A Closer Look: U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen

Ohio State's 2009 season begins with a tricky opponent in Navy. The Midshipmen have been among the most successful teams in college football during the past six seasons and will bring different looks on offense and defense into Ohio Stadium. BuckeyeSports.com takes a look at what the Mids will bring to the table Saturday.

Navy (0-0)
Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009
Ohio Stadium; Columbus

The Midshipmen
Head coach: Ken Niumatalolo, 8-6 at Navy, second year
2008 record: 8-5
Series mark: Ohio State leads 3-0
School location: Annapolis, Md.
Enrollment: 4,300
Colors: Navy Blue and Gold
Stadium: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
Fight song: "Anchors Aweigh"

Navy Players To Watch
QB Ricky Dobbs: The charismatic Georgian takes over as the starting quarterback after making just one start last year, but he showed plenty of talent at times. He ran for 224 yards and four touchdowns against SMU and finished the year with 495 yards and eight touchdowns on 106 carries. He also threw 16 times, completing nine for 212 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

"When you're the quarterback in this type of offense, there is a lot of pressure for you to perform," Niumatalolo told the Annapolis Capital Times. "I have great confidence in Ricky. He has already shown the ability to do some amazing things. If he cuts down on the mental mistakes and assignment errors, I think he has a chance to be an outstanding quarterback. He has tremendous physical ability and great leadership skills."

Dobbs' passing efficiency last year was 175.67, which would have been third in the country had he thrown enough passes.

FB Alex Teich: Now a sophomore, Teich ran just seven times for 24 yards last year, but he'll be a focal point of the Navy offense. At just 212 pounds, Teich is smaller than the past Mids' fullbacks, but he has the athleticism, speed and moves necessarily to handle the role.

"He's fast, quick, and he's got great hands out of the backfield," Eric Kettani, last year's starter, told Scout.com partner GoMids.com. "I definitely see him having the potential of being one of the great fullbacks (at Navy)."

LB Ross Pospisil: A senior captain, Pospisil is coming off of a great season as one of Navy's middle linebackers. The Texan led the squad with 106 tackles while adding four pass breakups, three forced fumbles, three TFL, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

"What you see is what you get," Niumatalolo said of the 6-0, 227-pounder. "He is a phenomenal football player and a great person. Ross is what this place is looking for. He is a great leader."

Pospisil has been nominated for the AFCA Good Works Team for his volunteer work.

S Wyatt Middleton: The lone returning starter in the Navy secondary, Middleton started every game last year, making 80 tackles – including 11 solo stops against Rutgers – to place fourth on the team while adding three forced fumbles and an interception. In '07, he set the program's freshman record for tackles with 88.

"With the way he plays – with that tremendous amount of maturity and with the plays he has made in the passing and running games – without a doubt he is our leader," defensive coordinator Buddy Green said. "I don't see anything for him but being a better player this coming year."

Projected Starters (captains starred)
QB 4 Ricky Dobbs, 6-1, 198
FB 39 Alexander Teich, 6-0, 212
Slotback/A-back 28 Marcus Curry, 5-11, 200
SB/AB 33 Bobby Doyle, 5-11, 204
WR 84 Greg Jones, 5-10, 182
WR 80 Mike Schupp, 5-10, 176
LT 61 Jeff Battipaglia, 6-4, 256
LG 79 Osei Asante, 6-1, 265*
C 66 Curtis Bass 6-1, 265
RG 53 Andy Lark, 6-0, 267
RT 70 Matt Molloy, 6-3, 260

LE 98 Jabaree Tuani, 6-1, 265
NG 69 Jordan Stephens, 6-4, 256/ 93 Chase Burge, 6-4, 270
RE 59 Matt Nechak, 6-4, 252
OLB 34 Ram Vela, 5-9, 193/ 44 Clint Sovie, 5-11, 200
ILB 51 Ross Pospisil, 6-0, 227*
ILB 50 Tony Haberer, 6-1, 217
OLB 44 Clint Sovie, 5-11, 200/ 49 Craig Schaefer, 6-2, 220
LCB 1 Blake Carter, 5-11, 187/ 11 Kwesi Mitchell, 5-10, 189
ROV 8 Wyatt Middleton, 6-2, 208
FS 7 Emmett Merchant, 5-9, 186
RCB 15 Kevin Edwards, 6-2, 180

PK 45 Jon Teague, 6-3, 198
P 35 Kyle Delahooke, 6-1, 207
KR 21 Gee Gee Greene, 5-8, 180/ 23 Cory Finnerty, 5-10, 185
PR 85 Mario Washington, 6-0, 193

Five Fast Facts
1. Six is the big number for Navy. The Midshipmen are 51-25 over the past six seasons, winning all of its games against Commander-in-Chief's Trophy foes Army and Air Force and appearing in bowl games each of those seasons. Navy also has won at least eight games in six straight years, a school record and the nation's 12th-longest streak. Navy's 13 wins against BCS schools over the past six seasons tie the squad with Utah for the most in that time span against those schools by non-BCS teams.

2. Navy was second in the country in fewest penalties per game (3.15) in 2008 as well as fewest penalty yards per game (26.77). Ball State was first in each category.

3. Navy scored on its opening drive in 12 of 13 games last year. The only outlier came in a 27-21 loss to Notre Dame.

4. Navy has eight players from Ohio: Slotback Bobby Doyle (Chardon), center Brady DeMell (Mentor), nose guard Chase Burge (Rushville), linebacker Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick (Westerville), center Mike McCarthy (Strongsville), defensive end Matt Kelley (Westerville), wideout Doug Furman (Twinsburg) and kicker Scott Blasinsky (North Royalton).

