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Position Breakdown: Navy Linebackers

The Navy Midshipmen have plenty of talent but have to fill big shoes left by recent graduates Taylor Heflin and Hudson Sullivan.

NCAA Football: Navy at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

One thing we know for sure about the 2019 Navy defense is that it will certainly not be the same as the one we saw in 2018. Bringing in Brian Newberry as the new defensive coordinator has meant a change in scheme for the defense, as Newberry brings in a more aggressive style, mixing up coverages and looks to try and confuse the opposing offense and asking much more of some positions, with one example being the inside linebacker spot. Newberry describes his defense as “a 4-2-5 with some 3-4 principles.” This means that you may see more of the Raider position along the defensive line than in previous seasons, you will need more out of the MIKE and WILL linebackers than just coming into the box and making tackles, and the Striker position, which has always been a hybrid role, may spend a considerable amount of time in both the defensive backfield and in more of an outside linebacker spot. For the sake of our previews, we kept Raider and Striker with the linebackers, but you can certainly expect Newberry to mix their roles up as he implements his new scheme.

The buzzword Navy fans have thrown around for pretty much every position group this offseason is “potential” and fans need to look no further than the linebacker group to see just that. The 2019 version of the Navy defense will certainly be different and the linebacker group must replace the production of recent graduates Taylor Heflin and Hudson Sullivan. Seasoned Navy coach Steve Johns, who enters the season for a 12th year as part of the Navy coaching staff, will be tasked with developing the strikers while first-year Navy coaches P.J. Volker and Kevin Downing will focus on the inside linebackers and raiders, respectfully. While we know the 2019 defense will be more aggressive, the question remains if this group will be able to pressure and get to the quarterback when called upon to do just that.

RAIDER

NCAA Football: Navy vs Notre Dame Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Nizaire Cromartie - Named to Phil Steele’s preseason All-AAC third team, the Greensboro, NC native sits atop the depth chart at the raider position heading into camp. The senior started in all 13 games last season and led the team in sacks (3.5) and finished second in tackles for a loss (5.5). Cromartie will also serve as one of two defensive captains in Navy’s 2019 campaign.

Carter Bankston - Sitting behind Cromartie in the depth chart, Bankston looks to expand beyond the primarily special teams role he has experienced over the last two seasons. The senior has appeared in 22 games but will find himself called upon to serve as a reserve role at the raider position this fall.

STRIKER

NCAA Football: Navy vs Notre Dame Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Jacob Springer - Springer represents the second player in this position group named to Phil Steele’s 2019 Preseason All-AAC award when he received fourth-team honors last month. Springer played as a safety last year and tallied 36 tackles and two interceptions. He is arguable the most versatile player on the defensive side of the ball evident through Coach Ken’s faith in him as a runner. The 6’1” junior was also recently named the starting kick and punt returner.

Walter Little - Little provides needed depth in the striker spot as the position will be expected to carry various roles depending on opposing match-ups. As a junior, Little played in 12 games and contributed eight total tackles as a reserve.

MIKE

Diego Fagot - Yet another member of Phil Steele’s Preseason All-AAC honors - Fagot was selected for the third team heading into the 2019 season and is the only starting sophomore in Navy’s front seven. Fagot is poised for a big season and has already lived up to some high expectations out of high school. The Broward-Dade County Male Athlete of the Year earned his first start in the Army-Navy game last year as a plebe and could easily line up as an inside or outside linebacker over the course of the season.

Paul Carothers - A disciple of our own Justin Mears - yes, really. Justin taught his leadership class a few years ago and has always spoken highly of the Georgia native. Carothers is a natural leader which has earned him the other defensive captain position. The senior has a nose for the ball and will lead this room even listed at second on the depth chart. Carothers has ten tackles in 13 appearances over the previous three seasons.

WILL

Tyler Pistorio - I doubt there is another player on the Navy roster as hungry as Pistorio is coming into fall camp. After suffering an injury in the season opener against Hawaii last season, Pistorio is looking to take advantage of every snap he gets. The senior has the speed to cover receivers and the physicality to stop the run when needed.

Austin Talbert-Loving - Known as “ATL” by his peers, this Maryland native has made the transition from striker to WILL and seems to be handling the change quite well. After appearing in all 13 games last season, ATL will only find himself more comfortable with his 2019 role regardless of the new position. The 6’2” and 202 pound junior has the coverage skills needed on the weak side and will likely challenge Pistorio in the starting spot as the season progresses.