Alison Althouse

American Athletic Conference Team Preview: Navy Midshipmen

Hatts breaks down SMU's AAC foe and last game of the regular season, the Navy Midshipmen, in Pony Stampede's latest team preview.

Navy took the AAC by storm in their first season going 7-1 in conference play, only falling to Houston in their last conference game of the season. The Midshipmen almost rode a historic Heisman campaign from Keenan Reynolds, who rushed for 1,373 yards and 24 touchdowns while also throwing for another eight, to an undefeated season. Reynolds graduated and has moved on to the Baltimore Ravens and in comes a new era for Navy with a number of starters gone. The historic starter became only the 4th Navy player ever to have his number retired, and he along with his fellow starters that have moved on have left tremendous shoes to fill for a young Midshipmen team. 

Offensive Outlook in 2016 

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

With Reynolds, senior Tago Smith (above) will take over the signal calling duties after being named the starter heading into fall camp just two days into spring practice. Smith completed two of his three passes last season with one of them going for a touchdown and one also for an interception.  Like his predecessor, Smith will certainly be a threat on the ground, as will the rest of this offense but what will truly determine how successful the senior quarterback is how he can throw the ball which has yet to be seen. 

It will not only come down to Smith however, but also the one returning starter from last season wide receiver Jamir Tillman. The 6-4, 212-pound receiver averaged 20.6 yards per reception last year and finished the year with 29 receptions for 597 yards and five touchdowns. The Mustangs did shut him down for most of the game, but he did get loose for a 72-yard touchdown which was his only reception of the game. Another senior who will be looked at to pick up the pieces from this past class is slot back Dishan Romine. The 5-11, 178-pound back led the team last season at 10.5 yards per carry. On the year, Romine finished with 36 rushes for 378 yards. Not only will the shifty back make a difference in the running game but he was also a first-team All-East honoree as a kickoff returner as he averaged 27.3 yards per return which was good for 11th nationally. 

This offense is coming in a little under the radar but has always proved tough to handle given its unpredictable nature. As with every year, staying true to your defensive assignments will be the key this season looking to slow down another young but talented Navy offense. 

Defensive Outlook in 2016

USA TODAY SPORTS
 

Navy may be losing a lot on offense, but return 7 starters from last year, but they also lost a couple key contributors from last season. Their second leading tackler Micah Thomas will be back coming off a 73-tackle, 2.5-sack campaign last season as he will join forces with Daniel Gonzales, 65 tackles and Amos Mason, 47 tackles, to lead a defense that gave up just over 21 points per game last season. One player to look out for who could be due for a breakout season is junior outside linebacker Kevin McCoy. The 6-4, 212-pound linebacker finished with 2.5 sacks last season, as well as, 3.5 tackles for a loss and will likely be asked to take on a much bigger role as he heads into his third season. 

Some of the production they will be looking to replace won’t be easy. Leading tackler from last year Lorentez Barbour, 74 tackles, is gone, as well as defensive end Will Anthony who was pain for most offenses to deal with last season finishing the year with 11.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks. Also joining the ranks for those departed, Quincy Adams who had 70 tackles last season and Brendon Clemonts who finished with 5 tackles for a loss. 

Bottom Line

There is no doubt Navy is a team that lost quite a bit of talent last season. It’s going to be hard to make up for the losses of Keenan Reynolds, Chris Swain who also finished with 1,000 yards last season and Will Anthony. Both sides of the ball will have to make some adjustments, but they do get the advantage of having the tougher portion of their schedule later in the year with a October looming with Houston and another tough one against Notre Dame in November. While Navy likely won’t make a run at the BCS again, this is still an 8 or 9-win team that will give every team they face problems due to the ball control offense that they have and how well they keep defenses off balance. 


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