Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.
2009 Season Breakdown
2009 final record (overall, conference): 10-4
Bowl Game:Texas Bowl (W 35-13 vs. Missouri)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'):NR, NR
Offensive rank: 77
Defensive rank: 34
2009 Individual Statistical Leaders
Rushing:Ricky Dobbs, 1,192 yards, 27 TD; Vince Murray, 971 yards, 6 TD
Passing:Ricky Dobbs, 1,031 yards, 6 TD, 3 INT
Receiving:Marcus Curry, 287 yards, 3 TD
Tackles:Ross Pospisil, 107 total tackles
Sacks:Craig Schaefer, 6 sacks (6 solo)
Interceptions:Wyatt Middleton, 4 interceptions; Ram Vela, 3 interceptions
2010 Season Outlook
(* denotes conference game)
September 6 vs. Maryland: The Midshipmen should be favored in the season opener against a Terrapins team that won just two games in 2009. Maryland isn't expected to do much this season and could again finish at the bottom of the ACC Atlantic, but there are some talented players on the Terps roster such as Da'Rel Scott, Torrey Smith and Alex Wujciak that Navy has to account for.
October 2 @ Air Force: The matchup with Air Force has gone in Navy's favor the last seven years, but there's been some close games including last season's 16-13 overtime win.
October 23 vs. Notre Dame: The battle for the Gansz Trophy the week before against SMU will be another big matchup as Navy gets it done on the ground and SMU through the air, but the matchup with Notre Dame should prove one of the tougher contests for the Midshipmen. The Irish may be rebuilding and Navy is 2-1 against Notre Dame since breaking their losing streak in 2007, but new coach Brian Kelly hopes to have the Irish back on the winning path sooner rather than later. Navy may still be favored, but Notre Dame poses a good candidate to derail the Midshipmen.
December 11 vs. Army: The annual Army-Navy Game is one of the game's best traditions. Both teams will employ the triple option in 2010 and the end of the season showdown may actually determine where each of these teams plays in the bowl season.
Coaches': Not Ranked
Marcus Curry, RB; Osei Asante, G; Craig Schaefer, LB; Ross Pospisil, LB; Tony Haberer, LB
Key Returning Players
Ricky Dobbs, QB; Vince Murray, FB; Jeff Battipaglia, OT; Jabaree Tuani, DE; Tyler Simmons, LB; Kevin Edwards, CB; Wyatt Middleton, S
Kriss Proctor looked good this spring in Ricky Dobbs' absence as he was recovering from injury, but this is very much Dobbs' team. Dobbs scored 27 rushing touchdowns in 2009, an NCAA record for a quarterback. He led the way in rushing yardage with 1,192 yards and could see a little Heisman consideration this season if he's able to duplicate last year's results. It's no secret that that the passing game will lag behind the rushing game (Navy ranked 119th in the nation in passing offense last season, ahead of only Army in the category), as Navy attempted just 110 passes in 2009. Dobbs will again lead this offense as a tremendous threat on the ground and will team with fullback Vince Murray to rack up yardage on the inside, but they'll be without slotback Marcus Curry, who was suspended from the team.
That will leave the outside rushing game in some pretty inexperienced hands. Gee Gee Greene is expected to get the nod in Curry's absence. At 5'10, he's the tallest of Navy's outside rushers with Aaron Santiago (5'8), Bo Snelson (5'7) and Andre Byrd (5'7) also expected to see time at slotback. Navy has thrived on these small, quick backs and have no shortage in the coming season. Alexander Teich, last year's fourth leading rusher, will see work behind Murray at fullback.
The offensive line isn't much for pass blocking, but that's not really a problem at Navy. After all, the Midshipmen attempted 110 passes all last season. Heck, Houston's Case Keenum attempted more than half that in a game five times in 2009, and had two games where he attempted at least 75 passes. Jeff Battipaglia returns as the left tackle with 27 starts under his belt. Included on the Lombardi Watch List (one of 11 non-AQ players on the list), Battipaglia is all set for a big senior season. At the other end of the line will once again be Matt Molloy, a senior who has started since his sophomore season. Next to Molloy at right guard is Bradley DeMell, who saw action in all 14 games last season, with Josh Cabral replacing Osei Asante at left guard next to Battipaglia. Once a nose guard, Eric Douglass gets the nod at center.