5. Navy is 27-17 away from Annapolis over the past six years for a winning percentage of .614 that is 14th in the country in that time.

Offensive Scouting Report Much ink has been spilled over Navy's offense, which has helped the Midshipmen lead the nation in rushing for the past four years, during the past few days. The flexbone triple option certainly has caught the attention of Ohio State players, coaches, fans and media.

There have been plenty of great pieces written about what makes the deceptive offense tough to defend and what Ohio State has to do to slow it down. Our own Marcus Hartman has such a piece ready to go before kickoff, and websites such as Smart Football and The Birddog, which wrote about the flexbone principles Paul Johnson uses at Georgia Tech that he honed at Navy before leaving in 2007, have outlined Navy's philosophy.

For this small section then, I'll take a quick look at Navy's personnel then, starting with Ricky Dobbs. He's billed in Navy's game notes as the team's "Magic Man," who came off the bench last year to lead the win against SMU, then piloted a miracle comeback triumph against Temple and a furious rally that fell just short against Notre Dame. He also won his first career start, 16-0, against Northern Illinois.

When asked if any of Navy's players had stood out on film, Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman started with Dobbs.

"He's a very athletic guy," Coleman said. "I can see him being a running back just the way he moves and the way he runs, but he has a great arm, and he's fairly accurate. He poses a great threat to me as a safety. I have to be very disciplined on my keys, what I'm reading."

Dobbs' arm is perhaps the most intriguing part of his arsenal. Niumatalolo has said that the Mids will throw the ball more in 2009 – not that it would be hard, as the team averaged seven passes per game last year – and Dobbs' arm and the emergence of some targets at receiver is why.

The stat sheet wouldn't show it, though, given that leading wideout Tyree Barnes – who had 20 catches last year – has graduated, and returning players combined for just seven grabs in '08. By contrast, DeVier Posey had 11 catches for the Buckeyes and was the No. 5 wideout.

Navy receivers coach Danny O'Rourke said the wideout corps has a number of similarly talented players, including starters Greg Jones and Mike Schupp and key reserve Mario Washington, who had three catches last year and who was expected to be a starter before a camp hamstring injury held him back.

A number of players will be counted on to run the football. As the fullback – the lone player who lines up in most sets behind Dobbs – Alex Teich will be among the top players to get the ball, and he'll probably be hit on just about every play.

Then there are the slotbacks, the two players on the wings who on many plays will take off in motion, going behind the formation before the play. That player is the target in the pitch should the quarterback and fullback find themselves accounted for on each play.

Slotbacks tend to be the ones who rack up a lot of the yardage – Shun White ran for 1,092 yards and 8.3 yards per carry last year – because they could very well receive the pitch with plenty of room in front of them if the defender commits to the quarterback and doesn't have help. Navy has a number of experienced players ready to take on that role in 2009.

Among that group are Bobby Doyle, Colin Finnerty, Marcus Curry and freshmen Gee Gee Greene and Bo Snelson. Doyle averaged 10.9 yards on 16 carries last year, while Finnerty is a good blocker who averaged 8.9 yards on eight tries.

The Navy offensive line – which averages less than 265 pounds per player – is undersized but nimble, and the linemen like to go low in an attempt to get the opposing player to the ground. The middle is experienced, as left guard Osei Asante, center Curtis Bass and right guard Andy lark all are seniors.

Defensive Scouting Report For all the talk about Navy's tough-to-defense offense, the Midshipmen are a bit off the beaten path on the defensive side as well, using a 3-4 defense that utilizes lots of blitzes and movement in an attempt to confuse opposing offenses.

On the back end, the Midshipmen prefer to play conservatively in order to prevent the big play, especially considering how their offense is not one that does well when having to come from behind.

"They're a team that does not want to get beat over the top," OSU receivers coach Darrell Hazell said. "They're going to play back a little bit because they know their offense is going to move the ball."

The other noteworthy fact about Navy's defense is its size. The Midshipmen do not have a defensive player on their depth chart that checks in at above 270 pounds, and all of the team's linebackers are shorter and lighter than Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

That lack of size seemed to hurt the Mids a season ago. Despite the fact that Navy allowed just 3.8 yards per carry a season ago, the better teams on the schedule had a field day: Ball State ran for 5.6 yards per carry, Rutgers for 6.2, Pittsburgh for 5.8 and Notre Dame for 4.5. No. 16 Wake Forest averaged 1.4 yards per carry while losing to Navy in October but ran for 5.0 yards per try in an EagleBank Bowl win.

It also won't help that 287-pound nose tackle Nate Frazier, the team's best run stuffer, was dismissed during camp because of rules violations.

There is a sign that Navy could improve in that regard in 2009. Eight seniors have a chance at significant playing time among the Mids' front seven, and the team did decrease its yards-per-carry against last year from 4.3 in '07 to that 3.8 mark last year.

Opponents also found it easy at times throw the ball against the Mids. Four teams topped 300 yards through the air, and the 13 averaged completing 66.6 percent of their passes. That was before Navy lost three starters from its secondary to graduation. The blemishes were 16 interceptions against 17 touchdowns.

In fact, turnovers were a major plus for Navy a season ago. The Mids were plus-15 overall, twice ending a game plus-four and losing the turnover battle just twice on the year.

One final note: It might be worth watching sophomore defensive end Jabaree Tuani, who impressed last year as a plebe and earned second-team Freshman All-America honors while starting in Walsh's stead. Tuani, a smart and athletic player, had six tackles and two TFL in his first start against Wake Forest and went on to make 42 tackles (nine for loss) and force three fumbles on the season.

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