2012 was an impressive year for Navy football. The Midshipmen won eight games, recaptured the Commander-in-Chief trophy with victories over Air Force and Army and finished the season by playing in a bowl game.
Now, Navy’s coaches, players and fans look ahead to next season to see if the team can build on that positive momentum. The hope is that the Midshipmen can exceed the accomplishments of last season and be even more successful in 2013.
But is that goal realistic? Can Navy exceed eight wins this season?
There is reason to be optimistic with the direction the team is headed under head coach Ken Niumatalolo.
The Navy offense was led last season by Keenan Reynolds, a true freshman from Antioch, Tennessee. Reynolds showed an impressive comprehension of Navy’s triple-option offense and handled the pressure of leading the team well as a freshman.
He also showed the ability to make plays with his arm, often scrambling outside the pocket and throwing the ball downfield when a play had broken down. If Reynolds continues to grow and mature in his sophomore season, he will give the Midshipmen an opportunity to compete in any game.
Another reason for optimism at the Naval Academy is that this could be one of the stronger defensive teams the Midshipmen have had in recent years.
Navy will be thin in the front seven, but the defensive secondary is a talented and experienced group. Parrish Gaines, Chris Ferguson and Wave Ryder are all defensive backs with a great deal of game experience. Defensive coordinator Buddy Green will rely heavily on these three to lead the defense.
The secondary has been one of the weaknesses of the defense in the past few seasons, but this year’s group should make Navy a tougher team to attack through the air.
However, even with a bright young quarterback and a talented defensive secondary, the 2013 schedule is full of challenges.
The Midshipmen only have five true home games on the schedule this season, with the sixth home game played at a neutral site against Army. With difficult opponents such as Pittsburgh and Air Force on the home schedule this year, it would be a major accomplishment if the Midshipmen can win all five of its games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
And even if Navy wins its home games, the true gauntlet of the schedule for the Midshipmen comes on the road.
Of the six road games Navy plays this season, five of them will be against opponents who were bowl-eligible last season. The only team that didn’t reach a bowl game was Indiana, which Navy defeated last season with an incredible fourth-quarter comeback.
In order for the Midshipmen to get to nine wins, they’ll likely need to win at least three games on the road. With the quality of the opponents, it’s difficult to see where those wins will come from.
One thing is certain: If Navy is able to exceed last season’s total of eight wins, it will be because the Midshipmen earned every single one of them.