The 8-5 Navy Midshipmen have a favorable schedule to match their 2012 win total this year. With at least nine of their 12 regular-season games on national television we will see Navy up close more often than most teams in the country. The Middies didn’t do very well with the spotlight casting on them a year ago losing their first two tussles 50-10 to Notre Dame and 34-7 at Penn State along with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 62-28 to Arizona State.
Navy was also shutout 12-0 by San Jose State at home. Seven times the Midshipmen broke the 27-point plateau once in overtime at the Air Force Academy 28-21. Navy’s offense may need some tough love from head coach Ken Niumatalolo who has a defensive-first mentality. Defense can only win you so many games when your offense does squat. However don’t expect senior wide receivers Matt Aiken, Casey Bolena and Shawn Lynch to suddenly make a number of catches. Expect sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds to run the option a lot as the Middies will go offensively as their rushing attack goes which means a carousel of running backs junior Noah Copeland, junior Quinton Singleton and sophomore Chris Swain getting repetitions.
That said Navy may try to play keep away which means it will be critical that the defense is able to stop the opposition consistently in case the offense plays hot potato with the football. Depth is not an issue for the Midshipmen, but individual strength is. Forcing 11 turnovers last season was a good statistic until you realize Air Force and Army handed it over to Navy five times, often on boneheaded play calls. The best group could be the secondary which brings back junior cornerback Parrish Gaines. Junior nose guard Danny Rings however could be the best defensive player altogether.
The Middies have an array of specialists they’ll rely on. It’s expected sophomore placekicker Nick Sloan and junior punter Pablo Beltran Jr. will be held responsibly for the kicking this season. Aiken and Lynch should see ample reps punt returning while the kickoff returners are slated to be RBs senior Marcus Thomas and junior Geoffrey Whiteside.
Navy’s schedule on paper looks like a cinch with games at Indiana, at Duke, at San Jose State, Delaware, Hawaii, South Alabama and Army on the schedule. I’m not saying the Midshipmen will win all seven of those contests, but do see them taking a majority of those and possibly a couple others. In the end another eight-victory season seems to be the limit for run-scheming Navy who just had two winning years between 1983 and 1996.