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CFN Preview 2013 - Navy Midshipmen
The consistent success is starting to pay off, and the winning seasons are starting to pile up. So now what?
Navys production since 2003 has become so routing, so expected and so commonplace that a 5-7 2011 was cause for fire alarms to go off and a reassessment of how things were supposed to be done. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo demanded a more physical, tougher team, and while thats not exactly what came through last season with a porous run defense and the typical big plays on the outside from the running game, at least the production and the wins came back. Now the program has the fun of knowing its off to the Big East or the American Athletic, to you in 2015 and it knows that the machine is going to keep on rolling.
As always, the offense has speedy runners in the backfield and an option wizard at quarterback to conduct it all. As always, the receivers will get deep once or twice a game and hit on the big play, and as always, the offensive line is quick, efficient and effective.
As always, the defense is going to make plenty of big hits and will always keep the motor running, but, as always, the production isnt going to be there against the better offensive teams. And, as always, the coaching will be top-notch and there will be a trip to a bowl game, making it ten in 11 years.
Navy is already locked in to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl if it gets to six wins, and it has an 11-game winning streak over Army whats there to shoot for now?
Another bowl and another win over Army.
Consistency isnt a problem for Navy, and complacency isnt a problem, either. It might not seem exciting to go into a season knowing that 6-to-9 wins are coming, along with a bowl trip to Fort Worth, but keep in mind that football isnt exactly Priority One at a place like the Naval Academy. These players arent necessarily FBS-caliber across the board, and on talent, no one is doing more with less.
And considering the program had just two winning seasons from 1983 to 1996, bowl games and winning seasons and beating Army are never boring.
What to watch for on offense: Using the receivers. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Navy should probably throw more, but it wont. Neither will Georgia Tech and neither will Army, but the Midshipmen manage to get the ball down the field efficiently and effectively more than most teams. In receivers Casey Bolena, Shawn Lynch and Matt Aiken, there are some decent receivers in place to try cranking up some big plays down the field on a regular basis. Leading receiver Brandon Turner is gone, but as long as the veteran targets can rise up and produce once or twice a game, everything else will fall into place.
What to watch for on defense: The rotation up front. Unlike Air Force and Army, Navy actually has a little bit of bulk on the depth chart three-deep and can rotate players around a little bit more and actually have a little size in the interior. It didnt matter much last year with little to no pass rush theres always little to no pass rush at Navy and the run defense wasnt exactly a rock and didnt hold up well. The linebacking corps will clean up most of the messes, but more than anything else, if the front three can stay fresh against the weaker teams and hold its own, the defense will be far better.
The team will be far better if The defense came up with more big stops. The D isnt going to stuff anyones running game and its almost never going to be a rock against the high-octane passers, so this needs to be a group that bends, but finishes with a takeaway. While the 11 recovered fumbles on the season were nice, six of them came against the other two service academies when they kept screwing up on their own. The three against Air Force were the only ones over the first seven games, and while there was a fumble recovery in each of the last seven games, the interceptions didnt come with just one over the final five.
The schedule: Its not too bad with just four games at Indiana, at Duke, Pitt and at Notre Dame against BCS-caliber opponents. However, even with a week off to prepare, the road date at Western Kentucky wont be a picnic and going to Toledo will be tough. The midsection is rough with three road games in four weeks going to Duke and Toledo before hosting Pitt and going to Notre Dame, but the finishing kick isnt bad with Hawaii, South Alabama, at San Jose State and the annual date with Army to close out strong.
Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Keenan Reynolds. He took over early on last season and turned into an immediate star. Hes not going to become Tom Brady and wing it all around the yard, but he can hit the deep ball just enough to stretch a defense and keep the pressure off the ground game. Ultra-quick, he fits the Navy quarterback mold and should lead the team in rushing touchdowns, but with a year under his belt, he should also do a strong job making sure everyone in the option gets the ball in their hands on the move.
Best defensive player: Junior CB Parrish Gaines. The secondary should be a positive, and it all starts with him. At 6-2 and 196 pounds, hes built like a free safety with great range and nice tackling ability. However, hes just quick enough to handle himself at corner and lock down the right side of the field. While he only came up with two picks and two broken up passes, he also made 69 stops and proved to be a key last line of defense in the open field.
Key player to a successful season: Junior NG Danny Ring. Theres no real pass rush and holding up against the power teams is a problem, but the 6-2, 260-pound Ring is quick off the ball and has proven to be a nice, solid all-around interior presence. Undersized, he needs the help of 303-pound Bernard Sarra and 302-pound Barry Dabney to fill the middle, but hes a leader and a productive player to work around.
The season will be a success if Navy wins nine games, and one of them is against Army. Eight regular season wins isnt asking for the world with the road game at Notre Dame the only certain loss and road games at Indiana and Duke both winnable. If the Midshipmen lose at IU, at Toledo and to Pitt and Notre Dame, the can still be good enough to win the rest of the games and go on to come up with a bowl victory for a nice step forward from last seasons 8-5 campaign.
Key game: Sept. 7 at Indiana. The Hoosiers should be improved and wont just roll over against decent non-conference opponents anymore, but theyre still not going to be able to play a lick of run defense. If Navy can come out hot and come up with the win in the opener, it should be relatively smooth sailing for a while with Duke the next BCS team up in mid-October and Pitt and Notre Dame the only other big leaguers left to play