Navy Spring Review: Inside Linebackers

Jordan Drake (GM-Alison Althouse)

The Navy Midshipmen recently completed their 2014 spring practice drills. GoMids.com will now review every position, listing the starter, backup and third string players. In this edition we look at the inside linebackers.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS


MIKE
Starters: Don Pearson Jr.
Back ups: Maika Polamalu. Sr.
Third String: Daniel Gonzalez So.

SAM
Starters: Jordan Drake Sr.
Back ups: James Britton Sr.
Third String: Tyler Goble Jr.
The big area of concern entering this spring was the inside linebacker position which graduated both starters. Last year's starter Cody Peterson (142 tackles) was team captain and the team's best defender. He earned First Team all-Independent and All-East linebacker honors. His partner, D.J. Sargenti, (110 tackles) was a great compliment inside to Peterson and emerged as a smart, active playmaker.

The only returning inside linebacker who received playing time in 2013 was backup junior Mike linebacker Don Pearson. While there isn't a lot of experience here there is ability. Pearson (8 tackles) is an athletic inside linebacker who was originally recruited as a wide receiver. He played well this spring and is expected to be a starter at Mike linebacker this fall. The Navy staff likes Don's athleticism, size and speed. He played wide receiver at NAPS in 2011 and was listed as a wide receiver when he arrived at Annapolis. However, as GoMids.com mentioned during our Meet the New Mids I-day report the plan was always to move him to linebacker. Pearson (6-3, 224) is talented and has big time ability. Person had offers from Stanford, San Diego State and UNLV when he was recruited in high school.

Buddy Green and his defensive staff reviewed all options and decided to move senior Jordan Drake to the other open inside linebacker spot. I believe its a good move. Drake(6-4, 220) has started the last 26 games at Raider linebacker. He made 43 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble last fall. Drake offers nice FBS size and speed for a Navy linebacker. He led Navy in sacks last year. He contributing in a huge way in Navy's comeback two years ago against Indiana in 2012 when he posted eight tackles and returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown. He made a career high nine tackles against Toledo last year. Drake has the size to be effective inside and take on guards. He will offer speed and proven production at inside linebacker.

The top backups at inside linebacker are seniors Maika Polamalu and James Britton. The Navy staff has been trying to find a position for Maika Polamalu (6-0, 223)since he arrived in Annapolis as a direct admit. He is part of a very successful football family. His father was starting defensive tackle for Penn State's 1986 national title team. His cousin Kennedy Pola is a professional coach. The most famous member of his family is his cousin Steeler All-Pro safety and defensive MVP Troy Polamalu. Polamalu was initially tried at fullback his first two years. Last year he was converted to Mike linebacker and played in four games, mostly appearing on special teams. Polamalu possesses good speed and instincts. He has added over twenty pounds since arriving on I-day. He will backup Pearson.

Senior James Britton was at the top of the SAM depth chart at the beginning of spring but for the second year in a row was beat out by others. Britton (6-2, 223) was switched from free safety to inside linebacker last spring but after missing some assignments he lost the job to D.J. Sargenti. Last year he played in twelve games mostly on special teams and contributed five tackles. The son of a former Marine, he is tough, runs fairly well, is a sure tackler and as a former safety can drop into coverage. Britton is a willing hitter but isn't as athletically talented as the projected starters. At this point he offers solid depth behind Jordan Drake.

Sophomore Mike linebacker Daniel Gonzales (6-2, 229) moved up to third on the depth chart at Mike linebacker after spending last year on the JV team. Gonzales was the he NAPS defensive MVP at Mike linebacker in 2012. I felt Gonzalez was easily the best player on the Naval Academy Prep School defense in 2012. He was converted from defensive end which he played in high school. He is a very instinctive and aware inside linebacker. He reads plays well, has great range and flies to the ball. Daniel is very physical, tough and fills quickly. He is the type of linebacker who loves contact and hitting people. GoMids.com mentioned in our 2013 I-day report that Gonzalez is the best inside linebacker I've seen in my six years of following the NAPS program. He should eventually become a starter.

The third string SAM inside linebacker, Tyler Goble, is a 6-2, 222 pound junior who had nice spring. Goble is a former direct admit inside linebacker who was rated as a three star rated recruit coming out of high school. Goble is tough, smart, instinctive linebacker who reads plays quickly and can stuff the run inside. Tyler has good range and is still improving.

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