The Ole Miss football program is trying to re-establish their reputation on the defensive side of the ball with newly-hired defensive coordinators DJ Durkin and Chris Partridge. And now they have welcomed in a second transfer in as many days with the addition of Navy outside linebacker/safety Jacob Springer.
The Kansas City, Mo. native signed with Navy in the 2017 class as a receiver. The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder chose the Midshipmen over notable offers from Army, Colgate, North Dakota State, and South Dakota State.
Springer chose to transfer to Ole Miss over notable interest from Illinois, Memphis, Michigan, Missouri, Notre Dame, Texas, Wisconsin, UCLA among several others.
At Navy, Springer quickly made the switch to defense and thrived. The newest Rebel made 102 tackles in two years as a starter in Annapolis, collecting eight sacks, defending four passes, forcing three fumbles, and snagging two interceptions.
The former Navy linebacker told me that Chris Partridge contacted him and quickly made It clear that Ole Miss wanted him.
“The SEC carries real weight and I’m ready to put my game on that stage,” Springer said. “I’m looking forward to playing for Coach (DJ) Durkin, Coach (Lane) Kiffin, as well as Coach (Chris) Partridge, and the rest of the staff.”
He played a ‘striker’ position under Navy defensive coordinator Brian Newberry, which is a hybrid spot created simply for a pure athlete to eat up the opposing offense. Intended to be able to drop back in coverage or cover a tight end across the middle in man pass coverage, drop down on a receiver or play the last line of defense in zone pass coverage, and step up into a gap against the run, a ‘striker’ sits somewhere between a strong-side linebacker and a roaming safety.
“This is the same type of defense I played in at navy, so I’m ready to step in off the jump and get after it,” Springer said. “I know the players there are all top athletes and I’m ready to compete.”
Springer was third in tackles for Navy with 70 in 2019 and earned Second-Team All-AAC honors. His best two games last season came against top-20 Notre Dame where he made 10 tackles and South Florida when he had seven tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble.
He was a key cog in Newberry’s new defensive schemes at Navy and did not disappoint, leading Navy in both tackles for loss (16) and sacks (8).
His former defensive coordinator had some pleasant things to say about him after news broke that he was entering the transfer portal back in March.
“Springer is a high football IQ type of guy who understands and processes things very well,” Newberry said earlier this year. “I think Springer can be a lot better. We need Springer to be more of a leader. Jacob needs to practice at a higher level. There were times when I didn’t think he played hard enough, and there were times when he was out of position.”
Springer was a huge part of Navy’s defense, helping them to a 7-1 record in the AAC West, an 11-2 overall record, a Liberty Bowl victory over Kansas State, and a final ranking of 23rd.
Springer will have to sit out the 2020 season due to the NCAA never voting on the one-time transfer rule and won’t be eligible until the 2021 season. He will have two years to play one once he arrives In Oxford.
How does he fit in?
Off the top, Springer has elite size and strength at any level of college football. 6-foot-1 is the ideal size for a safety and suits him well as an outside linebacker. As a Midshipman, all 206 pounds are pure muscle. While his position in Oxford is to be determined, the intangibles are there and the on-field skills come with them.
When the ball is snapped, Springer is a hard-hitting hawk. His vision is impeccable and he has an uncanny ability to instinctually identify the play before it happens. Once he gets ahead of the pass or jumps on a running lane, his quick responsiveness allows him to cut back up field and close hard on the tackle.
Whether sticking with a receiver over the middle on a deep ball, or rushing around the tackle on a defensive stunt, Springer is fast. To be recruited as a wide receiver in a triple-option offense at Navy, you have to be speedy. To turn that athleticism around to the other side of the ball is truly an athletic specimen to behold.
His twitchy feet stay grounded, patient and firm. When the opportunity comes to pounce, Springer jumps out in front and makes plays that stagnant linebackers could not.
Ole Miss is lacking depth at the linebacker and safety position so while Springer does fill that void, it can be fully expected that he will start.
In addition, Durkin coaches a ‘multiple’ style defense. His base play-calls come out of either a 4-3, 3-4, or 3-3-5 front, but he will throw a lot of different looks at the opposing offense. Springer epitomizes a ‘multiple’ defense, in that he could play an edge rusher in 4-3/3-4 looks, a nickel defensive back between the second and third levels of a 3-3-5 look, or a traditional strong safety deep in any formation.
Springer’s active, proactive athleticism cannot be understated and his decision to transfer is a big get for a program undergoing a defensive transition. He really is that good.