Portions of a recent conversation with Navy defensive line coach Dale Pehrson:
Q: Where do you feel like senior Jabaree Tuani has grown the most since he’s been here?
Pehrson: I would say he’s always been a positive leader by example, but I think he’s become a little more verbal, a little more demanding of the other guys. I think that’s kind of a natural progression from a plebe to a senior. I really saw it starting to take over last year. He’s one of the better leaders I’ve ever had in the room.
Q: How crucial, since there’s only three starters back on defense, has he been from January on?
Pehrson: He’s really another coach. Not only a coach as far as they watch how he does it, but he’ll take a young guy and when he gets a minute and you’ll see him working with him on his own. He’ll pick somebody out and help him. He’s a pretty valuable tool.
Q: That has to be a major aid to you.
Pehrson: Oh, no doubt. It gives you somebody to watch on tape – ‘OK, this is how it should look.’
Q: With the other ends, how do you see things heading into the season?
Pehrson: I think we’re athletic. Probably a little quicker, a little bigger than we’ve been. We have a couple that are a little bit light but they’re really quick. We’ve got some bigger guys than we’ve had in the past.
Q: Have there been some signs in camp of a guy who might be emerging that we didn’t see a lot of previously?
Pehrson: I’d say Wes Henderson is coming along. He’s really doing well. [Josh Dowling-] Fitzpatrick. About the same ones we saw in the spring. They’ve now taken a step closer to being the guy. We’ll make that decision when it gets pretty close. They’re in a battle, and it’s making them all better.
Q: Inside, how do you see that shaking out?
Pehrson: We have Jared [Marks], who’s played a little bit. He’s taken a leadership role in the room and on the team. Wes, we’ve been playing him in there a little bit, back and forth from tackle to nose. I think our two young guys, [Barry] Dabney and [Alex] Doolittle will come along. They have great size. I have five 300-pounders in my room; the biggest I’ve ever had is 285 in the past. That’s a plus. We’ve got some tools to work with. We’ll see how we end up.
Q: That has to be a major shift to see all that size.
Pehrson: It is. My room’s not big enough anymore. [Laughs]