Any discussion of Saturday's scrimmage has to start with defensive end Jabaree Tuani and nose guard Nate Frazier. The two defenders caused havoc all morning, playing a major role in forcing the first team offense into two turnovers. It was obvious that Frazier was getting the best of DeMell in the battle up front (probably causing DeMell to botch one snap which was recovered by the defense), and Frazier's ability to command inside double teams allowed Tuani to rush aggressively from the edge with good success. Still, Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs showed the ability to step up in the pocket and throw the ball with confidence and accuracy, hitting seven of nine passes in just four series of work. Tuani finished the day with a tackle for a loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery, and it's obvious from his physical ability alone that he's well on his way to becoming one of the best Navy defensive linemen in school history. While neither Matt Nechak nor Michael Walsh played during the scrimmage, the Mids rotated Jordan Stephens and Kyle Bookhout in at the other end position with good results. While the first team offensive line held its own early on against the Midshipmen defensive line, the established depth and experience along the defensive front made it extremely difficult for the second and third team offense to run the option effectively.
The defense typically gets the better of the offense during Navy scrimmages, but Saturday's effort was all the more impressive considering a number of Navy defenders sat out with minor injuries. Buddy Green was without striker Ram Vela, cornerback Blake Carter, linebacker Tony Haberer, and safeties Wyatt Middleton and Emmett Merchant in addition to not having his two senior defensive ends. Defensive back Jarred Shannon was also inactive. After the scrimmage, Green explained that several of these players had minor hamstring injuries and were being held out for "precautionary" reasons. This was an especially smart move by the medical staff, which had to take into account the high heat and humidity of the morning.
Offensive Personnel Superlatives
Ricky Dobbs was well composed and efficient in both the running and passing game. He took the blame for an early incompletion to Mario Washington, although it looked like a well thrown pass which Washington read wrong while it was in the air. As for the backups, Kriss Proctor is entrenched at number two. He is still somewhat inconsistent with his reads, but his athleticism and ability to make plays when plays break down is uncanny and impressive. Proctor doesn't get rattled easily, either. After making a poor read on the third offensive series he came back and made the right read on the next play, taking a midline option for a first down and a big gain. He also threw the ball well on Saturday, as did Kameron Smith, who does not look as explosive or decisive as Proctor in running the option. Greg Zingler did some good work with the third team and showed some toughness running between the tackles. He could very well end up being the third quarterback going into the year. I really like Proctor's athleticism though, and if he can continue to progress with his reads he will be a solid option at quarterback in years to come.
Alex Teich showed off his athleticism and toughness at the fullback position, taking a third and short run that looked to be stuffed for no gain and spinning it to the outside for a first down. The difference between Teich and the other fullbacks is that Teich has the ability to bounce runs to the outside, and with his explosiveness and leg drive that can mean big plays if opposing defenders lose contain and are caught looking in the backfield.
Speaking of fullbacks, no Navy fullback had a better day than Delvin Diggs, who rushed for 58 yards on 15 carries. Diggs is a tough customer inside, and he hits the hole with great speed and pad level. What I like about Diggs is that he explodes on contact, and is able to keep his balance when bouncing off defenders. His quickness and leg drive are impressive as well. While Jordan Eddington and Vince Murray saw time with the second team, expect Diggs to continue to come on strong as the team prepares for the season.
Mike Stukel continues to look impressive as a slotback. With Marcus Curry currently out of the lineup due to the effects of a recent illness, Stukel looks to be the quickest slotback in terms of straight-line speed. He showed good versatility as well on Saturday, making a nice catch over the middle while also getting some good blocks in. He also nearly broke a kickoff return for a touchdown. Neither Cory Finnerty nor Bobby Doyle registered a carry on Saturday.
Mario Washington may have dropped a post pattern that could have gone for a touchdown, but he more than made up for it throughout the hour-and-a-half scrimmage with his blocking. Mario had the "hit of the day" when he blindsided an unsuspecting linebacker with a crack-back block, and also made a great adjustment on a ball thrown by Dobbs later on in the scrimmage. As a group, Navy's receivers had a very good day. I was especially impressed with Greg Jones (1 catch, 38 yards), who on his only catch of the afternoon made a great juke move to cut up field. Gary Myers showed good athleticism, hands, and speed as well.
Plebe Watch ‘09
The plebes which saw the most extensive action on Saturday were primarily from the slotback unit, with Gee Gee (aka Alexander) Green, Bo Snelson, David Zapata, and John Howell all getting the chance to carry the football. Bo Snelson (3 carries, 26 yards) showed good speed in taking an option pitch for a first down, while he also had a nice scoop-up on a botched pitch in which he made something out of nothing. John Howell didn't have any long runs, but he showed very good quickness and nearly broke a long toss sweep before stepping out of bounds. I heard several backup offensive linemen comment on "how fast that kid is." Freshman slotback Trey Reed also looked impressive and had a long run.
Several freshmen fullbacks received carries late in the scrimmage, including Kevin Eckel, Austin Beaty, and Jarred Mack. None had carries for more than a few yards, but Beaty showed good toughness and the ability to get his shoulders squared, while Eckel hit the hole well and with authority. As a group however, the freshmen offensive line and quarterbacks struggled (as is usual.) At one point plebe quarterbacks Gordy Law and Tyler Lynch put the ball on the ground on three consecutive plays. Lynch, however, did show off a strong arm in limited duty. With the depth at fullback I don't expect to see any of the plebes on the field much this year, but it looks like there is plenty in the pipeline for seasons to come.
On the defensive side of the ball, Buddy Green singled out nose guard Cameron Mason as a plebe who has stood out in practice and in the scrimmage. Mason is well put together and even ran in with the first defensive unit for a play when the coaching staff called for a nose guard. You have to admire his willingness to compete if nothing else. The other freshman defender who stood out to me was Dylon Porlas, who showed real aggressiveness and a willingness to hit.
Terry to Return?
Bill Wagner of the Annapolis Capital reported late last week that Navy defensive back Darius Terry may have the opportunity to rejoin the team, although head coach Ken Niumatalolo was vague when describing the situation of the 5-foot-7 senior, who was officially "dismissed" from the squad for an unspecified rule violation in June. Terry was present at the scrimmage on Saturday, and was seen keeping notes on the Navy sideline.