Defensive end Jabaree Tunai recorded 3.5 sacks last season to go along with 54 tackles. He'll be joined at end by Billy Yarborough, who started just one game last season and saw limited action. At the nose is Shane Bothel with Jared Marks and Chase Burge listed behind him on the depth chart. Marks and Burge are larger than Bothel at 6'5, 288 pounds and 6'4, 270 pounds, respectively, with Bothel 6'3, 252 pounds, but Bothel put in an impressive offseason's worth of work to earn the starting spot.
The linebackers corps will go through a makeover this season. Tyler Simmons finished tied for third on the team in tackles with 68 and is expected to emerge as the leader of this unit. Joining Simmons on the inside will be Caleb King, a speedy 6'0, 223 pound linebacker who many expect to be an active part of this defense. Aaron McCauley will grab one of the outside spots with Jerry Hauburger and Colin Sturdivant competing for time at the other spot. Andrew Sharp, listed behind McCauley on the depth chart, will see his fair share of playing time this season as well.
Wyatt Middleton returns as the leader of the secondary from the Rover position. Middleton finished 2009 tied for third on the team with 68 tackles and the leader in interceptions with four and passes defended with seven. Emmett Merchant will return as the starter at free safety coming off a year in which he recorded 54 tackles and two interceptions. Kevin Edwards returns at the right cornerback spot with junior Kwesi Mitchell expected to get the nod at the other corner spot provided that Mario Washington, who will also play wide receiver, does not beat him out.
Special Teams Overview
Joe Buckley will again handle extra points and field goals with Jon Teague the kickoff specialist. Buckley hit 10 of his 13 field goal attempts and all 44 of his extra points. He ended the season with a long of 50 yards and was a perfect 4 for 4 from beyond 40 yards. The punter will be Kyle Delahooke, who averaged 43.1 yards per punt last season. He ranked 22nd in the nation in that category.
While the kicking game should be exceptional, the return game could use a boost. Mario Washington, the wide receiver/cornerback, could also see time returning punts in 2010, but he averaged a pedestrian 6.4 yards per return last season. John Howell is currently listed atop the depth chart with Gary Myers right under him. Alexander Teich, who averaged 27.6 yards per kickoff return in 2009 on just five returns, will handle kick return duties. Bo Snelson could also see time.
Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo
Ken Niumatalolo was the offensive line coach at Navy from 2002 to 2007 before taking over for Paul Johnson as head coach. Niumatalolo spent his college playing career under Johnson as a quarterback at Hawaii from 1983 to 1989 (Johnson was offensive coordinator) and most of his coaching career. He stayed on as a graduate assistant and later assistant coach at Hawaii after he was done playing, and moved with Johnson to Navy in 1995 when Johnson was hired as offensive coordinator. He would assume offensive coordinator duties upon Johnson's departure before serving as an assistant at UNLV from 1999 to 2001. He returned to Navy in 2002 when Johnson was named head coach.
Throughout his tenure with the Midshipmen, he has helped Navy to several top ranked rushing offenses behind Johnson's triple option offense. Upon Johnson's departure for Atlanta, Niumatalolo kept the system in his first two seasons as head coach, leading Navy to an EagleBank Bowl loss in 2008 on an 8-5 record and a Texas Bowl win in 2009 on a 10-4 record.
Top 2011 Draft Prospects
Ricky Dobbs, QB/RB
Navy can win every one of their games this season. That's not to say they'll go undefeated, but it will be difficult to bet against Navy going into any game this season. Last season's schedule included matchups with Ohio State and Pittsburgh that the Midshipmen predictably lost, but this season's toughest opponents appear to be Maryland, Air Force and Southern Methodist, and Notre Dame if Brian Kelly can garner success in his first year in South Bend. East Carolina is looking at a down year and while Army has seen improvement and could challenge Navy for their first win in the series since 2001, most will favor the Midshipmen in the annual matchup in Philadelphia.
Thanks to the triple option offense that has led them to several of the nation's top ranked offenses in the last few years (4th in 2009) and an influx of athleticism and talent into the program, the Midshipmen could really make some noise on a national level this season. That said, it's hard (though not impossible) to predict a BCS bowl appearance for Navy, but a top 15 finish is a lot easier to imagine. - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.
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