Preview 2017: Navy Midshipmen
Previewing and looking ahead at the Navy season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Navy Offense
As always, Navy is going to run the ball as well as anyone. The pieces will come together, and the attack will operate just like it had 11 starters back. Only four starters return, though, but the Navy way makes sure that the new guys are always ready – ten of the 11 projected starters are upperclassmen.
It all starts up front with just two starters back – more on that in a second – but it’ll be fine with a little bit of time. Chris High is a dangerous fullback who needs the ball more – and has to stay healthy – while Darryl Bonner leads yet another group of 5-9ish speed backs who can make big things happen on the outside.
The receiving corps is along for the ride, but losing Jamir Tillman and his 40 catches will hurt. The top returning wideout – Brandon Colon – caught just six passes, but as always, Navy wideouts will come up with ridiculously high yards-per-catch averages on their few big plays per game.
Zach Abey has the size and skills to be yet another dominant quarterback in the Midshipmen system, and he’s got the upside to add just a little more of a passing element to the mix. That’s always talked about with every new starting quarterback for the Midshipmen, but Abey might really be able to do it.
Biggest Key To The Navy Offense
The left side of the line has to come together. And it will. Andrew Wood is back at tackle and guard Evan Martin returns to the right side, but center Maurice Morris is gone and the left side has to be replaced.
As always, there are veterans who’ve been groomed for a few years ready to step in and produce, but the line has to be a given for an attack that lives and dies on precision.
What You Need To Know About The Navy Defense
The defense gets back seven starters and has decent depth to push for spots. Now the production has to follow.
The Midshipmen were mediocre against the run, disastrous against decent passing teams, and allowed 31 points per game, giving up 27 or more in eight of the final nine games, with the one aberration the 21-17 loss to Army.
Seven of the top eight tacklers are back, with Micah Thomas, Hudson Sullivan and D.J. Palmore back in the linebacking corps. But now they need to start making more big plays behind the line. Palmer did his part, but the defense came up with just 20 sacks and 56 tackles for loss.
The front three has seven size, with a slew of 300-pounders – or close to it – rotating on the nose, while 292-pound Jarvis Polu is a good-sized end. Compared to Army, and most of the time at the service academies, there’s enough bulk to hold up.
Now it’s up to the secondary to be better. It couldn’t come up with enough key stops against the better offenses, but everyone can hit. Now …
Biggest Key To The Navy Defense
The secondary has to come up with more picks. The secondary struggled, allowing 254 yards per game, but more than that, it didn’t come up with enough key stops. The secondary has a few decent options, but no matter what the puzzle, the picks have to come after generating just seven on the year – Navy came up with 12 the year before. Worse yet, Navy didn’t intercept a throw in nine games.
Navy Will Be Far Better If …
The defense can generate a third down stop. The 2015 defense struggled on third downs, too, but the team still held the ball for almost 33 minutes per game. Last year, though, the defensive problems getting off the field mattered more.
The Midshipmen were dead last in the nation in third down conversion percentage, allowing teams to convert 54% of their chances. For a team that has to own the time of possession and grind up the clock, it’s a problem when the D gives up over 300 third downs and can’t get off the field.
Best Navy Offensive Player
QB Zach Abey, Jr. – He’s going to be interesting. While he has the prerequisite quickness to run the Navy attack, he’s 6-2, 212 pounds, and packs a big punch as a runner. Thrown into the starting gig late last year, he did what he could, running for 384 yards and six touchdowns two times with 111 yards against SMU and 114 yards in the bowl loss to Louisiana Tech.
He’s got a good enough passing touch to stretch the field, too. But he has to stay in one piece, and he has to be a statistical superstar for the machine to keep rolling.
2. FB Chris High, Sr.
3. OG Evan Martin, Sr.
4. RB Darryl Bonner, Sr.
5. OT Andrew Wood, Jr.
Best Navy Defensive Player
LB Micah Thomas, Sr. – A 6-1, 249-pound thumper, he’s not your typical try-hard Navy linebacker – he’s built and looks like a real, live Power Five defender. The all-star followed up a 73 tackle season with a team-leading 107 stops wth a sack and three tackles for loss with three broken up passes.
While he’s going to work on the strongside, he’s not necessarily going to be a pass rusher. It’ll be his job to once again hold up against the run, and few in the conference can do that as consistently well.
2. LB D.J. Palmore, Sr.
3. S Sean Williams, Jr.
4. DE Jarvis Polu, Jr.
5. CB Tyris Wooten, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
FB Chris High, Sr. – The 6-0, 224-pounder is a mauler of a runner, cranking out 6.4 yards per carry with 546 hard yards and seven scores. But for his size and toughness, he’s also got just enough speed to hit the home run, taking off for a 70-yard dash in the season opener. He might not be a true workhorse, but he’ll be the one everyone has to stop up the middle, and then the offense will work on the outside.
The Navy Season Will Be A Success If …
Navy wins ten games and it has to … Beat Army. It might take a bowl win to get the job done, and there’s too much turnover to win the conference, but getting to 9-3 before going to the post-season would be terrific.
With road games at Memphis, Temple, Notre Dame and Houston, it’s going to take a few upsets and perfect performances to get there, but it’s Navy. It reloads. And, of course, again … beat Army.
Key Game To The Navy Season
Nov. 24 at Houston – Of course, the Army game is always going to be the key to the season, but in terms of wanting to have any hope of getting back to the American Athletic Championship, beating Houston could be a must to take the West. Going to Memphis will matter, and there are a slew of dangerous battles along the way, but lose to the Cougars, and forget about winning the division.
2016 Navy Fun Stats
– Rushing TDs: Navy 61 – Opponents 23
– Average Yards Per Catch: Navy 19.3 – Opponents 13.3
– Penalties: Opponents 60 for 494 yards – Navy 39 for 341 yards