How the mighty have fallen. Junior Keenan Reynolds had an amazing sophomore season with a NCAA quarterback record setting 31 rushing touchdowns. He not only put up amazing statistics but
he had that magic every team wants in its quarterback. He led the Mids to a 15-6 record (71.4% winning percentage) during his first two years.
This season Navy has just a 1-4 record in the games Reynolds has started. Reynolds has been uncharacteristic sloppy handling the football. He's fumbled eight times and lost five. He's lost a fumble in all five games he's played his year. Reynolds hurt his knee against Temple and hasn't been as effective as a runner with 388 rushing yards, a 3.6 rushing average and eight touchdowns. He has also struggled passing the ball this season. Keenan has completed 27-of-62 passes (43.5%) for 462 passing yards with two touchdowns against two interceptions. Keenan hasn't looked like himself throwing the ball since the knee injury and hurt his shoulder late against Air Force which forced him to miss the VMI game. He's lacks the accuracy that saw him throw 17 touchdowns against only four picks his first two seasons. Hopefully, the two weeks of rest he had, can get him healthy for the stretch run.
The play of backup quarterback Tago Smith kept the quarterback nark from being a "D" grade. Smith was converted from a NAPS slotback to quarterback last year and demonstrated his quickness and speed. This year he won both his starts and scored three times. He is averaging 3.1 yards a carry due to sacks and lost a 70-yard touchdown run against VMI because of a holding penalty. His passing has been surprising since he didn't throw the ball at all last fall. He has completed 10-of-14 passes (71.4%) for 215 passing yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Reynolds is still the best quarterback but Smith has kept Navy's bowl hopes alive this year by winning both of his starts.
Navy's three headed fullback backfield is having a tremendous season. The B-backs have already produced 1,020 rushing yards as they have almost equaled last year's fullback rushing totals (1,187 in 2013). Starting co-captain Noah Copeland has demonstrated why he's the best all-round B-back. He's started every game and played very well. Copeland leads the Mids with 532 rushing yards, an 8.9 average, and two touchdowns. He's ripped off runs of over fifty yards in four games this fall. He's caught three passes for 65 yards including a 16-yard touchdown catch against VMI. Noah hasn't fumbled this all season and has avoided the injuries that caused him to miss four games last year.
Fullback Chris Swain looks bigger and faster than ever after a solid if somewhat disappointing sophomore campaign. A healthy Noah Copeland has kept him fresh and he's been very productive. Chris has run 59 times for 414 yards, averaged 7.0 yards per carry and scored twice. He showed his old burst he had at NAPS and during his plebe year with a 45-yard touchdown run against the Falcons. At 245 pounds the Swain Train has run with power and speed this season. He lost one fumble against Temple.
Senior Quentin Singleton (49 yards, 4.9 avg., TD) has been playing in the shadow of Noah Copeland since NAPS. Singleton has played in every game but hasn't seen as many carries as last year because Copeland and Swain have played so well and stayed healthy. Singleton showed his quickness on a 14-yard touchdown run in the blowout over VMI. Junior Quentin Ezell (5 att., 25 yards) is to Swain what Singleton is to Copeland. Ezell has been behind Swain since their days at NAPS. He is another B-back with size and speed but is buried on the depth chart due to the talent in front of him.
At times it looks like the Navy staff created a mold of Reggie Campbell and mass produced Navy slotbacks in the same image. They are all short and very fast. That depth has been tested with a number of slotbacks missing time with injuries in 2014.
Senior Geoffrey Whiteside isn't as fast as some of his slotback teammates but he is the most versatile with above average speed, good hands and he can block. He's started five of six games and leads the slotbacks in rushing with 219 yards, an 8.1 average and two touchdowns. He’s second on the team with five catches for 89 yards with a 17.8 average.
Junior DeBrandon Sanders (160 rushing yards, 9.4, 2 TD) was hurt early against Texas State and missed most of that contest and the following game against Rutgers. He showed his explosive speed on the edge when he somehow outraced what seemed like half the Ohio State defense to the pylon in the opener. Sanders only fumble this year, which he recovered, against Ohio State killed the momentum of a long drive that forced Navy to settle for a field goal. Sanders hasn't been used as much in the passing game but his only catch against Air Force was a 40-yard touchdown reception.
