Anne Arundel products Tyler Collins, Jacob Williams bring local flavor to Navy men’s soccer program

Navy Soccer - #10, forward Jacob Williams controlling the ball while warding off defensive pressure.

One of Tim O’Donohue’s goals when he took over as Navy men’s soccer coach was to boost local recruiting. He figured players in the D.C., Maryland and northern Virginia region would welcome the opportunity to attend the Naval Academy, and he was right.

“Of course, we want to travel all over the country and find the best players because the Naval Academy is a national brand,” O’Donohue said. “At the same time this DMV area has such a great soccer community. There are a lot of great players locally.”


In light of that goal, Tyler Collins was a signature recruit. The Crofton resident was the first prospect to commit to Navy during O’Donohue’s tenure and it was significant that he was from the immediate area.

O’Donohue had scouted Collins when he played at Mount St. Joseph and for the Baltimore Celtic club team and saw a developing defender with lots of room to grow.


“We knew we needed to get more athletic in the back and just felt Tyler had so much potential,” O’Donohue said.

Collins gave Navy a verbal commitment during the fall of his junior year of high school then proceeded to improve by leaps and bounds.

“Tyler just got better and better. During his senior season at Mount St. Joseph, you could tell Tyler was going to become a special player,” O’Donohue said.

Not too long after landing Collins, the Navy coaching staff set its sights on another local product with a high ceiling. Old Mill High forward Jacob Williams was another off-the-radar prospect whose speed and athletic ability foretold a promising future.

The Millersville native also committed to the Midshipmen as a junior then saw his stock rise considerably as well. While playing for the Baltimore Armour club team, Williams ranked top five in scoring among players competing in the Development Academy.

“We knew before Tyler and Jacob arrived that we had two players who would really help us,” O’Donohue said. “It’s really amazing to find two all-conference players within 20 miles of the academy.”

Midfielder Sam Kriel from Severna Park High is another member of the Navy recruiting class of 2018. O’Donohue added another Baltimore-area player the following year in defender Tait Thorne from McDonogh.

“In talking to recruits within 30 miles, they understand the honor of attending the Naval Academy. I think we have a real advantage in getting some of the top local players,” O’Donohue said.


Collins and Williams are key members of a junior class that has helped lift Navy men’s soccer to new heights. Matt Nocita, who was recently chosen Patriot League Defender of the Year for the second straight season, is also a junior.

Collins and Williams joined Nocita as first team All-Patriot League picks following this abbreviated spring season. They were among seven Midshipmen recognized by the conference, including Rookie of the Year David Jackson.

Navy (4-1-1) will need those players and many more to perform at a high level when it meets archrival Army (2-3-1) on Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.) at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. This is the ninth installment of what has become known as the Army-Navy Cup and is part of the Star series presented by USAA.

While Navy leads the overall series 40-30-16, it has won just two of the last eight meetings. The Midshipmen, who were eliminated from the Patriot League Tournament via a tiebreaker, thought their season was over.

However, it was announced last week the Army-Navy match would indeed be played, enabling the team to continue practicing. O’Donohue estimated the Midshipmen have completed 110 training sessions during the 2020-2021 academic year while only playing six games.

“I’m really happy for the players that they’re getting to play this game. It’s a great event and I know they’re excited about the opportunity to beat Army,” he said.


Williams was also named first team All-Patriot League as a sophomore after leading Navy with 18 points on seven goals and four assists. The 5-foot-8, 155-pounder was Patriot League Rookie of the Year and a second team selection after leading the Mids with eight goals.

Williams only scored one goal this season, in the season finale at American – a game that ended in a 1-1 draw. He led the Midshipmen with 13 shots in six games and now has 16 career goals.

“Jacob is the type of offensive player that, even if he doesn’t score, you have to pay attention to. He’s just so dangerous,” O’Donohue said. “If you scout Navy, you see that Jacob is always making things happen. He’s always at the top of the opponent’s scouting report.”

Williams plays the right wing in Navy’s typical 4-2-3-1 formation. He is one of two strikers when the Mids change the alignment.

“Jacob is a very athletic, very technical type of player that can create for his teammates,” O’Donohue said.

Williams was in quarantine for almost 30 days at one point during the spring semester despite never testing positive for coronavirus. He was repeatedly caught up in contact tracing, O’Donohue said.


“Jacob’s spring was really disrupted. He wasn’t fully fit until the American game. It’s a shame because he was coming into form right at the end,” O’Donohue said. “Jacob is just a natural scorer and I think he’s going to have a really big senior season. I think it’s a realistic goal for Jacob to lead the league in scoring with 14 or 15 goals.”

Navy junior defender Tyler Collins is a Crofton resident.

Collins is a powerful, effective defender who has played in the shadow of Nocita, a 6-foot-8 force of nature. However, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has made his own impact by starting 37 games and logging 3,088 minutes over the past three seasons.

“Tyler has been overshadowed a bit by Matt. That is why I was so happy to see him get first team all-league,” O’Donohue said. “Those two make quite a tandem back there and are kind of like peanut butter and jelly.”

Remarkably, Collins and Nocita only played two games together this spring because of separate absences due to coronavirus protocols.

“Tyler is very athletic and has gotten so much better technically since coming into the program. His passing and ability to distribute the ball are vastly improved,” O’Donohue said.

O’Donohue said Collins has the highest vertical leap of any player on the team, giving him the ability to rise above the opposition for head balls. O’Donohue called him a “natural leader” and a “real anchor” in the backfield.


“Tyler is just very reliable as a defender. He’s developed into a very steady, consistent player and a calming presence in the back,” O’Donohue said. “He’s a very intelligent player who reads the game really well. Mentally, Tyler has taken his game to the next level.”