Navy Football: 5 Players to Build Around in 2013
After finishing the 2012 season with an 8-5 record and recapturing the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, the Navy Midshipmen have some great momentum entering 2013.
With an outstanding freshman quarterback and other young players, next season's team could be the most talented group Ken Niumatalolo has had during his tenure as Navy's head coach.
If the Naval Academy has great success on the field in 2013, here are five Midshipmen the team will be built around.
All stats via NavySports.com
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The man considered by many to have the greatest name in college football will play a critical role for the Navy defense in 2013.
As the only expected senior starter in the secondary, Ryder will have the responsibility of leading a defense that has struggled against the pass over the past few years.
Ryder played in all 13 games in the 2012 season and finished with 53 tackles, which was seventh on the team. Ryder will be expected to increase that number in 2013 to help make up for the loss of Tra'ves Bush in the Navy secondary.
When Navy faces high-powered offenses next season, Ryder's play will be critical to the team's success.
Danny Ring stepped up in 2012 to help the defensive line make up for the loss of Jabaree Tuani to graduation. Despite being only a sophomore, Ring gained valuable experience by playing all 13 games during the 2012 season.
As the Midshipmen's starting nose guard, Ring will serve as the centerpiece of Buddy Green's 3-4 defensive scheme. His strong play will allow Navy's linebackers to be more aggressive and roam the field to make tackles.
Ring should be able to use his experience from 2012 to help the Midshipmen in their biggest rivalry games in 2013. Having a physical, experienced nose tackle should present challenges for the triple-option offenses of Army and Air Force.
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As Navy looks to expand its passing game in 2013 with Keenan Reynolds, Matt Aiken is poised to have a breakout senior season. Aiken was hindered by a knee injury to start the 2012 season but came on midway through the year and became one of Keenan Reynolds' most reliable options at wide receiver.
With the loss of Gee Gee Greene and Brandon Turner, Aiken will likely become the primary receiver in the Navy offense.
One of the highlights of this past season was Aiken's game-winning touchdown catch to put the Midshipmen ahead of Indiana with 2:02 to play in the fourth quarter. The rising senior from Roanoke, Va., has developed a knack for coming up with clutch catches, and the same will be expected of him next season.
When Keenan Reynolds looks to throw the ball downfield next year, there's a good chance he will be looking in the direction of Matt Aiken.
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As the featured fullback in a triple-option offense, Noah Copeland was one of the most unexpected surprises on the Navy football team in 2012.
Replacing Alexander Teich, a Naval Academy legend, Copeland stepped in at fullback and finished the season with 741 yards and five touchdowns. The rising junior brings a physical running style that will help the Midshipmen wear down their opponents in late-game situations.
Copeland will also benefit from the depth that exists behind him at the fullback position. Instead of having to carry the load for the offense, Copeland will be able to share time with Chris Swain, which should help both players stay fresh through the course of the season.
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The hopes of 2013 for the Navy football team will rest on the arms and legs of Keenan Reynolds. 2012 saw Reynolds deliver one of the best freshman seasons in the history of the Naval Academy, and he is the main reason for optimism in 2013.
Reynolds finished the 2012 season with 796 rushing yards, 898 passing yards and 19 total touchdowns while only starting eight games.
With a year of experience and a full offseason to learn the offense, Reynolds has the potential to generate huge excitement about the Naval Academy next season. If Reynolds is able to build on his freshman success, Navy could be one of the surprise teams of 2013.