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9/3/09

NAVY FOOTBALL 2009 Olde Poolie’s Prognosis August 31, 2009



Since August 4 the Naval Academy football team has been practicing in the usual hot and humid Annapolis August weather. Coach Ken Niumatalalolo and staff put over 140 hopefuls through a number of rigid practices. After the Blue - Gold scrimmage on August 15th they divided the players into varsity and junior varsity. Since then the staff has focused on developing a solid depth chart while honing the offense and defense in preparation for the first game at Ohio State on September 5.

As a first year coach Niumatalolo did a remarkable job with an 8- 4 record and a tough lost in the Eagle Bank Bowl to Wake Forest - a team they upset in October in Winston Salem, NC 24 - 17. Coach Niumat had to hire four new assistants a year ago. Those assistants have now had a year of experience at the Academy and should be better prepared to lead this year. On the other hand Navy lost some big time players in Shun White, Eric Kettani, Tyree Barnes, and place kicker Matt Harmon; plus QBs Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and Jarod Bryant. Jeff Deliz and Corey Johnson made a number of big plays at linebacker and on the special teams.

This year’s schedule with thirteen games is a difficult , to put it mildly, and includes away games at Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Hawaii. Too much for Olde Poolie.

Offense.
It always starts up front. The Midshipmen have three starters returning plus a guard that saw a lot of action last year. Soph. Brady DeMell (6-3, 286) will probably start at center - a key position. Junior Ricky Dobbs, a very athletic player, who saw some serious action last year will start at QB. He will be backed up by Soph. Mike Stukel and senior Greg Zingler. Soph. Kriss Proctor was the No. 2 QB but a leg injury last week will sideline him for 4 - 6 weeks. Dobbs has a strong throwing arm. Look for Coach Niumat to throw more this year. Soph. Alex Teich (6-0, 212), who was No. 2 at FB last year, will start. Senior Jordan Eddington (6-0, 225) a former line backer, will also see action at FB. Cory Finnerty, Bobby Doyle, Marcus Curry, Andre Byrd, and freshman Gee Gee Green will see action at slot back. Mario Washington, Mike Schupp, and Greg Jones all saw action at WR last year. If Dobbs improves his decision making in the multiple-option and the O-line comes together Navy should move the ball and continue it’s leading rushing game.

Defense.
. The defense lost two-year starter at nose guard - Nate Frazier (6-3, 292) - last week as he was dismissed from the Academy for an honors violation. The coaches considered Frazier the best nose guard in several years. On the bright side junior Free Safety Emmett Merchant who sat out Spring practice as he planned to resign last May; changed his mind and is working his way up the depth chart. He played as a freshman and started most of the games last year. Otherwise the defense returns a number of starters and experienced players. D/C Buddy Green will probably rotate two or three at the nose guard position. Although relatively small compared to the huge offenses they will match the defense will be athletic and resilient. Pass defense will be a problem.

Kicking.
Junior Kyle Delahooke who had a great year punting in 2008 returns. Soph. Jon Teague will continue with kick-offs. Teague and two others are competing for place-kicking duties. Kicking should be OK.

The first five games include Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Air Force plus Louisiana Tech. All will be tough. Can coach Niumatalolo continue the momentum from last year? Can the offense come together early in the year? Navy has already been invited to participate in the Texas Bowl in Houston providing they have a winning season. Continuity in the coaching staff will help. Hopefully the fullbacks and slotbacks will step up and lead the ground game.

Game by game synopsis with last year’s record in parentheses..

Sept. 5 At Ohio State (10 - 3). ESPN. OSU is predicted to rank somewhere between No. 5 and No. 10. No question about it, this will be a tough opener. The Buckeyes might be looking past Navy as they play Southern California the following week.

Sept. 12, Louisiana Tech (8-5). The Bulldogs had a grand year in 2008 with a bowl win 17-10 over Northern Illinois. First time meeting Navy. They are an experienced team and will be a formidable home opener. Navy in a close game.

