Every week we’ll be joined by someone from “behind enemy lines”- a blogger for the opposition. This week, though, “enemy” is not a good delineation, as we absolutely honor our men and women from the service academies… football isn’t “war”, what they do keeps us from knowing that up close and personal.
Mike James from The Birddog joins us this week; you can also check him out with our friend Michael on the Eleven Dubcast, and talking with Blogger Brothers From Another Basement at MotSag. Here’s his take on Saturday’s matchup.
This is very possibly the best Navy team that Coach Ken Niumatalolo has fielded during his tenure, particularly with a number of returners on both side of the ball. What wrinkles do you imagine the Midshipmen are adding to their gameplan this season to take advantage of the veteran team?
I’m not sure there will be too many wrinkles added just to take advantage of what (on paper) should be the best Navy team in a long time. The offense has evolved every year, but usually it’s been in ways that the average fan wouldn’t notice. The coaches have started using the shotgun at times to give defenses a new look to prepare for, but they’ve been tinkering with that for a couple years now. If we see anything new this season, it might be that the defense could be a little more aggressive than they usually are. Navy has traditionally played a very conservative bend-but-don’t-break style on defense, but with a veteran defensive line and a pair of OLBs in Chris Johnson and William Tuider that have shown a little bit of a knack for getting into backfields, I wouldn’t be surprised if Buddy Green tried to get after the quarterback a little more.
While Annapolis is an incredible place, there have often been whispers that Coach Niumatalolo is a candidate for other positions as they become open due to his successes over the past few years. What keeps him at the Academy, and what would it take for him to pursue “greener” pastures.
Coach Niumatalolo’s name pops up in rumors now and then, but I would be surprised if he ever leaves. He’s paid better than most people assume, but more than that he enjoys a lifestyle in Annapolis that I don’t think is possible at other schools. Coach Niumatalolo is a devout Mormon and doesn’t work on Sundays. At other schools where you have boosters hanging out in parking lots seeing how late their coach is working, I’m not sure that would fly.
Who’s a Midshipmen star that’s flying under the radar? We know all about Keenan Reynolds and Bernard Sarra- who should be on Ohio State fans’ radar as well?
The way the triple option works, any number of guys could have a big day on offense. It all depends on what the defense decides to take away. Fullback Noah Copeland is a pretty safe bet, though. He’s very good at making his reads and finding running lanes, and in my opinion is going to have a fantastic season. On defense I’d keep an eye on DE Paul Quessenberry and S Parrish Gaines.
The Buckeyes come to Baltimore with Braxton sidelined for the season. How do you see that changing the preparation for Saturday’s game? What concerns you the most about the Ohio State team?
I’m not sure the team’s preparation changes any. The fundamentals of the offense are still the same. You might see the defense try to get after the quarterback more than they otherwise would have in an effort to force a redshirt freshman into making mistakes, though.
When it comes to Navy playing a team like Ohio State, you can’t really narrow it down to one thing. It’s just a whole different world. Things that Ohio State fans might see as problems with their team just don’t register to Navy fans. Take the Buckeye offensive line, for example. You might think their inexperience is a concern. I look at it and see one of the two best that Navy will see all year. Big Ten contender problems aren’t the same as service academy problems. Navy and Ohio State don’t exactly compete for recruits.
Woody Hayes- great coach and Navy Man, or GREATEST coach and Navy man?
The Naval Academy has had great successes recently against some teams from the “Power 5” conferences. What will they need to do to kick off their season with a victory against Ohio State?
Navy’s blueprint for success in games like this is to shorten the game. That means long drives on both sides of the ball. It’s not like you’re going to shut out Ohio State, but if can force them to go 10-15 plays per drive, it’ll limit the number of possessions in the game. Fewer possessions make it difficult for anyone to pull away, so if Navy’s offense does its part, they will be in a position to win the game in the 4th quarter. Easier said than done, obviously, but that’s the kind of confidence that Navy’s coaches have in their offense.
Again a huge salute to The Birddog for joining us…. Beat Army!