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StarBulletin.com

Navy defense in limelight


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POSTED: Thursday, December 10, 2009

PHILADELPHIA » For the past few seasons, linebacker Ross Pospisil and his Navy defensive teammates merely shadowed the triple option.

That's because head coach Ken Niumatalolo, and Paul Johnson before these past two seasons, tortured the Mids' opponents with that devastating and lethal option. Perennially, Navy was among the top rushing schools in the country. It has continued that high level of production with current quarterback Ricky Dobbs.

During endless practice sessions, Pospisil and his mates tracked the option, but never paid serious attention. Now, the option offense is front and center, and Navy, having practiced against this offense, must now defend.

Navy faces Army on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field here, and the Black Knights have implemented the triple option, meaning the Middies must defend it in more than just practice. Army coach Rich Ellerson, who played at Hawaii and served as an assistant with Johnson for the Rainbow Warriors in the early 1990s, incorporated the option into his offense.

“;There are so many reads to the option,”; Pospisil said. “;First, I need to read the line, then read the quarterback, then read the running backs, then read who's in the slot, and after a while, it can be a challenge. I'll get to a point where I'll say to myself, 'Turn off your brain and just run.' “;

A leader on defense, the senior tops the Mids in tackles with 48 solos and 43 assists along with 2 1/2 sacks for 17 yards, and looks to increase his production level this week. After graduation, the 6-foot, 227-pounder heads to the Marine Corps as a pilot.

For now, his focus remains on figuring out Army's challenging offense.

The Army ground game, effective last season. changed from a year ago, and the transformation represents Ellerson's approach to the option. Last year, the Black Knights employed a strong ground game, but the core was running back Colin Mooney, who set a school record for rushing yards in a season (1,339).

While the Army offense still moves on the ground, the emphasis is more than one-dimensional, notes Pospisil.

With the current option, freshman quarterback Trent Steelman represents the cornerstone, and he has picked up a net of 690 yards on 191 carries and five touchdowns. As a team, Army averages 212.1 yards per game and is 14th in the nation in rushing.

“;(The Army option) has different wrinkles and they disguise formations well,”; Pospisil said. “;If you don't read your keys properly, their offense can be confusing.”;

Unlike the Navy option, which tends to rely essentially on the running game, Army can throw off of their option. Steelman has completed 47 of 90 passes for 560 yards and three touchdowns and his passing efficiency rating stands at 113.3.

Still, Pospisil is focused on the option, and preparing to put Navy in position for its eighth straight win over Army in this storied series.

“;It's important that we pick up vital keys,”; he added. “;We need to be ready for a few different things they might give us on any particular play.”;