Diego Fagot was home-schooled while growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. However, he was allowed to play sports for Calvary Christian Academy and was a four-year letterman in football – earning All-State selection three times.
Fagot was named the Broward-Dade County Male Athlete of the Year in both football and track and field as a senior. He captured consecutive Class 2A state championships in the shot put and also found time to play baseball.
Fagot has shown early in August training camp that he could make an impact for the Navy football team as a freshman. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound linebacker was recently moved to the raider position and is already challenging for a spot on the depth chart.
“We just moved Diego to raider a few days ago and I think he’s made a move to be the No. 2 guy there,” Navy defensive coordinator Dale Pehrson said on Saturday. “Diego is real aggressive, has good instincts and runs to the football. He’s just a really good football player. He has a ton to learn, but has a chance physically to be a pretty good player.”
Nizaire Cromartie, a converted defensive end, is solidly entrenched as the starter at raider. Cromartie moved prior to spring practice and performed well at a position that has evolved into a combination of run stopper and pass rusher. In Navy’s current 3-4 defensive alignment, the raider does not drop into pass coverage as much, but must be capable of doing so.
Junior Carter Bankston and senior Tory Delmonico were listed second and third on the preseason depth chart at raider. Fagot is threatening to jump right over both those veterans.
Jarren Jasper, son of Navy Football Offensive Coordinator Ivin Jasper and Donna Jasper, underwent a heart transplant and gives an update on his condition.
Fagot was at the top of the list of young players Pehrson said have been showing up two weeks into preseason camp. Following Saturday morning’s practice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the veteran defensive coordinator did a quick review of the depth chart and mentioned a few up and comers.
Defensive end Jackson Perkins is a player who was not on the depth chart coming into August camp, but could be now. The rangy 6-foot-6, 241-pounder out of Barrington High in Illinois is figuring things out and making plays.
“Perkins is doing a really nice job. He’s starting to play fast and with lower pads. He’s beginning to understand what is going on,” Pehrson said. “He’s tall, has great length and can run pretty good. He loves football and that’s helping move him up.”
Senior Jarvis Polu is a proven commodity at right end, having started 27 straight games and notched 85 tackles over the previous two seasons. Juniors Marcus Edwards and Corbin Heyward were listed Nos. 2 and 3 behind Polu on that side.
“Heyward is growing up and playing much harder, much tougher,” Pehrson said.
Josh Webb entered preseason practice as the starter at left end after appearing in all 13 games as a backup last season. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder is described as Navy’s best pass rusher because of his speed coming off the edge, but sat out spring ball while recovering from off-season surgery.
“Webb is doing a good job as usual. We just have to keep him healthy going into the season,” Pehrson said.
Senior Anthony Villalobos and junior Denzel Polk are the backups behind Webb, but may be getting pushed by Perkins, who had scholarship offers from several Big Ten Conference schools.
“I think that position group is coming together,” Pehrson said. “There are a lot of young ones and they still have a long way to go, but there are some of them that can get where we want them to be.”
Nose guard Jackson Pittman started all 12 games in which he played last season and performed well. The 6-foot-3, 309-pounder did a good job of taking on double-teams and holding the point of attack.
Pehrson feels comfortable spelling Pittman with either sophomore Alema Kapoi or junior Dave Tolentino, who are different in both size and style. Kapoi (6-0, 268) is smaller and quicker while Tolentino (6-2, 301) is bigger and more powerful.
“Depending on the down and distance it would be Tolentino or Kapoi,” Pehrson said when asked who would relieve Pittman. “Alema is doing a really good job. He’s really quick and can move. Tolentino is more of a hold-the-point guy. So we have some choices there depending on down and distance.”
Navy is looking to build its depth at striker, the outside linebacker position that plays primarily a pass coverage role. Junior Elan Nash came on strong toward the end of last season and saw increased playing time after season-long starter Jerry Thompson suffered an injury. Thompson and Justin Norton, who started four games, both graduated.
Sophomore Evan Fochtman moved from quarterback to safety prior to spring camp and opened eyes by delivering some bone-jarring hits. The Archbishop Spalding product, co-winner of the Rhodes Trophy as Anne Arundel County’s top football player in 2016, showed the ability to find the ball and rock the carrier.
Pehrson was impressed enough to shift Fochtman forward one level to striker, where is currently listed as the backup behind Nash. Sophomore Austin Talbert-Loving, a Bowie resident, is third on the depth chart.
“Nash just has more experience than the other guys there so he’s ahead,” Pehrson said. “Fochtman has tremendous athletic ability, but he’s learning.”
Hudson Sullivan and Taylor Heflin appear to have separated from the pack at inside linebacker. Sullivan started six games a year ago and was outstanding before suffering a foot injury. Heflin was one of the top backups in 2017 and recorded 18 tackles.
Griffin Baumoel, the Admiral Mack Award winner as Navy’s most improved player during spring drills, is the backup at MIKE behind Heflin. Fellow sophomore Pepe Tanuvasa is No. 2 at SAM behind Sullivan.
“Baumoel has built off having a great spring and continues to improve. He’s tough with a good nose for the football,” Pehrson said. “Pepe is doing really well and we’re excited about him. You like to have those guys that just love football and I think Pepe is one of those types.”
Navy’s secondary is loaded with veteran players with senior free safety and co-captain Sean Williams leading the way. Jarid Ryan and Khaylan Williams, who entered August camp atop the depth chart, are also seniors. So is Juan Hailey, who is battling sophomore Jake Springer for the starting job at strong safety.
Pehrson said sophomore Micah Farrar is giving Williams all he can handle at one corner position while classmate Cameron Kinley is listed as the backup behind Ryan at the other.
However, a slew of new names are pushing to get on the depth chart with Pehrson mentioning a sophomore and five freshmen.
“Mikie McMorris has really shown some stuff at corner. Tyler Rogers is doing some really nice things, too,” Pehrson said. “Kevin Brennan has done some good things at safety. Mitch West is another guy who has shown up. Marcus Wiggins is growing up and getting better.”