This season Navy Football loses six senior defensive backs to the Fleet from the 2018 roster. Four of those leaders: Sean Williams, Khaylan Williams, Jarid Ryan, and Juan Hailey missed a total of 3 games between them last season. The loss of Sean Williams will be the largest impact of them all, not only for his contributions on the field, but also for his outstanding leadership in all aspects of the program.
The defense got a face-lift in the off-season with the new defensive coaching staff led by new defensive coordinator Brian Newberry and company. The Mids will run what Newberry calls “a 4-2-5 with some 3-4 principles,” and will be far more dynamic than previous defensive schemes. Newberry’s philosophy is to create chaos for the opponent while keeping it simple for the players. The intent behind this philosophy is to disrupt the opposing offenses ability to understand what the defense doing. This is achieved through a combination of mixing up schemes and coverages and denying the opponent the ability to make an accurate assessment of the situation. You can expect to see a lot more movement and pre-snap actions from the defensive backs than you are used to; you might even catch a DB heading towards the QB rather than dropping back. With that being said, we covered the Striker position in our linebackers preview. No doubt, in the 4-2-5, the hybrid striker position will spend a large amount of time in the defensive backfield, but for the sake of keeping things a little more evenly divided, check out Austin’s linebacker preview for more.
Bandits are the artists formally known as strong safety and one of the more closely followed position battle during spring ball. Senior Elan Nash was expected to get the number one spot, but Sophomore Kevin Brennan has edged him out, at least for now. Nash has a ton of experience at Navy, including starting every game during the 2018 campaign at the Striker position, but Brennan still claimed the top spot coming out of the spring. Head Coach Niumatalolo has already said there’s barely any separation between these two; so don’t expect a lot of leash for the inexperienced Brennan who hasn’t seen a snap at the collegiate level. Sophomore Dakare Coston also has no varsity experience but made his way to #3 on the depth chart here.
Junior Micah Farrar and Sophomore Michael McMorris lead the corners. Farrar saw action in five games last season and demonstrated flashes of brilliance. McMorris had more of an impact during his freshman campaign starting in four games, and appearing in a total of 11. The two starters will be backed by sophomores Caleb Clear and Daniel Taylor at the Field Corner spot, and juniors Cameron Kinley and Marcus Wiggins at the Boundary Corner. Wiggins and Kinley are the only two in that group with any varsity experience.
Junior Evan Fochtman is the starting safety and probably the most interesting story of the bunch. Fochtman came to Navy as a QB but made the shift to outside linebacker for the 2018 season. He wasn’t setting any records over there, but in his limited time he was able to have a significant impact on many of the games in which he appears last season. He had a great spring camp after making the move to safety and earned the #1 spot on the depth chart beating out players with a lot more experience at the position. Senior Noruwa Obanor and Sophomore Mitchell West back him up. Both West and Obanor have seen action at the position throughout their careers at Navy, and free safety could prove to be one of the deepest positions on the defense. That’s encouraging because Sean Williams left huge shoes to fill.
What to Expect
There is a lot to be excited about for the Navy defense this season. The first real shake-up of the defensive scheme during the triple-option era is already underway; and the new defensive staff feels confident about their prospects for this fall.
I am most excited about the position changes across the depth chart. The coaching staff set a new philosophy where no one’s job was safe, and spring ball was truly a battle. I would even anticipate a lot of that shakeup continuing throughout fall camp and the season for any players who aren’t living up to their expectations.