Irish Running Backs vs. Navy Linebackers
The linebacker position is the second most experienced group on the Navy defense, and have had to deal with replacing lost production from a season ago. The Midshipmen lost both inside linebackers from last season in leading tackler Micah Thomas and D.J. Palmer. Seniors Hudson Sullivan and Taylor Heflin will be the two aggressive players replacing the duo lost from a season ago. Hudson and Heflin have combined for 88 tackles so far this season, with Heflin adding four tackles for loss and three sacks.
The inside linebackers of 3-4 defenses are your sure fire tacklers who disrupt anything in between the tackles. It will be important for the offensive line to get to the second level and get a hat on these guys, but ultimately the running backs will have to make plays with the ball in their hands.
If Armstrong, Dex, or Jones Jr. can make these guys miss in the hole or get the edge on them in the outside zone game, it could be a long night for Navy. Additionally, to make up for their lack of speed and size, Navy will probably be bringing various blitzes and delayed pressure most of the night, especially after the success Pittsburgh had doing the same thing. The Irish backs have struggled in this category, and the better blitzes are picked up, the better chance Book has to find where the mismatch is on the field.
On the outside, Nizaire Cromartie will be the name to watch for. A defensive end last Cromartie has 31 tackles and three sacks on the season. He is the athletic player that Navy defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson loves to use in blitzing situations. If the Irish running backs can limit his impact in the passing game, a huge element of Navy’s defense will be taken away.
This position matchup is probably the most even matchup Navy has with the Irish offense. They have aggressive play makers on the inside and athletic players on the outside capable of getting to the quarterback. The x-factor will be how Navy’s linebackers hold up in coverage against the speedy Armstrong or Williams. It’s close, but the Irish have the edge.