Last year's stats in parenthesis and next year's class noted.
Projected Starting Outside Linebacker: Jr Clint Sovie (61 tkls, 1.5 for loss, 2 ints)
Projected Starting Inside Linebacker: Sr Irv Spencer (27 tkls, 1 fumble recovery, 2 forced fumbles)
Projected Starting Inside Linebacker: Sr Jon Alvarado (3 tkls, 1 sack)
Projected Starting Outside Linebacker: Sr Matt Wimsatt (6 tkls)
Should Compete for Time: Jr Matt Humistan (10 tkls), So Ian Meredith (6'3, 225), Jr Mike Walsh (6'2, 234), So Zach Weatherington (6'4, 235), So Ross Pospisil (6'0, 205)
Need to Assert Themselves: Jr Will Scarle (6'4, 224), Sr Jordon Young (6'0, 210), Alex Horne (6'0, 217), So Jordan Eddington (6'0, 213), So Brian Smith (6'1, 210), Jr Scott Reider (6'0, 218), So Craig Schaefer (6'2, 202), So Matt Nechak (6'4, 221), So Stephen Tripp (5'11, 191), So Tony Haberer (6'1, 216)
2006 Review: Navy's linebacker corps was one of the most underrated in the entire country, leading a surprisingly good rush defense that helped the Mids win nine games. While Rob Caldwell (109 tkls) and Clint Sovie (61 tkls) anchored the inside, veterans David Mahoney (84 tkls, 7 sacks) and Tyler Tidwell (53 tkls, 5 sacks) excelled at outside linebacker. Tiwell, Caldwell, and Mahoney all depart this offseason.
Replacing ILB Rob Caldwell and OLB's Tyler Tidwell and David Mahoney will not be easy, especially considering these three players have accounted for the well over 200 tackles each of the past two seasons. While their experience and leadership will be impossible to duplicate right out of the gate in 2007, Navy brings in a talented cast of former backups to fill the void.
Only a few weeks ago Johnson hinted that All-East Freshmen of the Year safety Jeremy Miles might move down from safety to outside linebacker, although it looks like Miles won't be returning to the USNA next season. With this in mind I think Clint Sovie gets an open tryout at outside linebacker, which should fit his type of game quite nicely. Considering he played several game in 2006 with a huge forearm cast and was bothered by injury during the middle of the year, Sovie really had a great year in 2006 with 61 tackles and two picks. Probably Navy's fastest linebacker, Sovie plays with great energy and discipline, and despite his small size rarely misses a tackle. Once more he's great in coverage, and has the ability to make plays on the ball while its in the air. While replacing David Mahoney may be a little too much to ask for, I fully expect Sovie to have a breakout season in 2006 and continue a great Navy linebacker tradition, regardless of whether he plays on the inside or outside.
Irv Spencer, once a highly recruited player out of High School (at least by Navy standards), should finally get his chance to start at inside linebacker. Spencer is a physical player who saw extensive time as a backup in 2006, and actually earned a start against Notre Dame with Clint Sovie bothered by injury. Spencer reminds me a lot of Rob Caldwell in both size and ability, and while he probably won't duplicate Caldwell's experience and production, Spencer should fit into the defense quite nicely.
The other inside linebacker position remains cloudy if Sovie does move to the outside, and if this does become the case then I see current junior Jon Alvarado stepping in to the void. If Sovie remains at inside linebacker with Spencer then I'm projected Matt Wimsatt and Matt Humistan as the starters at outside linebacker. If this is not the case then Wimsatt and Humistan should battle for the other outside linebacker position. Confused yet? No need to be, all of these players are fairly versatile and likely will do a good deal of moving back and forth into the spring and even the summer. Both Wimsatt and Humistan had good fall practices in 2006 and saw some mop-up duty last season, and should be able to a decent enough job at filling the void left by Tidwell.
There are a number of younger players who could challenge for starting rolls, including current freshmen Ian Meredith, who finished the season on the three-deep at outside linebacker. Also, freshmen Bayard Roberts may get some looks at linebacker after spending 2006 on the defensive line. Roberts was arguably the best High School player out of the state of New Mexico in 2006, and has all the physical tangibles contend for playing time in 2007. Ross Pospisil is a talented freshmen who has Clint Sovie-like size and speed, while Zach Weatherington is a man-child at 6-4, 235.
One thing to keep in mind was that in 2004 Navy returned only one starting linebacker (Mahoney) and had three new starters in Rob Caldwell, Jacob Biles, and Tyler Tidwell. While there was expected to be a significant drop-off from the 2004 season, the 2005 linebacker corps proved to be one of the best in Navy history. This speaks volumes to not only the depth at the position but also the tremendous job the coaching staff does in evaluating and developing talent. While I do expect somewhat of a drop-off in play in 2006 (if for no other reason then inexperience in game situations) I do expect this linebacker corps to continue a budding Navy tradition and be one of the strengths of the team.