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2010 NCAA Football Preview: Navy Midshipmen

2009 Record: 10-4
2009 Bowl: Texas Bowl (beat Missouri 35-13)
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked (received 85 points placing them 28th)
Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo (18-10 All-Time)
Schedule: Maryland (9/6), Georgia Southern (9/11), at Louisiana Tech (9/18), at Air Force (10/2), at Wake Forest (10/9), SMU (10/16), Notre Dame (10/23), Duke (10/30), at East Carolina (11/6), Central Michigan (11/13), Arkansas State (11/20), Army (12/11)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 28.0 points per game (57th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 280 (4th in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 75 (119th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 356 (77th in Nation) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 19.4 points per game (18th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 122 (30th in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 213 (50th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 335 (34th in Nation)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.64 per game (15th in Nation)
Penalties: 29 yards per game (1st in Nation)

Returning Starters
Offense: 8
Defense: 5
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Ricky Dobbs, Sr (56 of 105 for 1031 yds, 6 TD, 3 INT)
Rushing: QB Ricky Dobbs, Sr (315 carries for 1192 yds, 27 TD, 3.7 ypc, 91 ypg)
Rushing: RB Vince Murray, Sr (182 carries for 971 yds, 6 TD, 5.3 ypc, 69 ypg)
Receiving: WR Greg Jones, Sr (5 rec, 142 yds, 1 TD)
Tackles: S Wyatt Middleton, Sr (68); LB Tyler Simmons, Sr (68)
Sacks: DE Jabaree Tuani, Jr (3.5)
Interceptions: S Wyatt Middleton, Sr (4)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #33
Mark Schlabach: #25
Phil Steele: #48
Sporting News: #37

2010 Pre-Season Bowl Predictions:
Athlon Sports: Poinsettia Bowl (vs. Utah) 
Phil Steele: Poinsettia Bowl (vs. BYU)

Navy returns 8 starters from an offense that was #4 in the Nation in rushing last year. They also return QB Ricky Dobbs who rushed for 27 TDs and passed for 6 more. Navy has a much easier schedule this year as they don't play Ohio State or Pittsburgh like they did last year. Last year they lost to Ohio State, Pitt, Temple and Hawaii by a combined 27 points. Every game on Navy's schedule looks winnable to me. Of course looking winnable and actually winning are two separate entities. We caught up with Adam Nettina, a member of the Football Writers Association of America and a writer for's Navy affiliate

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

Experience and athleticism at key positions. Not only does Navy return Ricky Dobbs at quarterback (who set the NCAA record for rushing TDs by a QB in 2009 with 27 scores), but the Mids return a fairly experienced offensive line as well as their top two fullbacks in Vince Murray and Alex Teich. On defense, Navy has a veteran group up front, and should have one of its best secondaries in years with the safety combination of Wyatt Middleton and Emmett Merchant. Keep in mind that experience isn’t just a meaningless statistic: this was a resourceful team in 2009, and one which didn’t back down to anyone. They took Ohio State to the wire and beat Notre Dame on the road, while also blowing out Missouri in the bowl game. If there is one team in the country that embodies the intangible of ‘focus,’ it’s Navy.

That being said, the linebacker corps will need an overhaul. Only one starter returns in Navy’s 3-4 scheme from last year, and the Mids will likely miss the absence of key leaders like Ram Vela and Craig Schafer. There is still some question as to how much depth there is on the defensive line and in the secondary, and the team will be searching for a playmaker at slotback after last year’s breakout star, Marcus Curry, was dismissed from the team.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

Right out the gate the team will be tested against the Maryland Terrapins. While the Terps were a paltry 2-10 in 2009, they have no shortage of talent. Navy fell to the Terps in a game they should have won in 2005, and also struggled mightily on offense against UMass in 2006. Why does that matter? Well, Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown was the head coach of that UMass team, and is considered by many to be among the best coaches in the country at scheming against the flexbone option. If Navy can find offensive success against Brown’s defense and pull out the win, it’ll likely be an omen for a strong offensive showing through the rest of the season.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

The answer for Navy is always “the next team.” This is a team and a program which takes each week at a time, and isn’t likely to overlook anybody on the schedule. That was the philosophy of Paul Johnson, and it’s the philosophy of Ken Niumatalolo. Even without that philosophy, however, I think it’s Maryland. The Terps may not look too good on paper, but they have the potential to give Navy a rude awakening if the Mids don’t show up with their helmets strapped.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

QB Ricky Dobbs and S Wyatt Middleton get most of the attention -- and with good reason – but on offense I think you look at a guy like center Eric Douglass and on defense you take a look at cornerback Kevin Edwards. Edwards had a huge game against Notre Dame last year, and was really instrumental in containing Golden Tate. He may not look like a lock-down corner, but he’s gone up against numerous high-round NFL draft picks in his long Navy career, and brings a fiery attitude and physicality to the position. Douglass only started four games at center last year, but I think he gives the team a big boost at the position. More and more teams are lining up in odd man fronts against Navy, and that philosophy makes having a powerful center very important. Douglass – a former nose guard – has the strength to compete against bigger run-stoppers inside.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

Without a doubt, quarterback Ricky Dobbs. You don’t rush for 27 touchdowns in a season without having some talent. Dobbs has incredible strength and an amazing leg drive as a runner, but he’s also heady and displays a strong, accurate arm as a passer. A master of the reads in the triple option system, many consider him to be the greatest Navy quarterback since Roger Staubach.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

Jabaree Tuani. He’s undersized as a defensive end, but he plays with the quickness of an outside linebacker and displays great leverage and use of his hands when coming off the ball. He’s a guy who’ll fight off multiple blocks to stretch out run plays, and he’ll outwork any offensive tackle in the game.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach its full capability?

Michael Stukel. A former quarterback with 4.5 speed and good size, he has the athletic ability to step in for the departed Curry at slotback right away. The question will be whether or not he can become consistent enough in the blocking game to earn his way onto the field on a regular basis. If he does, he has big-play ability written all over him.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Josh Cabral. The interior of the offensive line could be a question mark, but this former Southern California prep star (who was one of the most highly touted recruits to sign at Navy in the past decade) should fill in nicely. Because of Navy’s system the guard position is a little more important than on some teams, so it’ll be essential for the team’s success that Cabral doesn’t miss a beat.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

OLB Jerry Hauburger. He’s a senior who has just never reached his full potential because of injuries and the players on the depth chart ahead of him, but he’s in position to have a groundbreaking 2010 if he can stay healthy. He has safety-like athleticism and plays with a lot of aggressiveness, and the Mids will benefit from his versatility against spread offenses.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

I think the team finishes 9-3 during the regular season. As always, a bowl berth (with a win) and victories over rivals Air Force and Army make any Navy season a success.

Thanks to Adam Nettina from for answering our questions. He also serves as the Sports Editor of the Utah Statesman.

Next Up: Texas Longhorns

2010 Previews
ACC- Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Maryland Terrapins, Virginia Tech Hokies
Big 12- Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, USF Bulls, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Illinois Fighting Illini, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
C-USA- Houston Cougars, SMU Mustangs, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Tulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Central Michigan Chippewas, Temple Owls, Toledo Rockets
MWC- Colorado State Rams, UNLV Rebels, Utah Utes
Pac-10- Arizona State Sun Devils, Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
SEC- Auburn Tigers, Kentucky Wildcats, Mississippi Rebels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt Commodores
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans
WAC- New Mexico State Aggies

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