Let’s get this out of the way first: Keenan Reynolds ain’t walking through that door. The reins are being passed into the (quite capable) hands of senior Tago Smith. Now, is it possible that Smith will be replicating Reynolds’s 2,575 total yards/32 total touchdowns output in his first and only year as a starter? Probably not likely, but he’s more than capable of guiding the Midshipmen to their fifth straight bowl appearance.
So What’s New?
- Well, the quarterback (and leading rusher) is new. Did I mention that? Yeah. It’s going to be Tago Smith. He’s been in the offense for three years now, and he spent those three years learning from Keenen Reynolds. He won’t be Keenen Reynolds, but, considering how Navy’s offense is designed, I believe that things will be looking very...similar.
- Actually, the top two leading rushers are new. Fullback Chris Swain, a 1000-yard rusher, also left by way of graduation, and will be replaced by Myles Swain, who, you guessed it, is the younger brother of the aforementioned Chris Swain. Remember when I mentioned that things in Navy’s offense might look similar?
- A lot of the secondary will be new. Don’t underestimate the importance of this. When you’re going to be lining up against offenses such as Houston, Cincinnati, East Carolina, and Notre Dame, you’re probably going to want as much cohesion and familiarity among your secondary as humanly possible. With three of four starters being new starters, there may be a few growing pains along the way. Just promise me that you will give them some time to mesh before hitting eject on them.
- The offensive line. Literally, the entire offensive line will be different than the unit that stepped onto the field for the season-opener. In an option offense where mobility and communication is vital, this could take time. But, there’s also a difference between ‘new’ and ‘young.’ This unit is definitely not ‘young’. Four of the five members are upper classmen. The chemistry should come quickly if it’s not there already. Plus, I’ve heard that students of the U.S. Naval Academy are quite intelligent. I think they’ll be fine.
Okay, Well, What’s Not New That’s Also Important?
- It’s never a bad thing when the winningest coach in your school’s football history decides to not leave for another job, and that’s exactly what happened with Ken Niumatalolo. Despite BYU’s best efforts, Niumatalolo decided to remain with the Midshipmen. Not only that, but the coaching staff will be returning all but one member (Secondary Coach, Keith Jones). With the turnover that took place in the starting lineup, this kind of stability in the coaching staff is exactly what can...wait for it...right the ship.
- The front seven also returns plenty of experience. Aside from defensive end Will Anthony and nose guard Bernard Sarra, the front-end of this defense has remained intact. This obviously bodes well for Navy in terms of balancing out the newcomers in the secondary. It also means that it is imperative that this front seven creates pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Let’s face it; it’s the quickest way to protect a secondary that will be breaking in new starters.
So What Do YOU Think?
It’s definitely hard to root against this team.
And yeah, I can give you all of the opinions in the world, but let’s look at exactly what the road entails...
Week 1: Fordham
Dispatched. No problem. The offense lays some solid groundwork along the way.
Week 2: UConn
This took me longer to pick than it should’ve, but I trust this coaching staff.
Week 3: @ Tulane
Now I’m getting nervous. But I think Tago starts to hit his stride here. Barring injuries, Navy gets out of here with a W.
Week 4: Bye
I won’t make a “they can’t lose” joke here, but...they can’t lose.
Week 5: @ Air Force
Whose option offense is better? It doesn’t matter. I think the defense is the difference-maker here, and Navy’s experienced front seven gets it done.
(4-0) ...you weren’t expecting this, huh?
Week 6: Houston
Heh. The comet crashes to Earth. Sorry, gents. Houston’s legit.
Week 7: @ East Carolina
I don’t WANT to call this a trap game. I’m trying really hard not to call it a trap game. But, it’s a trap game.
Week 8: Memphis
Paxton Lynch graduated.
Week 9: @ USF
I read USF’s case statement for the Big 12. I still think they’re going to be decent. I’m sorry.
Week 10: Notre Dame (in Jacksonville)
I truly love picking against Notre Dame, but not as much as I hate picking wrong. As long as Brian Kelly has decided on a quarterback by this time, all will be fine in South Bend.
Week 11: Tulsa
Dane Evans is back. I think Tulsa surprises some folks.
Week 12: @ SMU
Sell all of your stock on Chad Morris. Unfollow me if you bought any in the first place.
Week 13: AAC Championship
Don’t be mad at me.
Week 14: Army (in Baltimore)
Nope, not yet, Cadets.
This is going to be an uphill battle in a lot of ways, but I trust the system. Following up last year’s 11-2 mark is a tough task but I think Tago Smith does a lot of good things for this offense. And, importantly, the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy can get comfortable in its current location. I also really hope that 8-4 is the ideal record to land Navy in my new favorite bowl game, the Dollar General Bowl.