Hard luck senior Ryan Williams-Jenkins (21 att., 215 yards, 10.2) who battled back from injuries was leading the slotbacks in rushing when he had his cheek fractured against Western Kentucky during a kickoff return. Junior Demond Brown (72 yards) has battled nagging injuries that caused him to miss the Rutgers game. Special teams star Toneo Gulley showed why he was so highly recruited on a 19-yard touchdown run against Western Kentucky. Dishan Romine missed the start of the season. He is the fastest of the slotbacks. Hopefully he can make more of an impact in the second half. Calvin Cass Jr. (35 yards, 5.0 avg.) started the spring at receiver before being moved back to slotback. He has played well when called upon.
Wide Receivers: B
The focus for Navy's wide receivers playing in a triple option offense is blocking on the perimeter. The receivers have done a good job this season as the Mids are ranked second in the nation in rushing.
The Mids found a go-to receiver in first year sophomore starter Jamir Tillman who has emerged as a passing target. Tillman leads the Mids with 15 receptions for 295 yards, a 19.7 average and a touchdown. He had a 67-yard touchdown reception against Texas State. He won the Admiral Mack Award, which is given to the player that has improved the most during spring practice, and his play has been excellent. Tillman is the son of a former NFL player and at 6-4, 206 pounds offers nice size with above average speed. He's caught at least one pass in each of the last six games.
Senior wide receiver Brandon Dudeck is a hardnosed, maximum effort player who does a nice job blocking. He started every game and has made seven receptions for 72 yards and a team leading two touchdown receptions. Converted quarterback Thomas Wilson (1 rec, 22 yards) and big plebe receiver Brandon Colon have appeared in every game and have one reception. Colon only catch was a nice 17 yard reception on the sideline against Ohio State.
Offensive Line: B
Navy ranked second in the nation while averaging over 342 yards per game. It is actually a better showing than last year when they averaged 325.4 rushing yards per game. However the line was clearly outplayed against Rutgers and Air Force and has been simply awful in pass protection.
Senior right guard Jake Zuzek has started 33 straight games and is Navy's best offensive lineman. Jake lost twenty pounds in the off season to improve his quickness. He can bench pressed over 500 pounds and can be overpowering as a one-on-one blocker. Senior left tackle Bradlyn Heap is a good run blocker but struggles against athletic pass rushers and his pass blocking fundamentals often breakdown. He did a nice job filling in at center last game against VMI due to injuries to both centers.
Senior center Tanner Fleming is one of the strongest players on the team. He's hurt his ankle in the second quarter against Western Kentucky and has been limited since that game. He tried to play against Air Force but came up hobbling early in the game and the Mids missed him the rest of the way in the loss against the Falcons. He sat out last week and is questionable for San Jose State. Navy probably needs a healthy Fleming to get bowl eligible. Blaze Ryder filled in at center for Fleming against Western Kentucky and Air Force but missed the VMI game with an injury.
Junior left guard E.K. Binns has been effective despite playing in pain with an injured shoulder that will probably need off season surgery. His shoulder has probably hurt him in pass protection at times. Right tackle has been manned by junior Joey Gaston who has been solid with good size and feet. Like most Navy linemen he's had some issues in pass protection. Navy ranked dead last in the nation in sack percentage allowed and the line's inability to protect the quarterback is why they earn a "B" grade.
Navy's Ken Niumatalolo is probably bitterly disappointed in the teams' showing so far this season. After last year's nine win season, with so many returning starters, so much more was expected. The Mids have competed but have lacked the ability to make the plays late in games as they have done in the past. He faces one of his biggest coaching challenges to get this team back on track after the disappointing early season results and the bitter loss to Air Force. The schedule is challenging with # 7 Notre Dame next week, followed by 5-2 Georgia Southern which nearly beat NC State and Georgia Tech and 4-2 South Alabama before Army. He may have stayed too long with struggling field goal kicker Nick Sloan. Ivin Jasper, Navy's offensive coordinator, had some uncharacteristically rough games calling too many pass plays especially late against Rutgers and versus Air Force as the Mids couldn't protect Reynolds. Buddy Green's defensive unit has been solid but is allowing 27.1 points per game and has allowed some big pass plays over the top of the defense that the Mids usually avoid.
Discuss this story with other Navy fans in GoMids forums: LINK.
Also see: Navy Midseason Report Card: Defense and ST
Midseason Report Card: Offense & Coaching
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