- The Washington Times - Friday, September 4, 2009

PLAYER ON THE SPOT

Jabaree Tuani

The dismissal of two-year starting nose tackle Nate Frazier during camp puts the pressure squarely on the 6-foot-1, 265-pound defensive end to anchor the Midshipmen’s defensive line. Just a sophomore, Tuani has taken to the role and has become the unit’s verbal leader. He led the team in tackles for loss last year, but with Frazier gone, Tuani will have to learn to deal with double teams regularly. While the return of seniors Matt Nechak and Michael Walsh from injuries gives the Mids depth at defensive end, Tuani is their best bet to wreak havoc in opposing backfields.

FULL OF HOPE

Fullbacks coach Mike Judge has raved all camp about sophomore Alexander Teich. Teich is next in a line of dominant Navy fullbacks — Kyle Eckel, Adam Ballard, Eric Kettani — each of whom finished his career in the top 10 of Navy’s all-time rushing list. A converted running back, Teich isn’t the bruiser his three predecessors were. He is more shifty and has a quicker burst of speed, which is why Judge is excited about the possibilities. The only question is whether Teich can hold up to the beating of a full season; he was a workout-room regular during the offseason to prepare.

BEST IN SLOT?

Navy doesn’t have the go-to slotback it had in recent years in speedsters Reggie Campbell and Shun White. The Mids will employ a fairly even rotation to start the season, but the coaching staff is excited about what may develop. Seniors Bobby Doyle and Cory Finnerty provide experience and sound blocking, and sophomore Marcus Curry has the always-coveted breakaway speed. The biggest mover during fall camp was plebe Gee Gee Greene, who picked up the offense quickly and should see significant playing time right away in addition to returning kicks.

CATCHING ON

Quarterback Ricky Dobbs’ arm strength will be all for naught if he doesn’t have anybody to throw to. At 6-2, Tyree Barnes would have been an obvious go-to target for Dobbs, but the sticky-handed receiver graduated. Junior Greg Jones emerged as Dobbs’ most reliable target in camp; already a steady blocker, he should be on the field a lot. The Mids are going for their fifth straight NCAA rushing title, but coach Ken Niumatalolo wants more balance in his offense.

SECONDARY CONCERNS

There’s a lot to like about what was statistically one of the most improved units in the Football Bowl Subdivision last year. Navy’s linebacking corps returns all four starters as well as emerging junior Tyler Simmons, and the top four in the secondary have experience as well. But defensive coordinator Buddy Green likes to substitute often and keep his players fresh, and he was searching for any defensive back to fill in the two-deep at all four positions. Sophomores David Wright and Kwesi Mitchell caught his eye as well as plebe Tra’ves Bush, and the young trio should expect to play.

GAME TO CIRCLE

There are a lot of attractive opponents on the Mids’ schedule this year: Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and regulars Air Force, Army and Notre Dame. But the game that could define their season is the Oct. 31 home date with Temple. Losing streaks make a long week even longer, and that game is sandwiched between a visit from the Demon Deacons and a trip to South Bend, Ind., which figure to be physically draining affairs against bigger, stronger BCS teams. The Mids needed a furious, 20-point fourth-quarter rally to topple the Owls last year, and they’d like to make it easier on themselves this time around.

WHAT TO EXPECT

With eight teams on the schedule that played in a bowl game last year, Navy is facing what Niumatalolo calls its toughest schedule in his 12 years at the academy. But his program is also at the height of its success. The Mids have gone to a bowl six straight seasons and are equipped to take on the daunting schedule. They have 13 wins against BCS opponents since 2003, tied with Utah for the most by a non-BCS team. So they aren’t going to be overwhelmed. Most likely, the Mids will see more of the same success: eight wins and a trip to the Texas Bowl.

Mike Fratto

SCHEDULE

DateOpponentTime

Sept. 5 at Ohio State Noon

Sept. 12 Louisiana Tech 3:30

Sept. 19 at Pittsburgh 6

Sept. 26 Western Kentucky 3:30

Oct. 3 Air Force 3:30

Oct. 10 at Rice 3:30

Oct. 17 at Southern Methodist 8

Oct. 24 Wake Forest 3:30

Oct. 31 Temple 3:30

Nov. 7 at Notre Dame 2:30

Nov. 14 Delaware 3:30

Nov. 28 at Hawaii 10:30

Dec. 12 vs. Army (in Philadelphia) 2:30

All times p.m.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide