The tradition of winning that started under Paul Johnson appears to be intact under Ken Niumatadolo as the Midshipmen continue to post victories. Navy has gone to eight consecutive Bowl games and has won at least eight games per year over this stretch. The Midshipmen return only ten starters from a season ago but having watched their option attack I’m convinced the system is almost interchangeable with the personal they have. If my theory is correct than the Middies will once again find a way to post another successful campaign.
The biggest issue facing the coaching staff is finding an able bodied replacement for Ricky Dobbs who was the distributor of the football, a productive runner and the occasional passer. Kriss Procter will try to fill the void with much of his experience coming when Dobbs was on the sideline nursing injuries. With eight starters back Procter won’t be required to carry the load himself especially with a capable rushing attack that features Alexander Teich, Gee Gee Greene and Aaron Santiago. The receiving corps are generally relegated to blocking or acting as decoys so it’s tough to say what we’ll see from this group until they lace them up. The offensive line always seems to be a quality group that benefits from knowing their job is to clear the way for whoever is running the ball.
The Navy defense doesn’t have a ton of experience and in fact has only three starters back. The Midshipmen not only depend on their offense to score but to control the clock to help keep an undersized unit off the field as much as possible. Jabaree Tuani is the only player back on a line that allowed more than 165 rushing yards in ‘10. The line backing crew is also short on experience with the entire group lost to graduation. The group penciled in has around eleven games started between them. The secondary has been depleted as well with one player back so the defense as a whole appears to be more vulnerable than it has in recent years but it’s important to note that Navy is no stranger to losing talent but were not a shutdown unit anyway.
Navy won’t be at the top of any list when it comes to special teams with Jon Teague in his first year as place kicker. Justin Haan is also a first year punter with the extent of his playing time coming from holding for field goals and PAT’s. The return game is also open with little experience back which is not a big worry considering the punt returners managed just 109 total yards a season ago.
Navy doesn’t have much experience back but that’s a trend that Niumatalolo has been accustomed to with 12 starters back being the most he has had in three years at the helm. I still believe the Middies will be a tough foe with their option attack that will still be effective but the defense is suspect and to expect a repeat of last season’s nine win campaign might be a tad optimistic.