Irish Defense Prepare For Navy Option Attack

The Irish defense has the difficult task of slowing down the Navy option attack this week. The Irish haven't played an option team since playing Navy last year. The Irish had to play Navy in 2002 without their starting strong safety, Gerome Sapp. His absence was obvious, and the Irish will be without starting strong safety, Glenn Earl, this year. Can the Irish slow down the Midshipmen?

"It's real complex," said linebacker Derek Curry. "They do a lot of things, I call it trickery, but it's a basic option game. You've got to be really disciplined with your keys and what you've got to do on different plays."

Navy is a true option team. They use all three weapons very well. Their fullback, Kyle Eckel, is their leading rusher, and the Irish will have to keep an eye on him. "As an option game, you've kind of got to key on everybody," said Curry. "If the fullback is your man, you've got to be keyed on him and hit him in the mouth when he steps up to carry the ball. He's really a big key in their offense, and their rushing game is leading the nation in rushing."

The Irish are now 2-6, and Curry says the Irish will be motivated for this game. "The motivation is to go play another game, and win another game, that is our motivation."

Losing a player like Earl when you play an offense like Navy's is hard to overcome according to defensive backs coach, Trent Walters. "Not having one of your best players and top leader, it affects you," Walters said. "We've just got to find a way to overcome that, make up for that in effort and dedication this week in preparing and go from there."

Free safety, Quentin Burrell, also thinks the loss of Earl will be felt. "It's a big loss, but it's also an opportunity for guys to step up," said Burrell. "Guys like Lionel Bolen and those cats have the opportunity to come up and contribute like Glenn did, and show that leadership that he showed."

Junior, Lionel Bolen, has played a lot recently at strong safety. Walters says he should play a lot this week. "He's learned a lot, and he's playing quite well," Walters said. "He made some mistakes, which you expect guys to make mistakes if they haven't played. I thought he responded real well last week, and he played O.K.—I expect him to play even more this week."

Walters admitted he'd have some sleepless night this week. "I told the guys, I won't sleep a wink, all this week, just thinking about the game, and how we've got to play."

Defensive coordinator, Kent Baer, is also concerned this week. Baer says he's seen improvement in Navy since last year, and their quarterback, Craig Candeto. 'This kid is a senior, he knows what he's doing," said Baer. "He understands everything. I just read an article where he says it's easier for him to read offense. They are playing a lot better than they were a year ago."

"It's a whole new offense, it's like learning a whole new language in one week," Baer continued. "It's just so different from what we are used to that you have to say ‘Just stop what you have been learning and now we have to go and learn this'. Anytime you are young and you don't have many veteran kids it's a bit of a concern."

Baer says his defense will receive a healthy dose of repetition this week. "A lot of individual work – we had more individual time today than we have ever had, the most reps we have ever had. A lot of reps, you have to go over it again and again. Today is the first day, a lot of mistakes, a lot of things thrown at them. Thankfully we have two more days to prepare."

The Irish will also be without starting defensive end, Kyle Budinscak. "It's tough because he's played this offense before, he's a veteran," said Baer of Budinscak. "We are going to miss him. Now we have to put some guys in there that haven't played quite as much as he has but someone has to step up and do it."

Victor Abiamiri will likely be Budinscak's replacement. "He's never played this kind of offense before. The reads and the keys for him are certainly different, but he's very athletic which really helps him and he's good with his hands. I see him as being a real factor with what we are going to do on Saturday."

Baer also says he's going to have play Navy straight up because of all the things they can do out of their formations. "It's a triple option attack but they give you a lot of formations and that's where the difficulty comes in. That's why you can't do too many things against it because they can get you swimming in a hurry."

Baer also says he knows how much the Midshipmen will want to win this game. "I worked in the Navy so I know how important this is for them."

Worrying about the run is one thing. Navy will also hit you with big plays in the passing game. Baer says his defense will have to remember to watch out for the passing game. "It's a huge concern--they have ways of getting to it. You think you have it covered and them someone just slips free."

"Obviously they do it off their play-action and option fakes so it's something you just have to drill and drill and drill. Hopefully you don't make a mistake. If you watch that Air Force game a year ago, as well as we played, there was about three times they got someone wide open but we got pressure on the quarterback. That's always a scary thing."

Baer has also been impressed with fullback, Kyle Eckel. "He's a good fullback - he's 5-11, 235 pounds, runs with a low pad level. They give him the ball a lot, keep you honest with the option and he probably should be their leading rusher, just the way they run it. He's a load and we are going to have to tackle him. I'm sure he's ready to have a big game against us because they feel they should have won that game against us a year ago."

The loss of Glenn Earl in this game could have a big impact on the game. Earl played for Sapp last year, but it was obvious that Sapp was missed. The fullback will keep the Irish linebackers busy all day so the safeties will have to tackle very well for the Irish to win. We expect this game to go down to the wire, again.


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