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Academy Football 2016 Head to Head Comparison - Linebackers

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GoBlackKnights.com continues its look at how the Army Black Knights stacks up against the Air Force Falcons and Navy Midshipmen on a unit by unit basis with a look at the linebackers. Fortunately, all three academies normally employ a 3-4 defense, making direct comparison easier, although Bateman will often substitute a nickel defensive backs for one of the linebackers (SAM) against a passing team.

BLACK KNIGHTS LINEBACKERS

Probable Starters (per most recent depth chart)

MIKE: Andrew King, Sr. 6-0, 246 lbs, elected a co-captain of this year’s team. Started all 12 games in 2015 and had 11 starts in 2014. Tied for the team lead in tackles with 92 in 2015 and led the team with 16.5 tackles for loss and sacks with 4.5. He also recovered two fumbles. King is on the Lott IMPACT watch list for 2016 and was recently named to the Bronco Nagurski Trophy watch list.

WILL: Jeremy Timpf, Sr. 6-1, 225 lbs, begins his second year as a co-captain, having started every game in the past two years. Timpf led the team in tackles in 2014 with 102 including 14.5 TFLs and tied with King for most tackles in 2015 at 92 including 5 TFLs. Timpf tied for second on the team in Interceptions in 2014 with 3 and added an INT and a forced fumble in 2015. Timpf was named to the Bednarik Award watch list in 2014.

RUSH: Bayle Wolf, Jr. 6-0, 221 lbs, appeared in 6 games with 5 starts in 2015 but was hobbled with injuries the last half of the season. Wolf was credited with 29 tackles, including 4 TFLs and had 1 forced fumble.

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Kenneth Brinson, So. 6-2, 225 lbs, became one of two direct report plebes to work their way into the starting lineup. The former Rivals 3-star prospect appeared in every game, with six starts and contributed 19 tackles including 3.5 TFLs and 0.5 sacks. He also recovered a blocked punt and returned it for a 21 yard TD.

SAM: Alex Aukerman, Jr. 6-1, 218 lbs, was recruited as a safety, but converted to OLB as a direct report plebe. Aukerman played in all 12 games as a member of special teams and had 1 tackle in 2014. He appeared in all 12 games in 2015 with 6 starts and contributed 35 tackles, including 3 TFLs and recovered one fumble.

Competitors for Playing Time

Linebacker is one of the deepest units on the Black Knights depth chart and there are several young LBs who will be competing for an opportunity to play.

MIKE: Scott Washle, Jr. 6-1, 238 lbs, enters his third year as the principle understudy to Andrew King. Washle appeared in 8 games with one start vs AFA in 2014 and was credited with 18 tackles. He played 6 games and contributed 10 tackles in 2015.

SAM: Gibby Gibson, So. 6-1, 200 lbs, a Rivals 3 star recruit at safety, was moved to OLB and appeared in 10 games with 1 start vs Rutgers in 2015. He was credited with 4 total tackles. Gibson was used as the nickel back in spring practice; so we expect to see Gibson in the lineup more against passing teams.

WILL: Calen Holt, So. 6-0, 210 lbs, saw action in all 12 games as a plebe and was major contributor on kick coverage with 6 total tackles.

RUSH: James Nachtigal, So. 6-0, 205 lbs, adds additional depth to what is already a deep unit. Nachtigal appeared in 12 games on special teams but did not figure statistically.

AIR FORCE LINEBACKERS

Air Force lost two of the original starters, Connor Healy (7 starts) and Dexter Walker (5 starts) from their linebacker unit, but still return ample experience in each position.

Probable Starters

ILB: Claude Alexander, Sr. 6-1, 225 lbs, appeared in 13 games with 7 starts in 2015 and was credited with 60 tackles, including 10.5 TFLs. and 4.0 Sacks.

ILB: Patrick Healy, Sr. 6-1, 225 lbs, is the younger brother of Connor Healy, and appeared in 10 games last season with 5 starts. He had 42 tackles, including 1.5 TFLs and 1 sack. He also forced 2 fumbles and recovered one. Played in 11 games with 5 tackles in 2014.

OLB: Jacob Onyechi, Sr. 6-1, 195 lbs, appeared in 12 games with 6 starts last season, and contributed 25 tackles, including 4.0 TFLs and had 1 recovered fumble and a blocked kick. Played in 12 games with 1 start in 2014 and recorded 17 tackles.

