2009 Navy Midshipmen Football Preview
2008 Record: (8-5, 0-0)
2008 Bowl: EagleBank Bowl vs. Wake Forest (L 19-29)
Coach: Ken Niumatalolo (8-6 at Navy, 8-6 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ivin Jasper
Defensive Coordinator: Buddy Green
Other Key Returnees: G Curtis Bass, OT Jeff Battipaglia, RB Bobby Doyle, DT Nate Frazier, LB Tony Haberer, S Wyatt Middleton, OT Matt Molloy, LB Clint Sovie, DE Jabaree Tuani
Key Losses: WR Tyree Barnes, QB Jarod Bryant, CB Ketric Buffin, S Jeff Deliz, G Anthony Gaskins, QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, FB Eric Kettani, CB Rashawn King, LB Corey Johnson, C Ricky Moore, RB Shun White
Nobody really knew what to expect from Navy after they lost Coach Paul Johnson to Georgia Tech. The new head man, Ken Niumatalolo would certainly run a similar offense, but would Navy’s success go away with Coach Johnson? After all, it was the previous regime that took Navy to an impressive five consecutive bowl games. Coach Niumatalolo did not blow away the competition, but there were some quality wins in his first season.
It was on the ground, of course, where Navy made their mark in 2008. The team rushed for nearly 300 yards per game, ranking first in the nation. The ground game will still be successful even without Shun White, who rushed for 1,092 yards, and Eric Kettani, who added 982 yards. The Midshipmen breed quality runners and players like Bobby Doyle, Cory Finnerty and Alex Teich, among others, will pick up the slack and keep the ground game moving. With an experienced offensive line returning, Navy will spend a lot of time on the ground again and somebody from their stable of talented backs will have a huge year. Quarterbacks Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and Jarod Bryant took most of the snaps last year, but Ricky Dobbs threw a few passes and ran for 495 yards and eight touchdowns. Dobbs should be the main signal caller this year, but do not expect him to throw the ball too often…especially without Tyree Barnes, the only player to garner over 100 receiving yards during the 2008 campaign.
Against teams with a pulse, the Navy defense gave up quite a few points. Ball State piled on 35 and Duke and Pittsburgh both eclipsed the 40 point mark. And just having Duke on a list of teams with a pulse will tell you something. However, the unit got better as the year went on. And with seven starters returning, there is hope that the unit can continue to build off of its late season successes. The front three are all back, led by senior end Matt Nechak. Sophomore Jabaree Tuani is an intriguing option on the other end and he could have a huge season after tallying a team high 9.0 tackles-for-loss. The linebackers are led by Ross Pospisil on the inside and Ram Vela and Clint Sovie on the outside. If Navy’s 3-4 defense can get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback, the inexperienced secondary will be much better off.
The Bottom Line for the Midshipmen:
Coach Niumatalolo proved to be a quality coach in his first year leading this team. Navy should make it seven bowl games in a row, but they are testing themselves a little more this year with road trips to Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Hawaii. Even Wake Forest comes to Annapolis, Maryland this year. The record might not be that impressive, but the Midshipmen should be looking forward to their seventh straight bowl trip.
By Joel Welser
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