#51 Navy Football 2017 Preview

Navy Midshipmen
Overall Rank: #51
#3 American
Navy went 9-5 overall, 7-1 in AAC action and went to the Armed Forces Bowl. However, they lost to both Air Force and Army and that put a damper on any otherwise successful season. Of course an AAC title is a good goal too, but the Air Force contest on October 7th and the big game against Army on December 9th will define this season for the Midshipmen too.
2016 Record: 9-5, 7-1
2016 Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl vs. Louisiana Tech (L 45-48)
Coach: Ken Niumataolo (77-42 at Navy, 77-42 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ivan Jasper
Defensive Coordinator: Dale Pehrson
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Chris High, RB, 546 yards
Passing: Zach Abey, QB, 352 yards
Receiving: Darryl Bonner, RB, 278 yards
Tackles: Micah Thomas, LB, 107
Sacks: D.J. Palmore, DL, 6.0
Interceptions: Tyris Wooten, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: S Alohi Gilman, S Sean Williams, DL Jarvis Polu
Key Losses: QB Will Worth, WR Jamir Tillman, OL Maurice Morris, OL Blake Copeland, OL Adam West, DE Amos Mason
The offense will look a bit different without Will Worth under center. He rushed for 1,198 yards and threw for 1,397 more. Zach Abey will take over the triple option offense. He was thrust into action when Worth broke his foot late in the year and Abey started in the loss to Army. That was not a good game for Abey, but he showed improvement in the Armed Forces Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech where he rushed for 114 yards and threw for 159 yards. The passing game will not do too much as usual, but Navy does need to replace Jamir Tillman, who caught 40 passes for 631 yards during his senior season. Darryl Bonner is an option. The speedster rushed for 227 yards and caught ten passes for 278 yards. But of course it is the ground game that matters most. Chris High rushed for 546 yards and seven scores as a junior. He is a tough runner who can pick up the tough yards. High will be the workhorse, but the play of sophomore Malcolm Perry could add another dynamic to the already dynamic triple option offense.
Seven starters return to a defense that struggled down the stretch. The front three will rebuild around defensive end Jarvis Polu. The sophomore recorded 3.0 sacks and 53 tackles as a freshman. Linebacker D.J. Palmore will get into the pass rush as well. He recorded a team high 6.0 sacks and 11.5 tackles-for-loss. He will be joined by fellow linebacker Micah Thomas, who is the leader on the field. He easily led the team with 107 tackles and is very good against the run and the pass. Safeties Sean Williams and Alohi Gilman have plenty of talent too. Gilman had a great freshman campaign and could turn into a superstar in the secondary in 2017. There are concerns at cornerback though. Elijah Merchant and Tyris Wooten are back to take over their starting roles, but both need to play better for a team that ranked 100th in the FBS in pass defense.
The Bottom Line:
This could be another big year for Navy. The defense has experience and talent and should be better. The offense must rely on Abey to run the triple option and there will be some growing pains. It has been a while since the Midshipmen entered a season with such an inexperienced player runner the triple option. With a trip to Florida Atlantic and a home date with Tulane to open the season, that could be enough time for Abey to settle into his new role before the tougher games start showing up on the schedule.
Projected Bowl: Military Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 310.1 (4th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 128.1 (125, 11)
Total Offense: 438.3 (46, 6)
Scoring Offense: 37.9 (20, 4)
Rushing Defense: 179.9 (71, 7)
Pass Defense: 254.1 (100, 10)
Total Defense: 434.0 (84, 8)
Scoring Defense: 31.0 (84, 9)
Turnover Margin: 0.14 (52, 6)
Sacks: 1.43 (109, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 1.64 (38, 2)