Mike Yeager’s 2020 Navy Football Preview (from Annual Wellborn ‘59 N* Lunch)
Mike Yeager ’76, gave a brief update of the 2020 Navy Football team and season. Navy will play 11 games including BYU, Air Force and Army along its normal 8 game American Athletic Conference (AAC) schedule. Currently no fans are allowed to attend Navy games in Navy-Marine Corps Stadium as per local Annapolis guidelines. Navy also had to drop its annual game with Notre Dame due to scheduling conflicts after Notre Dame’s decision to join the Atlantic Coast Conference for one year in order to fill out its schedule. The Notre Dame schedule originally played a number of Big Ten and Pac 12 schools that have cancelled football for now.
Navy did not hold Spring practice due to the coronavirus lockdown and has held its Fall football training camp over the last few weeks with limited physical contact between players. Players are being tested often and multiple safety precautions are in place to protect the team and staff. So far no new virus cases have been disclosed. All of this means Navy enters its first game without the normal amount of preparation, but these issues have affected all teams.
Army plans to play an 11 game season, but has a schedule that includes many small schools as they have had to rework their schedule due to game cancellations. Air Force, a member of the Mountain West Conference, has only Navy and Army as scheduled opponents at present due to their conference cancelling football this Fall.
Navy comes off an 11-2 record season in 2019 and returns a good nucleus of players, with the loss of QB Malcolm Perry being the main concern to replace. A total of 7 starters from last year’s team return on both offense and and on defense and many of the skilled position players return. Navy has three quarterbacks competing for the starting job and senior Dalen Morris as been announced as the starter for the first game against BYU. Morris has been learning the Navy system for 4 years and has been credited with having had a great Fall training camp while showing a superior grasp of Navy’s triple option offense. The Navy QB makes many decisions on each play depending on what the opposing defense is doing, so having a full grasp of the offense is critical. Dalen is also one of the better passers that Navy has had in the QB position in several years. His drawback is that he has not played a meaningful amount, and will be tested in high pressure situations against very good teams. He does how two great fullbacks and both starting running backs from last year to rely on, so he has some help.
Despite Navy being known for its NCAA leading ground attack on offense, the Navy defense was a major highlight of last year’s team and looks to be even better this year. Our defense plays an attacking style and has good size, depth and speed to compete with our opponents. If our defense can stop opposing teams and keep their offenses off the field in our early season contests, Navy will not fall behind early in games and will have a much better chance to win. It is far easier to be ready to tackle on defense with limited practice than it is to have the timing and execution down on offense, so a few strong defensive games will really help the Navy offense have time to get in gear. Winning with defense in our early games will give Navy a much better chance for a great season.
In preseason polls Navy is picked 4th or 5th in its AAC division. SMU, Memphis and Houston return significant talent from very good teams last year. SMU and Memphis bring back quarterbacks and skilled receivers that recorded passing yardage and touchdowns in 2019 that were among the best in the nation. Tulane and Temple are also expected to have good teams. And of course Navy’s three non conference games against BYU, Air Force and Army will be difficult. Navy plays several of its most difficult games such as Memphis and Houston at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium where it has a record of being very hard to beat at home. SMU will be played in Dallas as well as Air Force in Colorado Springs so those matchups will bet very tough.
In looking at each game this year, and based mainly on our opponent’s record last year, number of returning starters, and whether the game is home or away, Navy is capable of having a very good to great year. The SMU game in Dallas is the only game where on paper all of the conditions should favor the opponent if you give our home field location an equalizing advantage against Memphis and Houston. Getting quality Navy quarterback play and the Navy defense repeating last year’s results could yield a season as high as 9-2. A lesser performance against quality teams like BYU, Tulane, Air Force, Houston and Memphis could drop the record to a range of wins and losses that would result in an average season. Beating Memphis at home is very doable as always play very well against them, and if we get to the SMU game with a great record, our Navy defense is capable of being a tilting point for us like they were last year when we beat SMU. Overall we have every reason to think we can keep the score of every game close, control the clock with our running attack and score enough to win.