Friday, May 26, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Navy Midshipmen
Navy finished 9-5 last season, but won the Western Division of the AAC with a 7-1 conference mark, and they find themselves in what I consider to be a three team race for the division title in 2017. The question that I do have about Navy is will the team that started the season 9-2 prevail in 2017, or will the team that ended the season on a three game losing streak, including a loss at Army, come in to play?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
When Navy lost Will Worth to injury last fall, they had to turn to a youngster in Zach Abey to lead the way. Abey, however, was not the passer that Worth was, and the team struggled around him. Abey is someone I am betting on to have learned lessons from being thrown to the fire last fall, and I am looking for a breakthrough from him. There are some talented, yet inexperienced trigger men behind him in Malcolm Perry and Garrett Lewis to step up if Abey cannot retain the job he held at the end of last season.
Chris High was the second leading rusher on the team in 2016 at FB, and is slated to return for the Middies. He only managed to rush for 546 yards, but did score seven times, and averaged 6.42 yards per carry, so he can show some explosion up the gut.
Bennet Mohring did not get a ton of work at the PK spot last fall, but did hit 8/10 FG attempts, and will return.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Although Navy seems to find bodies to replace departed players every year with relative ease, there are concerns to be noted for certain this fall.
The line is missing three starters from last fall, and that is concerning, as they need a new center, and need to replace the entire left side of the line as well. Jake Hawk (LT), Laurent Njiki (LG), and Maurice Morris (C) were all primary backups at those positions last season, and all return. RG Evan Marlin and RT Andrew Wood both return to the fray.
The QB situation may not be as stable as it seems. Abey did not exactly blow the roof off for anyone when he was given the chance after the injury to Worth. He did manage to rush for 76 yards per contest, but his passing skills were not apparent, as he tossed just one scoring pass against five picks, and completed just 57% of his passes.
Even with High returning at FB, there is no depth behind him, and he was listed as the backup on the two deep for the bowl game. Losing both Dishan Romine and Calvin Cass, Jr at the SB position will not be helpful either. Four of the top five rushers are gone from last season, and that is serious production that needs replacing, especially when Worth was worth more than double that they got from anyone else at QB.
Jamir Tillman, the team's leading receiver with 40 receptions, is gone. Not one other receiver had more tan ten receptions last fall. That is a big problem to deal with.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Navy had enough weapons laying about to be able to allow 31 points per game last season, but I do not think the same is true this fall.
The strength up front will be in the LB corps in 2017, as three of four starters return in DJ Palmore, Taylor Heflin, and Micah Thomas. Hudson Sullivan was in direct competition at the end of the season with Heflin, so having him back is a plus as well. Eight total LBs from the season ending three deep all are set to return, giving Navy one of the deepest groups of LBs in the AAC.
All four starting members of the secondary return as well for Navy in 2017. Tyris Wootenand Jarid Ryan both return at CB, and Alohi Goodman and Sean Williams both return to start at Safety. Seven reserves from the season ending three deep all return as well, again, giving Navy considerable depth.
Alex Barta, who averaged well over 42 yards per punt is gone, but there may not be need to worry, as Erik Harris returns as a junior, and averaged 45 yards per punt in six games.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The only issue I see here is on the defensive line. LE Jarvis Polu is the lone returning starter up front in the 3-4 set. The loss of Amos Mason (8.5 TFLs in 2016) will be hard to replace, and NG Patrick Forrestal is gone as well. Sophomore Jackson Pittman and senior Dylan Fischer will compete at NG, while Anthony Villalobos will attempt to jump from third to first string to replace Mason at RE. Tyler Sayles and Josh Webbcould jump into the competition at RE, as both were backups at LE last year.
2017 Schedule: 9/1 FAU, 9/9 Tulane, 9/23 Cincinnati, 9/30 at Tulsa, 10/7 Air Force, 10/14 at Memphis, 10/21 UCF, 11/2 at Temple, 11/11 SMU, 11/18 at Notre Dame, 11/24 at Houston, 12/9 Army (at Philadelphia)
I believe in Ken Niumatololo, and that is why am giving Navy a fighting chance in the West of the AAC in 2017. The offensive questions alone may make me look crazy, but Navy seems to always find answers where questions exist, and I have faith that they will once again. The main block that concerns me more than the talent issues, is the schedule has them going on the road to play both Houston and Memphis, the two teams I have them in a race with. The good news is that a hot start to the season could be in line, as Navy does not travel away from home until 9/30, and gets Air Force at home. There is an opportunity to win the division for the second straight season, or they could finish third, or worse. It's all up in the air.