Take a look, if you will, at today’s dead-tree edition pseudo-notebook, which leads with Navy senior Keegan Wetzel‘s attempt to follow the likes of Craig Schaefer (2009) and Jerry Hauburger (2010) as successful one-year starters at outside linebacker.
Part of the legwork on the story included chatting with outside linebackers coach Tony Grantham, who delved into the two positions under his direction beyond (though starting with) Wetzel) …
1. You’ve had your share of guys who have been veterans who have stepped in as one-year starters. How has Keegan looked so far this year? I know he missed a fair bit of time last year with that concussion.
TG: He was a little banged up last year, but he’s a guy who’s been in the program now for four years. He’s a guy that is a very smart football player. He understands concepts. He takes a lot of pride in his work. He’s a very tough-minded kid. He really does a great job in the classroom with the guys with being a leader. He’s done a great job to this point, and we’re expecting big things out of him this year.
2. How has Chris Johnson settled in after getting elevated to a starting role early in camp?
TG: I’m very excited about Chris. Chris was a guy in the spring who I thought had a pretty good spring and he did it on a broken foot. He kind of came out of nowhere. We really didn’t know where he would fit in the puzzle when we came to fall camp. He has really taken it and ran with it and separated himself from the pack. He’s a very long guy, very athletic, has got a great burst. Underneath coverage skills are outstanding. He understands the concepts of what we’re trying to do with our defensive calls. He’s been a pleasant surprise and we’re really excited about him for this season.
3. Jordan Drake’s at that spot, too. What sort of camp has he had for you?
TG: Jordan’s been a little banged up. He’s fighting through some things right now, but Jordan’s a guy who has a lot of great upside. He’s a guy who’s a flip guy; he can play either side. Chris is more the Striker type, so Jordan’s going to have to learn both positions, be able to get our best guys on the field to keep our guys fresh. That’s kind of a goal of what we’re trying to do right now, so that when it’s the fourth quarter and teams are trying to throw the ball to win the game, we can get fresh guys out there maybe to rush the passer or get the guys in the coverage aspect.
4. You guys have gone two weeks here without Josh Tate, but if and when he gets back next week, how do you see him factoring in or will it be a while before he can realistically do that?
TG: When he gets back, we’ll worry about it. We’re not concerned about that right now.
5. Who are some younger guys we maybe haven’t seen or heard from before?
TG: Obi Uzoma, he’s a guy who has a tremendous amount of upside for us. He’s a big kid, about 230 pounds, about 6-foot-2. He’s a guy that can be an edge rusher for us. He’s also a guy that can convert and play with some power. I’m very excited about him
A.K. Akpunku is a plebe. He is very similar in build to Obi. Another guy who’s very raw. He’s got a lot of tremendous potential. He’s very strong. He plays with a lot of power. The upside is tremendous on him as well
5b. Seeing him out here, he does not look the part of a typical plebe [at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds].
TG: Yes. We have a couple guys that look different than the guys we’ve had in the past. That’s enabled us to move a Brye French or a Cody Peterson back inside and kind of help us with the depth in there a little bit. We’re very excited about it and we’ll see what happens as we get going.
—- Patrick Stevens