The linebackers and secondary of the Mustangs will have to read their keys and play assignment football against the well-oiled Navy option.
Senior quarterback Ricky Dobbs makes the Midshipmen go. In 2009, Dobbs set an NCAA record for QBs with 27 rushing touchdowns. This season, he's only averaged 2.8 yards per carry behind an offensive line that includes new starters at both guard positions and center.
Don't let that fool you, however. Dobbs (6-foot-1, 205) is dishing out the football in Navy's option offense to three backs that are each having tremendous success. Fullback Vince Murray is the second-leading rusher on the team (Dobbs is first with 317 yards) and the 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior is gaining over 5 yards per carry.
As of yesterday, Murray was not expected to play this Saturday, due to an injury he incurred in last week's win over Wake Forest, In his place, junior Alexander Teich will get the nod at fullback. Teich is no rookie, having carried the ball 34 times for 143 yards this season. Teich is also banged up after suffering a concussion against Wake Forest.
Greene, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound sophomore, is also the leading receiver (13-197, 15.2). The 5-foot-7 Byrd hails from The Bolles School, one of Florida's top prep programs.
Although Greene has the most receptions, the Navy receiver with the most yardage is San Antonio native Greg Jones. A senior wide receiver from Reagan HS, Jones (6-0, 185) has 10 catches for 204 yards with a TD.
Dobbs loves to run the ball and the statistics bear that out. He has more than twice as many carries as any other Navy player. Many of Dobbs' passes come when he's outside the pocket - giving him the chance to make the throw or tuck it under.
For the year, Dobbs is 33-of-69 (47.8 completion percentage) for 573 yards and three touchdowns (with four interceptions). He has five rushing TDs.
On defense, linebacker Tyler Simmons -- a first-year starter -- has 46 tackles (21 solo). At 6-foot-3 and just under 240 pounds, Simmons has good size (which isn't always the case with personnel of the service academies).
Undersized outside linebacker Aaron McCauley (5-foot-10, 195) is having a banner year. He's second on the team with 42 tackles (25 solo), leads the unit in sacks (two), and is tied for the team lead with seven TFL.
Senior safety Wyatt Middleton, one of three returning starters in the secondary, stands out on tape as a playmaker. Middleton (6-foot-2, 190) is fifth on the team with 32 tackles. He can make the one-on-one stop in the open field (20 solo tackles).
BOTTOM LINE: To beat Navy, you first have to contain Dobbs. It's clear that opposing defenses have schemed this year to take away the open lanes for Dobbs, but he's adapted by utilizing the FB dive, as well as getting the ball to his speedy SB's on the outside.
The Midshipmen have produced approximately 70% of their yardage on the ground, as you would expect from an option team. Nevertheless, Dobbs will pull up at any moment and attempt to get the ball into the hands of his two leading receivers, Jones and Greene.
On defense, Navy's secondary has allowed opponents to complete approximately 67% of their passes. This could play into the hands of SMU QB Kyle Padron and his sure-handed receivers.