ANNAPOLIS – Navy opened preseason camp Wednesday without much doubt who would be starting at inside linebacker when the Midshipmen open Sept. 1 against Notre Dame.
Matt Warrick had a team-high 103 tackles and also broke up seven passes. Brye French slid over from outside linebacker, where he had 55 tackles (six for loss) in 2011.
Both are seniors. Warrick leads all current Navy defensive players with 14 career starts; French is third with nine (safety Tra’ves Bush is second with 11).
To look at the unit a bit more closely, inside linebackers coach Steve Johns answered five(ish) questions after Navy wrapped up its first practice of the season.
1. Moving Brye French over in the spring, how did that work out?
SJ: It worked out well in the spring. He played really well. We played a lot against ourselves, so I know he can play the option well. We’ll see how he can play against a more conventional offense. I think he’ll do fine.
2. What sorts of skills have allowed him to be so flexible and cross over pretty good?
SJ: One, he’s got good instincts. He plays with good fundamentals. He’s sound. He’s a good tackler. He’s been able to transition. He doesn’t get overpowered when guys are blocking him. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to guys really blocking him.
3. Matt Warrick had a productive season last year. How do you see him building on that?
SJ: He’s got to get better. He had a good year, but he knows he can play better, and he will play better. He was hurt a lot of last year. He had neck problems. Half the year, he couldn’t even take on blocks in practice. He’ll be a lot better.
4. Among the backups, Cody Peterson’s a guy who was a fullback originally, wasn’t he?
SJ: He was and then he was an outside linebacker and then he’s been hurt. But he’s such a physical specimen that we’re giving him a shot. He’s had some injury problems with a bad shoulder. Hopefully that doesn’t come back, because he’s big, strong, runs fast. He just kind of has to learn the position.
5a. At the other spot, Vinnie Mauro and John Michael Nurthen, how are they doing?
SJ: Nurthen had a great spring. He’s a senior, so this is it for him. He had a great summer, so this is it. It’s either now or never, and he’s prepared for it to be now. So that’s good. And Vinnie had a great summer. Vinnie got hurt in spring, but he had a really good summer working out. He looks good.
5b. Has Vinnie’s deal basically been finding some way to stay on the field?
SJ: He’s been hurt a lot. He hurt his back, then he hurt his knee. So hopefully he can stay healthy. If he can stay healthy, he’s a good football player, but his whole freshman year he was hurt.