Sept. 19 At Pittsburgh (9-3). Will be a tough game. Pitt manhandled Navy in Annapolis last year 42 - 21. The Midshipmen will have to play almost a perfect game to have a chance. Pitt by 14 points.

Sept. 26. Western Kentucky (2-10). The Hilltoppers are one of the few Independent teams in the country in their third year in Div. 1A. They use a spread offense and like to pass. Should be improved. Navy by 17.

Oct. 3 Air Force (8-5). Third year coach Troy Calhoun may incorporate more passing in their option offense. A couple of blocked kicks in Colorado Springs helped Navy to pull off a big win. This will be a real battle. Turnovers will make the difference. Navy in a close one.

Oct. 10. At Rice (10 - 3). The Owls won their last seven games last year. Their star QB graduated. The defense gave up an average of 33 points a game last year. If Navy can contain their passing the Midshipmen will win in another close game.

Oct. 17. At SMU (1-11). This is June Jones second year at SMU where he installed the "Fast Break on Grass" passing attack with a freshman QB. They will be improved . Their defense ranked near last in all categories. The Midshipmen should win.

Oct. 24 Wake Forest (8-5). This will be the third game against the Demon Deacons in less than a year. Navy upset then No. 18 WF in Winston Salem 24 - 17 last Sept. by creating six turn-overs. Wake beat them in the Eagle Bank Bowl 29 - 19. Their excellent QB - Skinner - returns. This will be a battle. WF will be favored.

Oct. 31. Temple (5-7). An unbelievable comeback win by the Midshipmen in overtime last year prevented the Owls from a 6 - 6 season. If their new QB steps up this could be a tough game. Hopefully Navy will not get behind by 20 points as last year. It won’t be easy but Navy should win.

Nov. 7 At Notre Dame (7-6). The Fighting Irish are still not top 20 material but they will be big and lots of talent. They will try to wear out Navy’s defense as they did last year. The Midshipmen have got to get their offense on track against the Irish. The Midshipmen only converted on 1 of 16 third down situations last year. Navy has played well in South Bend in the past. Notre Dame should win.

Nov.14. Delaware. (4 - 8) Last year was an off season for the Blue Hens. This year they are counting on QB Pat Devlin, a transfer from Penn State, to lead the team back to their usual top ranking in the Div. 11A. The Midshipmen should win by three TDs.

Nov. 28. At Hawaii (7 - 7). Thanksgiving weekend. A long trip to compete with the Warriors who are coached by former Navy assistant - Greg McMackin. Hawaii won four of their last five games in 2008 then lost to Notre Dame in the Hawaii Bowl 21 - 49. They have a veteran offense but a rebuilding defense. If the Midshipmen can overcome jet-lag they should win. This game is a midpoint between Delaware and Army.

Dec. 12. ARMY (3 - 9). Philadelphia. The game has been moved to Dec. 12 so as not to compete with conference play off games. Should be the only Div. 1 game that day. Army hired Rich Ellerson from Cal Poly where he had a number of successful years employing the multi-option offense - very similar to Navy. It will be interesting to follow their progress throughout the year. Navy should win a close game.

GO NAVY BEAT OHIO STATE!

Navy’s 2009 Schedule
(2008 record)

Sept. 5. At Ohio State Univ. (10 - 3)

Sept. 12 Louisiana Tech (8 - 5)

Sept. 19 At Pittsburgh (9 - 3)

Sept. 26 Western Kentucky (2 -10 )

Oct. 3 Air Force (8 - 5)

Oct. 10 At Rice (10 - 3)

Oct. 17 At SMU (1 - 11)

Oct. 24 Wake Forest (Homecoming) (8 -5)

Oct. 31 Temple (5 - 7)

Nov. 7 At Notre Dame (7 - 6)

Nov. 28 At Hawaii (7 - 7)

Dec. 12 ARMY (Philadelphia) (3 - 9)

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