Photo courtesy of Navy athletics

Ole Miss received some good news on Tuesday. Navy linebacker/safety Jacob Springer has decided to come to Oxford.

Reports regarding his eligibility were conflicting at first, though it looks like he will be joining fellow transfer safety Otis Reese in sitting out the 2020 season. The NCAA passed a new redshirt rule in 2018, allowing players who appeared in four games or fewer to keep that year of eligibility. Since Springer appeared in just one game as a freshman, he will have two years to play for Ole Miss.

Where will he play?

Navy ran a base 4-2-5 defense, which some may remember from the Dave Wommack years. The 2014 Landshark defense finished first in the country in points allowed, at just 16 per game. Perhaps the most important position in this scheme is the striker, which is a position Stringer excelled at in 2019 as a Navy starter.

This position was called “husky” at Ole Miss when Mike Hilton wreaked havoc on opposing defenses. D.J. Durkin, the Ole Miss co-defensive coordinator, ran multiple schemes at Maryland, with the 4-3 and 3-4 being the most common. Stringer is listed at 6-foot-1 206 pounds. His body may scream “safety,” but his tape shows he is a linebacker at heart.

Film room

Springer played in 13 games in 2019, so there’s a lot of film to break down for him. We chose to focus on his games against South Florida and Notre Dame, in which he combined for 17 tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble. In the first series against USF alone, Springer was all over the field.

He lined up as an outside linebacker, in the slot covering the flats, and as an inside linebacker to fake a blitz through the B gap. His first sack came from lining up in the slot, then he quickly moved to the line, just outside the right tackle. The tackle recognized his blitz, but he blew past him to get to the passer. This became a trend in his big day against USF. He registered two more sacks against the Bulls in similar fashion.

The Notre Dame game was an entirely different story. Springer spent much of the game on the line of scrimmage in a 2-point stance, going right at the quarterback. The Fighting Irish threw downfield with ease, torching the Navy secondary en route to 52 points. It seemed as if the Navy defensive coordinator did not have confidence in his secondary lining up against the opposing receivers and tight ends, because he sold out to try to pressure the quarterback all game. Despite his team being blown out, Springer had 10 tackles.

Final takeaways

Ole Miss picked up an exceptional athlete in Springer. He’s fast enough to pressure the quarterback on the blitz, but still strong enough to shed blocks and make tackles at the line of scrimmage. He’s not afraid to initiate contact with fullbacks and tight ends.

Much like Hilton, he tackles low and wraps up well. He’s also good at gang tackling and making sure a teammate’s play is finished, which often leads to forced fumbles and tackles for loss. Unless co-coordinators Durkin and Chris Partridge spend the entire 2020 season turning him into a defensive back, Springer will become a key player in stopping the run in 2021 and 2022. Ole Miss has added an excellent piece.