Today we continue our preview to the preview series. Each week we will take three teams that Navy will face in 2016 and quick hit on strengths and weaknesses of each. These mini-previews are going to be set out in the reverse order of the team’s projected strength for the 2016 season. So far we have looked at teams twelve through ten and nine through seven. That means this week the opponents continue to get better as we hit up teams six through four.
- The Pirates are set at receiver, especially if you like efficiency over big plays.
- The defensive front seven returns bags of experience and will look to add big play potential to the passive style that was on display last fall.
- There is little to no depth in secondary, but if the four starters can stay healthy this will be an athletic and exciting unit to watch.
- Is there a quarterback on the roster? The Pirates have seen two transfers and a position change happen since the end of 2015 and now the battle is between a redshirt freshman and a guy (Philip Nelson) who is at his third different college.
- ECU has a bad habit of losing close games. The Pirates are 4-9 over the last three seasons in games decided by one possession.
- The Pirates return three players with starting experience, but that offensive line lost a ton of pieces from last year and will be a puzzle to put together.
- Ruffin McNeill seemed like the ultimate players coach and was fired after a decent record in a rebuilding year. Will his recruits have any interest in playing under a new head coach?
- ECU went out and hired an up-and-comer at the head coaching position in former Duke receiver Scottie Montgomery. How will his first year go?
Prediction – ECU might be the most difficult to predict team on the schedule. A new coach plus experience minus big play potential minus a quarterback means that the prediction here is a toss-up.
- The Falcons defense is one of the most aggressive in the country with defenders bursting through the line of scrimmage on both running and passing plays.
- The Air Force offense is one of the few out there that actively gets better as the game progresses. The adjustments, and the big passing plays, are much more common after half time.
- Air Force returns its top seven running backs from 2015. The fullbacks were especially impressive one year ago.
- That same aggressive nature that is such a strength can lead to game changing big plays if a tackle is missed or an assignment is missed in the defensive back seven.
- Air Force only has to replace one significant contributor on defense, but he was their best run stopper and pass rusher. If a replacement for Alex Hansen cannot be found then the whole identity of the defense changes.
- Rivalry games often see the script torn up as both teams are more amped up for this than a run off the mill contest.
- The Falcons graduate two all-conference offensive linemen and have to replace three in total. With the juniors and seniors waiting in the wings be able to step up?
Prediction – With Navy in something of a rebuilding year beating the Falcons and retaining the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy would be huge. It is going to be a tough challenge however.
- The Tigers are loaded at wide receiver. This unit is athletic and as deep as there is outside of the Power 5 conferences.
- The defense returns seven of eight linemen, five of seven linebackers, and four of five defensive backs. That experience, plus a significant change of coaching philosophy, will see this defense in attack mode all year.
- The Tigers special teams unit is one of the best in the conference at just about every aspect of the game.
- Graduating the No. 26 overall pick in the NFL Draft is always going to hurt an AAC school. Quarterback Paxton Lynch was a monster for Memphis and they don’t appear to have a replacement on the depth chart.
- The top four running backs return, but hey return having only ranked at No. 96 in the country in adjusted rushing last fall.
- Losing a coach as good as Justin Fuente is going to hurt and making consecutive home run hires at the mid-major level is incredibly difficult.
- New head coach Mike Norvell knows the area and comes from a good coaching tree. The pressure on him to succeed (especially with the Big XII keeping an eye on the situation) is enormous.
- Will the Tigers 1-4 record down the stretch in 2015 run over into this season?
Prediction - It will be interesting to see how a defensive staff with no real knowledge of the option (PAC 12) tries to stop Navy. The Mids will win this if they are efficient and don't turn over the ball.