OLB: DJ Dunn, Sr. 6-3, 240 lbs, started 8 games in 2015, making 52 tackles with 6 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. For reasons unknown to us, Dunn is not listed on the current official roster, and we’re not sure what to make of this.

Competitors for Playing Time

ILB: Grant Ross, Sr. Moved up from JV to appear in all 14 games with 6 starts in 2015. Credited with 61 tackles including 5.0 TFLs and 1.5 Sacks.

OLB: Ryan Watson, Sr. 6-3, 230 lbs, appeared in all 14 games, with 25 tackles, including 5.0 TFLs and 3.5 sacks and was credited with 1 forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Assessment: In the absence of a post-spring depth chart, we have to speculate about Calhoun’s plans for the coming season. None of the linebackers was among the top 4 tacklers for AFA last season and they were overshadowed by the play of their strong safety, Weston Steelhammer.

NAVY LINEBACKERS

Navy returns all four starting linebackers from last year, making it the most experienced unit on their team.

Probable Starters (per most recent depth chart)

MIKE: Micah Thomas, Jr. 6-1, 249 lbs, started all 13 games there last year. Recorded 68 tackles, including 2.5 TFLs. Appeared in 6 games on special teams in 2014 with 2 tackles.

SAM: Daniel Gonzales, Sr, 6-2, 240 lbs, elected co-captain by his teammates for the 2016 season is the veteran of the unit. Gonzalez has started 24 games in his three years, including 21 straight contests. Was the team’s fourth-leading tackler in 2015 with 65, including 4.0 tackles for loss, and also contributed a pass breakup, an interception and forced a fumble. He was second on the team in tackles in 2014 with 86, and also contributed 3 INTs.

RAID: D.J. Palmore, Jr. 6-3, 236 lbs, started all 13 contests in 2015 and was credited with 36 tackles, including 5.0 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. He also recovered two fumbles and broke up a pass. Appeared in 5 games with 7 tackles in 2014.

STR: Josiah Powell, Sr. 6-3, 224 lbs, saw action in all 13 games with 7 starts including six of the final nine games. Credited with 29 tackles, including 4.0 tackles for loss and 1 sack.

Competitors for Playing Time

Listed below are the players listed as backups at LB on the current Navy depth chart:

MIKE: Hudson Sullivan, So. 6-2, 220 lbs, appeared in 5 games, mostly on special teams, with no tackles.

SAM: Mike Kelly, Sr, 6-1, 230 lbs, appeared in 13 games with 3 starts. Credited with 22 tackles, including 1.5 TFLs.

RAID: Ted Colburn, Sr. 6-3, 230 lbs, saw action in 12 of the 13 games, with 3 starts. Credited with 25 tackles, including 2.0 TFLs and a sack. Also had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Played in 6 games on special teams in 2014.

STR: Brandon Jones, Jr. 6-4, 225 lbs, Appeared in 11 games with 1 start and was credited with 18 tackles, including 2.0 TFLs and a half sack in 2015. Played in 11 games on special teams in 2014 and posted 9 tackles.

Advantage - Army

Led by the two senior co-captains, King and Timpf, with 47 starts between them, and 7 linebackers in the two-deep with at least one career start, Army features its best crop of linebackers in recent history. King and Timpf have both garnered national recognition by being named to watch lists. Aukerman and Wolf are solid OLBs and many Army fans believe that Kenneth Brinson has the talent to surpass all of them in the future. Gibson adds an element of versatility to the unit with his ability to fill the nickel back position as well, which we believe will improve coverage up the middle.

The linebacker units at Navy and AFA should be strong as well with Navy returning a bit more experience than the unit at AFA. All three academies appear to have more success recruiting talented linebackers than some of the other positions with height and weight characteristics typical of linebackers in other FBS programs.

Best Opportunity for an Incoming Plebe: Last season, Army fans saw two Rivals 3-stars earn starting assignments in the linebacker unit, but with all the experience and depth, this year’s crop of LB recruits is more likely to prove their worth on special teams for a year. Ryan Parker (Rivals 5.4) is the highest rated of the 13 incoming plebe linebackers, although 7 linebackers came in from USMAPS with an added year of experience.

Both Navy and AFA have less depth at linebacker, but we wouldn’t expect to see any plebes bump anyone out of the starting lineup at either of our sister academies. Navy has 10 linebackers on their list of incoming plebes, with the highest rated, Rahn Bailey coming from NAPS with a 5.4 Rivals rating.

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