The Draft Post

Here’s the list of past Navy opponents who were selected in this year’s NFL draft:

Round 1

Joey Bosa – DE – Ohio State
Ezekiel Elliot – RB –Ohio State
Ronnie Stanley – OT – Notre Dame
Eli Apple – CB – Ohio State
Taylor Decker – T – Ohio State
Darron Lee – LB – Ohio State
Will Fuller – WR – Notre Dame
William Jackson III – CB – Houston
Paxton Lynch – QB – Memphis

Round 2

Jaylon Smith – LB – Notre Dame
Michael Thomas – WR – Ohio State
Jason Spriggs – T – Indiana
Nick Martin – G – Notre Dame
Tyler Boyd – WR – Pitt
Vonn Bell – S – Ohio State

Round 3

Kevin Byard – S – Middle Tennessee State
Carl Nassib – DE – Penn State*
KeiVarae Russell – CB – Notre Dame
Adolphus Washington – DT – Ohio State
Braxton Miller – WR – Ohio State**
Leonte Carroo – WR – Rutgers
C.J. Prosise – RB – Notre Dame
Nick Vannett – TE – Ohio State

Round 4

Joshua Perry – LB – Ohio State
Sheldon Day – DT – Notre Dame
Tavon Young – CB – Temple
Tyler Higbee – TE – Western Kentucky
Tyler Ervin – RB – San Jose State
Cardale Jones – QB – Ohio State**

Round 5

Jordan Howard – RB – Indiana
Matthew Ioannidis – DT – Temple
Brandon Shell – T – South Carolina***
Antwione Williams – LB – Georgia Southern

Round 6

Nate Sudfeld – QB – Indiana
Wes Schweitzer – G – San Jose State
Anthony Zettel – DT – Penn State
Jordan Lucas – S – Penn State
Kavon Frazier – S – Central Michigan
Elandon Roberts – LB – Houston

Round 7

Brandon Doughty – QB – Western Kentucky
DeMarcus Ayers – WR – Houston
Tyler Matakevich – LB – Temple
Prince Charles Iworah – CB – Western Kentucky

*Did not appear in 2012 game
**Did not appear in 2014 game
***Did not appear in 2011 game

The American Is the Best Group of Five Conference

This is a two-part post. In Part I, I talk about how the American has established itself as the top Group of Five conference. In Part II, we’ll discuss what that means, and where we go from here.

The American Athletic Conference is only three years old, but they’ve done pretty well for themselves in those three years. 2015 was the American’s best season yet, with a New Year’s bowl winner, two teams in the final top 25, the consensus national defensive player of the year (Temple’s Tyler Matakevich), and a player who finished in the top five in Heisman voting (Keenan Reynolds). There were plenty of skeptics who doubted the viability of the Big East’s football remnants, but the conference has not only survived, but thrived.

Indeed, the case can easily be made that the American has emerged as the top Group of Five conference.

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Throwback Thursday, and Spread Option Appreciation

1954

John Hopkins recovered a fumble, and Bob Craig followed it up with a touchdown run of 65 yards as the group that would become the “Team Named Desire” opened up their season at Thompson Stadium against William and Mary:

Runs like that helped Craig set a school record by averaging 5.7 yards per carry over the course of his career.

That record is a great way to demonstrate just how revolutionary today’s Navy offense is. Last year I wrote about the 1995 Navy-SMU game and how it was a shock to the system of a moribund football program. That was the first time the spread option took the field in the Navy blue and gold, and its impact was immediate. The Mids reached offensive milestones that day that hadn’t been achieved in years, or in some cases, ever.

What began in 1995 hasn’t let up. Navy’s record books are rewritten each year, and Craig’s mark is no exception. He played from 1952-1954, and his record stood for 50 years. Number two on that list was his teammate, Joe Gattuso (the elder), who averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Ned Oldham (1955-1957) was next at 5.2. After that, nobody really came close. Think of all the great Navy runners in the decades that followed: Bellino, Donnelly, Cooper, Meyers, McCallum. None of those stars were able to challenge Craig’s number.

Almost immediately upon the return of the spread option in 2002, that record became toast. Tony Lane wrapped up his career in 2003 after averaging a mind-boggling 8.9 yards per carry. That’s over three yards per carry more than a record that stood for five decades. Since 2003, Craig’s once-untouchable average has been topped by seven different Navy slotbacks: Lane, Eric Roberts, Reggie Campbell, Shun White, Gee Gee Greene, Geoffery Whiteside, and DeBrandon Sanders. A fullback, Noah Copeland, almost matched the record himself at 5.6 ypc.

The production hasn’t been limited to the ground, either. Jim Stewart owned a school record after averaging 19.3 yards per catch from 1960-1962. He is now fifth on the list, having been topped by Tyree Barnes, Greg Jones, Campbell, and Roberts over the last dozen years.

Remember this the next time you hear that Navy’s isn’t a big-play offense, or that it’s only built for three yards and a cloud of dust. The spread option puts players in a position to make big plays at a rate that is unprecedented in Navy history.

Remember What It Took to Get Here

Navy football accomplished a lot in 2015. The team won 11 games, beat Army, won the Military Bowl, and finished ranked in the top 20. Keenan Reynolds was named both the American Athletic Conference and ECAC Offensive Player of the Year, finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting, and was co-recipient of the AAU Sullivan Award given to the nation’s outstanding amateur athlete. Four other players earned All-Conference recognition, and eight Mids were named to the All-East team. Coach Niumatalolo was co-Coach of the Year in the American, and was a finalist for two national coaching awards.

Games were won and records were broken, but of all the accolades the team received, the one I value most is the Lambert Trophy, awarded to the best team in the East.

Continue reading “Remember What It Took to Get Here”

Some Thoughts on This Week

The Navy football program does not have a history of adjusting very well to coaching changes. The team’s success under Wayne Hardin and George Welsh were followed by even longer stretches of futility. That history made Paul Johnson’s 2007 departure for Georgia Tech somewhat frightening, but it was hardly a surprise.

Everyone knew the deal when Johnson was hired. He is fueled by a relentless desire to prove his doubters wrong, to the point that he almost seeks out new people to doubt him. His fans would call it a competitive spirit. His detractors call it ego. However it’s framed, that drive is what makes him the successful coach that he is. It’s what brought him to Navy, and ultimately what caused him to move on to the next challenge.

Ken Niumatalolo has different motivations, although they are every bit as compelling. Don’t get me wrong; he is just as much of a competitor as his predecessor, and detests losing. He is an innovator that never stops looking for ways to improve every aspect of his program. At the same time, he is driven by more than what happens on the field. The winningest coach in Naval Academy history is a family man dedicated to his faith, and those values are reflected in how he runs his football program. He makes sure that his staff has the time to make their families a priority, too. Players want to play for him and coaches want to coach for him. While it’s a different kind of impulse compared to his predecessor’s, it’s no less a part of what makes him successful. And it too was almost the catalyst for his departure.

Almost.

Continue reading “Some Thoughts on This Week”