclusion of spring ball in April.

I recently caught up with both Green and Pehrson, and got the scoop on a variety of topics ranging from their expectations for incoming recruits to Navy's unprecedented defensive line depth for the upcoming season.


Buddy Green


On his concerns about depth in the secondary with the announcement of Darius Terry's dismissal from the team:


"As you look at our depth I think there are two or three guys coming out of this recruiting class who we are probably going to trot out early and they'll have a chance to contribute; on special teams first but also in the secondary with providing depth. I think depth wise, it's going to be important that we are able to find those two or three guys who can be a part of the plan. All of our defensive backs play special teams and that is a huge part of the game, so it is going to be important for us to identify two or three guys who can help us and develop as we get into camp."


His thoughts on Navy's incoming freshmen:


"Speaking in general terms…I like our group that is coming in from NAPS. We have some size and we have some speed and I think – and I'll flip right back to the group we have coming in direct – I think we have some speed in that group. When they reported in for I-Day we made the comment as a staff that this is a good looking group. Well when I look at the secondary it is a good looking group coming in. I like them and I think some of the guys have a chance to help us. We feel like we are lacking depth in the secondary and it is important that we can identify some guys early who can help us."


On the importance of defensive back Jarrod Shannon in coming back from injury:


"He was cleared and started all workouts with coach Brass at the beginning of June. I've seen him this summer and he looks good. His workouts haven't had any restrictions as far as what he can or can't do with coach Brass, so I think his rehab has gone really well. He is going to be ready, and he is going to be anxious to go...but we have got to be smart with him and getting him ready for camp, just in order to make sure he gets back into things at a smart pace when it comes to contact."


On the offseason improvement made by starting middle linebacker Tony Haberer:


"People sometimes overlook him, and sometimes I think Tony comes off as the quiet one or the silent one who gets overlooked. But if you remember back to that 2007 season when we lost Clint Sovie right away against Rutgers – and actually we lost Irv [Spencer] too – Tony was put in a role where he had to start without having had any prior experience. Just looking back at last year I remember Tony making some big pressure sacks and some big tackles. The thing about Tony that I think you will see from 2008 to 2009 is that he has really worked hard. His body weight is down and he has gotten faster. I think he will be a quicker linebacker for us, and I think he has improved with his coverage skills at the linebacker spot. The important thing is that he has learned both spots. He can play SAM or MIKE, and it takes an understanding of the game to do that, and he can play either one of those spots without any problems."


On the continued improvement of defensive back Wyatt Middleton:


"With the way he plays - with a tremendous amount of maturity and the plays he has made for us in the passing and running games – without a doubt he is a leader. The one thing from 2008 is that he is working hard to improve his pass coverage skills so he can be better against the pass in 2009, and he has a tremendous nose for the football. I don't see anything for him but being a better player this coming year. He has worked hard in the spring and in the offseason, doing some things which we both talked about. If he continues to work hard he can have an outstanding year this coming year."


On the role of the defensive backs in convincing Emmett Merchant to return to the team:


"I know that Emmett and Wyatt and Kevin Edwards are real close…there is a special bond with those guys who came from NAPS and were together. I know they were close not only on the field but off-the-field too, and I know that Emmett truly values the leadership qualities that Wyatt has and I think Wyatt was probably influential in helping Emmett get through some things when times were tough."


Dale Pehrson


On how Jabaree Tuani was able to have such unprecedented success on the defensive line during his "true" freshman year:


"I think it was his physical abilities. He is very strong for his age, and he is physically pretty developed. I think some of that goes back to the high school he played at and also his wrestling background. The second thing is that he seemed to grasp what we were trying to do very, very quickly. I think the other part of that is that Nate Frazier took Jaberee under his wing and took some time to sort of catch him up to speed. Jabaree very rarely makes mistakes, so football knowledge seems to come very easy to him. When he started against Wake Forest he had ‘zero' busts and that is very good for a plebe who has only been here for all of five weeks, especially given that he was playing against a nationally ranked team. It all contributes; the high school he played at, the guys that were here and who were helping him, and the fact that he is a very smart kid and is very intelligent. It all played a role."


On Jabaree Tuani's improvement during the spring:


"I saw a lot of improvement over the spring. The hardest thing for [Jabaree] was that he had never really played within our defense against the option – which is a whole different deal. Even though he played well against Army and Air Force, there were still a lot of things that he could improve on. Going against our offense all spring, I think it helped him become much more sound option-wise than he was this time last year."


On Tuani's wrestling background, and on recruiting high school wrestlers as defensive linemen:


"Some of my best guys over the years since I have been here were also wrestlers in high school. I think it teaches you how to use your body and how to strain your body. Plus, you've got to be pretty tough to go on a mat all by yourself with everybody watching just you…I think it gives him a lot of stuff, and I always try to look twice at the wrestlers, without a doubt."


On the depth of the defensive line going into 2009:


"Luckily we will be able to rotate. You would hope none of the guys on your defensive line would have to play a whole game's worth of snaps, because there has always been a fairly big drop-off between the guy that was playing and the next guy on the depth chart…but I don't feel that way this year. I think [the depth] will certainly help in the 4th quarter with getting a pass rush, and it will help in those situations in the third quarter when I guy isn't killing the team because he needs to come out. A lot of times – well actually in the whole time I've been here - we have never had this luxury. It's always just been ‘hey, you've got to go, because you are way better than the guy who is behind you.' This year we should be able to roll three-deep to be honest with you. I feel very confident in my three guys at each position [on the defensive line.]"


Adam Nettina welcomes reader comments and questions. He can be contacted at Adam Nettina[at] Top Stories