GoMids Q&A with Capital's Bill Wagner

When it comes to Midshipmen football, nobody has the team covered better than The Capital's Bill Wagner. Luckily for Navy fans, he took a few minutes out of his hectic schedule to answer some burning questions on the eve of the 2011 season.

GoMids.com: GoMids.com fans have analyzed every depth chart with a finetooth comb. Tell us, from your perspective, the one or two players that are on there who could have a major impact in 2011, but might be sailing under the radar a bit.

Bill Wagner: Nose guard Jared Marks is going from third string to first string. That is a crucial spot in a 3-4 alignment as the nose guard most hold the point of attack. Marks is huge, but needs to go 100 percent on every play. Stamina has been an issue for the big guy in the past. I think Matt Aiken could emerge as the playmaking wide receiver in the mold of Greg Jones while free safety Shawn Lynch is a converted wide receiver with great athleticism who is suddenly starting at safety and will need to play well.

GM: I went out on a limb and said that Navy fans should be ecstatic with a 7-win season. For me, I'm just not real confident if something happens to Kriss Proctor...and it seems that has been the recent trend. Am I just being too pessimistic?

BW: If Proctor stays healthy, Navy has a very good chance of winning more than seven games. However, no Navy quarterback has played in every game of the season since Lamar Owens in 2005. So that is a legitimate concern. Trey Miller is a talented sophomore, but I can see him struggling if thrown into the role of starter. Navy would need to drastically pare down the gameplan with Miller under center.

GM: Navy coaches have been known to tell us that typically the best recruits they get play on the defensive side of the ball. Boy, Navy fans would like nothing more than some of these new guys to produce for Buddy Green. What have you seen from the defense so far in the past few weeks? Are they holding their own against the much more experienced offensive unit?

BW: Green and head coach Ken Niumatalolo have both said the defense is as big, strong and athletic as it has ever been at Navy. I think that is true. However, it is also extremely inexperienced. There could be some growing pains as guys gain game experience. Four new starting linebackers is never a good situation. Both cornerbacks have limited experience and could get picked on by passing teams. Inside linebackers Matt Brewer and Matt Warrick are being counted on to make a lot of tackles, but have seen very minimal game action.

GM: Besides Proctor, who else can Navy ill-afford to have miss significant playing time this season?

BW: Navy is unsettled at left tackle as no one has stepped up enough to emerge from the pack of David Sumrall, Graham Vickers and Andrew Barker. Meanwhile, right tackle Ryan Basford has enjoyed a tremendous camp and may be Navy's best offensive lineman right now. Losing Basford would hurt big-time as clearly none of the other tackles has done anything to distinguish themselves. Obviously, left end Jabaree Tuani is a dominant player you want on the field at all times, especially since he is the ony experienced starter on the defensive front.


GM: On media day, Coach Ken Niumatalolo called Jarbaree Tuani one of the best linemen ever to come to Navy. Having covered Navy for over a decade, where do you rank Tuani? And do you think he will be double-teamed most of the time?

BW: I think it would be presumptuous to call Tuani the best defensive lineman to ever play at Navy, but he's definitely in the conversation. He is a very rare four-year starter on the defensive front and, according to coaches, wins his matchup game after game after game. Yes, I am sure many opponents will pay special attention to Tuani.

GM: How much are you personally looking forward to going to the Military Bowl in Washington D.C. - if the Mids qualify for the bowl game?

BW: Truthfully, I am not looking forward to the Military Bowl at all. Navy played in that game once and it was not the least bit thrilling. Part of the fun of going to a bowl is that you actually GO somewhere. A day trip to D.C. does not excite me, and I have a strong feeling the opponent won't add much excitement either.

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