Know Your Foe: Navy

Navy may not figure out to be Arizona State's toughest opponent this season, but it is surely the most intriguing team the Sun Devils will face this year. What can we expect from ASU's opponent in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl? GoMids.com's Publisher D. Yates answered our questions and provided insight into this Navy squad.

The win against Army was obviously a great way to cap off the season, but overall was the 8-4 record considered a mark that exceeded expectations and if so why?

"This team did not exceed expectations. Navy fans and close observers of the program expected bigger things from this team. Yes, the team was coming off its first losing season in almost 10 years but most Navy observers believed this team could win 9 or 10 games."

Playing as an independent how challenging of a schedule does Navy have year in and year out? Do you feel the team usually looks to face tougher competition each season?

"Being an independent gives the Navy program some flexibility. Army, Notre Dame and Air Force are the only teams that Navy plays virtually every year. Navy generally schedules four games it should win, four games that could go either way and four games they might not be favored to win. This season the four toughest opponents were Notre Dame, Penn State, San Jose State and Indiana. Last season the program had road trips to Rutgers and South Carolina in addition to the regular meeting with the Irish.

"Next season Navy will host Pittsburgh while visiting Duke and Indiana. Bottom line, Navy's schedule is not as tough as a typical BCS conference team's schedule but the Mids have not been afraid to face top 25 programs. In 2015 Navy is set to join the Big East so things will be changing schedule wise."

Some aspects may be more obvious than others, but what are some of the challenges student-athletes at the Naval Academy have to face that BCS schools' student-athletes don't have to deal with?

"One of the biggest challenges is the military regimen that students at the Naval Academy must participate in. There are early wake ups and military training that must be conducted in addition to the normal college course load. Remember, these guys aren't just training to be sailors in the Navy; they are training to be officers which are the leaders in this service.

"In the summer, while other college students head home or to the beaches, service academy students will likely be conducting some kind of special training to prepare them for their future careers. The first year students have the toughest time. They go through a basic training phase that first summer (see photo gallery below) which is given by senior class Mids. Unlike other college students, the Mids also have height and weight standards that must adhered to.

"There are some perks to being a Midshipman. Mids get a monthly allowance from the government of a few hundred dollars and they are virtually assured of job upon graduation."

Navy is obviously known for its triple option offense. Is this a scheme that has been employed for a while or one that the current coaching staff implemented? Do you think that scheme compensates for the challenges Navy has recruiting elite quarterbacks and wide receivers?

"Navy's been using the triple option since the 2002 season. That was former head coach Paul Johnson's first season at the academy. When Johnson left after the 2007 season for Georgia Tech, Assistant Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo took over as head coach and has continued the triple option. The triple option not only helps the Mids compensate for their lack of size and the recruiting disadvantage. It also gives the Mids an advantage because not many of teams they play have seen the option so it's much harder for them to prepare for the option."

Do you believe the triple option is a scheme baffles more opponents than not? Has this system throughout the years been questioned as being effective and what is the key for its effectiveness?

"Many teams are baffled by the option, especially teams that do not face it much. If you've noticed, Army has won five games in two years but has played Navy tight during those seasons. It's because they understand the triple option and have a good understanding on how to defend it. Even though not many programs use the triple option exclusively like Army and Navy, some do employ some option wrinkles to give their opponents more to prepare for.

"I think the biggest reason most programs don't use the option is recruiting. The greatest prep players usually want to play in the NFL and those players believe they'll be better prepared for that league if they are playing an offense that is more similar to the professional game while in college.

"The key to its effectiveness is in timing and quick decision making. The quarterback has to make a decision on whether to hand the ball off, run himself or pass and he must make his decision in about one second or less."

Looking at the other side of the ball, what kind of defensive scheme does Navy run and do you feel this group was successful in 2012?

"Navy officially lists its defensive scheme as "multiple" but they generally run a 3-4 defensive alignment with three linemen and four linebackers. It's pretty much a bend-but-don't-break defense where they are trying not to give up the big play and hope to take advantage of the opposing offense's mistakes. It's been successful enough to get the Mids into a bowl game but against BCS conference opponents the Mids have surrendered an average of 38 points per game."

Who are two or three key players on each side the ball that ASU fans should be aware of?

"Keenan Reynolds is a dynamic true freshman quarterback that took over the offense during the Air Force game. He rallied his team to an overtime win and, except for the Troy game, has led his team to a victory in every game since. He's a heady quarterback who has the ability to run and pass.

"Senior Brandon Turner (6-4, 225) is a big, physical wide receiver who has 20 catches this season for 297 yards. He had a 49-yard reception against Army to key the winning Mid drive.

"Senior linebacker Matt Warrick has 84 tackles and three interceptions this season. He's a player who seems to have a knack for making the big play in a tight game.

"Senior rover Trav'ves Bush is a versatile player who can play either in the secondary or as an outside linebacker. He has over 200 career tackles and three interceptions during his career. He's an All-East candidate this season and is the team's second leading tackler this season after Warrick."

How you feel that the inherited discipline of the team does help Navy compensate for lack of talent when playing BCS opponents?

"It certainly helps in the execution of the aforementioned triple option offense. Navy is also second nationally in penalties per game, averaging just over three per game."

What do believe some of the concerns Navy will have facing ASU?

"Certainly the high powered Sun Devil offense concerns the Mids staff. Keeping quarterback Taylor Kelly in check is going to be a challenge for the Navy defense. The vaunted ASU passing defense should also be a concern.

"Navy has a young quarterback so I'm sure they'll want to keep him from needing to throw as much as possible."

What are some of the keys for Navy to pull an upset in this bowl game?

"The biggest key for Navy will be to establish its running game early on, by doing that the Mids can keep their defense off the field and chew up clock. This will also keep them from being forced to pass against the tough ASU secondary. If they can get the run game going, win the turnover battle and make some stops on defense, they can win this game."


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