The Next Tuani?

DT Brice Musgrove

Ken Niumatalolo has been bringing in a star-studded defensive class this recruiting season, but Navy fans know that the best Midshipmen defenses are often built with players with little or no offers out of High School. Not conforming to the "mold" of an FBS athlete, standouts like current Navy DE Jabaree Tuani fall through the recruiting cracks. Did Navy just land another future Tuani?

Navy fans would hope so, as would Cedar Hill (TX) defensive lineman Brice Musgrove, who last week committed to play his college football at the Naval Academy. Musgrove (6-feet, 275-pounds), was named First Team All District last season for the Longhorns, who went 12-1 in 2009 en route to winning the Texas 5A District 7 Championship. Musgrove was a force to be reckoned with for opposing offenses, and helped to lead a stout defense as a run-stuffing defensive tackle. He plays with outstanding leverage at the point of attack, and has great use of his hands against opposing linemen. Musgrove finished 2009 with 4 sacks and 77 total tackles, yet had very few FBS schools show interest in his talents. The reason? His relatively small stature.


ESPN Scouts Inc., which rates Musgrove as the 170th best defensive tackle prospect in the country, lamented that he "is a kid you wish had more natural size." Musgrove acknowledged that his frame caused most schools to pass him by, but said that size alone doesn't make a great defensive lineman.

"My lack of height made many schools stay away from me but what they failed to realize is I am one the best defense lineman in the state when it comes down to explosiveness off the ball," said Musgrove in a recent interview with GoMids.com.

While Musgrove has slid under most FBS teams' radars, at least one well-respected recruiting analysts has taken note, and agrees with the Cedar Hill lineman's self-assessment. Tom Lemming, who covers recruiting for MaxPreps.com, wrote that although undersized for his position, Musgrove has the physical ability to play at the FBS level.

"Not many people know about this young man but I was lucky enough to see him in person and on film in December and came away certain that he has Division I skills," Lemming wrote on MaxPrep.com. "I was impressed with his burst, closing speed, explosiveness off the ball, and super strength at the point of attack."

For his part, Musgrove doesn't let his lack of size deter him from setting lofty standards for himself. In fact, he takes the fact that many schools passed him up because of his height as motivation to prove them wrong. Instead of focusing on his lack of ideal size, he prefers to draw attention to his explosiveness off the ball – a theme also apparent in Jabaree Tuani's style of play.

"I have never met [Jabaree] but I have seen him play," said Musgrove. "The coaches at Navy say I am very explosive off the ball and so is he. They like the way he can close to the ball carrier and they see the same thing in me."

Musgrove does not know how the Navy coaches plan to utilize his talents, but said that he will go to the Naval Academy Prep School before heading to the Naval Academy. He expects to have the chance to play both DE and DT, but said that Navy defensive line coach Dale Pehrson wants to try him out at DE first. In either case, Musgrove is well acquainted with Navy's defense, and said that he is a big fan of the way the Mids "attack up front."

The defensive lineman was attracted to Navy for many reasons, and was finally sold on the Academy after a recent January visit. While he had no experience with a military academy before being recruited by Navy, the opportunities presented by the school and the chance to play bigtime college football were just too good for him to pass up.

"My visit to the Naval Academy was great," said Musgrove. "It felt like home. Everybody was very welcoming and genuine. I met the entire coaching staff, and my final decision was made after I sat down with coach Niumatalolo and we discussed me and the academy and how he sees me doing big things. Coach was just an overall good guy and he told me the truth and didn't pressure me into my decision."

"Navy did a great job against the top team in the country, especially in the bowl game against Mizzou," he added.

Musgrove was also being recruited by Air Force, Texas Southern, and Western Kentucky at the time of his commitment. He said that he is looking forward to playing with many of Navy's current commits from the Class of 2010, including linebacker Michael Huf, whom he described as a "great guy and good athlete."

Navy struck gold with an undersized and under-recruited defensive lineman in Brentwood (TN) native Jabaree Tuani two years ago, and now the Mids are hoping that Musgrove can develop into a similar player. And while developing into a player the caliber of Tuani may be a lot to expect from the current high-school senior, he is more than ready to meet the challenge.

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