Defense will be a question mark for Navy

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When asked how many projected starters on Navy”s defense he could name, quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada paused to survey the room at media day in Annapolis yesterday.

He named the four defensive players who were present, but that was it.

The Midshipmen open preseason camp today, and one of their top priorities will be identifying who will replace nine departed starters on defense from a team that went 9-4 and lost to Boston College in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

It’s all what they do in camp. They have to go out and solidify a spot, Kaheaku-Enhada said. It”s kind of scary for me because there are going to be a bunch of guys out there trying to earn a spot, which means they are going to be killing me.

The entire defensive line will be new. Senior Irv Spencer and junior Clint Sovie will be two of the linebackers, while three Matts seniors Matt Humiston and Matt Wimsatt and sophomore Matt Nechak will battle for the other spot.

All my friends read and talk about these preseason college football magazines, and all you read is right next to Navy’s defense it says, ‘Uh oh,’ Sovie said. We’re definitely underdogs before the season even starts.

There is experience in the secondary, but things are far from settled. Rashawn King, who started 10 games at corner last year, still is recovering from shoulder surgery and could miss the opening game of the season Aug. 31 at Temple.

Senior free safety Jeff Deliz is the team’s defensive captain and has plenty of experience as the team’s nickel back.

A lot of those guys over there haven’t played yet, but having been here and going into our sixth season, we’ve got guys who can run better that are a little bigger, a little faster, coach Paul Johnson said. We’ve got personnel on defense they just don’t have a lot of experience.

There certainly are fewer questions on offense for the Mids, who return plenty of firepower from a group that led the nation in rushing a season ago and averaged more than 28 points a game.

Kaheaku-Enhada started the final six games of the season. Senior fullback Adam Ballard led the team with 792 rushing yards, but his season was marred by injuries. Junior Eric Kettani saw significant action in three games and proved to be a capable replacement to Ballard.

The top three slotbacks from last season also are back. Senior Reggie Campbell had 706 yards on the ground, led the team in receiving yards, handled the majority of the kickoffs and was a gunner on the punt coverage team. He will add offensive captain and primary punt returner to his resume this year.

Senior Zerbin Singleton started every game last year because of his blocking prowess and rushed for 71 yards on six carries against Boston College. Junior Shun White averaged 12.0 yards a carry and topped 100 against Temple and Boston College.

Two-year starter Antron Harper will move from guard to center and will be expected to anchor the line.

Should they amass at least six wins, the Mids will play in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego for the second time in three years. Navy has won four straight against Air Force and five against Army, and keeping the Commander-In-Chief’s trophy in Annapolis for a fifth straight year is atop the list of goals.

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