Turtledroppings: First I am going to start off saying it is tough routing against Navy. I will even go so far to say if I had to say I had a second favorite team, Navy would be it. I have always thought highly of the service academy’s. While I was a student, I can remember thinking what are those guys doing, and where will they wind up when they are done? Nothing but respect for everything they are doing. After graduating from Maryland I lived in Annapolis for 5 years, so I began to follow Navy a little more closely. Throw in the fact that play with a little different offense, and they are fun to watch. However, when they are playing Maryland they are public enemy number one. Personally I think it would be really cool to play Navy every other year. It makes a lot of sense to me, and I expecting it be fun again this time. What are your thoughts on really making this a rivalry? I know we will never ever compete with Army, but where do you think Maryland can fit in?
Birddog: I don’t think rivalries are really “made.” They just sort of happen. The Maryland-Navy series has an unusual history that might help kickstart a rivalry, but it’s not like it was an annual game before all the animosity.
I would like to see Navy play Maryland on a regular basis. The only issue is how regular. When you enter into a long-term scheduling arrangement, you aren’t scheduling a team as much as you are a program. Who’s good in the ACC may vary from year to year, but Maryland is basically the same caliber of program, with the same kind of potential, as everyone else in the conference. That kind of arrangement doesn’t really exist with Navy, with only 2 other comparable programs that face a similar set of circumstances. It doesn’t make very much sense for a service academy to enter an annual series with a BCS program that has far more resources and a much higher ceiling. Navy is favored this year, but that won’t be the norm.
There is too much money to be made not to play, though. The right answer for Navy would be to play Maryland in those years when it makes sense in the context of the rest of the schedule.
TD: What are your expectations for the season?
BD: Navy has won 8+ games and gone to a bowl game for 7 consecutive seasons. There is no reason why that streak can’t continue. There has been some preseason talk from various media outlets of Navy being a BCS dark horse, but I won’t be setting any expectations based on that. I do believe that there’s no team on Navy’s schedule that they can’t beat, but I’m sure fans of most of those teams look at Navy and think the same thing.
TD: Can Ricky Dobbs really make a run at the Heisman? Why or why not?
BD: Ricky Dobbs is not going to win the Heisman Trophy. No matter how he does, there are too many voters that would simply never consider someone from the Naval Academy. Even if he doesn’t win, though, the hype that comes from a Heisman run is good exposure for a school that’s trying to reach as many potential candidates for admission as possible.
TD: How big of a loss is slot back Marcus Curry? Who will replace him? Is Navy’s system so good, they can just plug anyone with speed and a few nice moves in and he can instantly become a 1,000 yard rusher? It seems to me every year they lose someone that had an excellent season the year before, but never really miss a beat.
BD: I think losing Curry hurts more than some Navy fans would like to admit. It isn’t devastating, but he was the best receiver on the team. Navy doesn’t throw very much, but when they do they want it to be for maximum effect. Most of Curry’s biggest plays came in the passing game. The coaches have said that slotback is the deepest position on the team, so it isn’t as if the cupboard is bare; but only one (Gee Gee Greene) has had very much playing time. Gee Gee is one of the fastest players on the team and is the most likely to pick up the slack left by Curry’s departure, but you’ll see as many as 6 slotbacks rotated in throughout the game. It won’t necessarily be a one-man show.
TD: As a fan, what is your take on the offense?
BD: Navy’s offense should be better than it was last year. Both fullbacks are back, 4 of the 5 starters on the offensive line already have starting experience, and Dobbs will be more comfortable running the offense with another year of experience under his belt. The irony behind Ricky’s great statistical year in 2009 is that if he had a better grasp of the offense, he wouldn’t have had so many carries with which to pile up those numbers. He kept the ball a lot more than he should have; Navy QBs don’t usually average 25-30 carries per game. The added experience will help him make better decisions, meaning that he probably won’t be keeping the ball as much. It won’t help his Heisman campaign, but the offense will be better off for it.
TD: I will be totally honest. I know very little about the Navy D. I do know, that they (like Maryland) don’t make a ton of plays behind the line. Is that because of size, lack of true talent, or more of a defensive philosophy?
BD: Navy’s defense is fairly conservative. They don’t attack the line of scrimmage as much as they prefer to prevent the big play. The Mids will use 3-4 personnel, but will frequently move one of those linebackers to the line of scrimmage to for a 4-man front. They’ll give up yards between the 20s, but were one of the most improved scoring defenses last year in giving up only 19.43 points per game (18th in the country). The unit will have to replace several of last year’s excellent linebackers, with only one 2010 starter having much experience.
TD: If I was to watch one guy on the defense, who should I keep an eye on?
BD: The player to watch on Navy’s defense is defensive end Jabaree Tuani. If he was 3 inches taller, he’d probably be playing for Tennessee, not Navy. He is remarkably fast for his position, and has made plays all over the field. Even if he’s not making the tackle himself, he can disrupt a play enough for the linebackers behind him to finish off the play. He was the 2008 ECAC Rookie of the Year as a freshman, beating out freshman from the Big East and several other schools.
TD: I am not sure how much you know about our beloved Terps, but where do you think they might have an advantage? Where do you think Navy has an advantage?
BD: When Charlie Taaffe was offensive coordinator, the option was a much bigger part of the Maryland offense. Not that it was ever thebulk of the offense like at Navy, but guys like Shaun Hill and Scott McBrien were mobile enough to rush for 200-300 yards in a season. That isn’t earth-shattering, but it was an added dimension that opened up a lot of other areas of the offense. With Jamarr Robinson showing how well he can run last year, I suspect that we’ll see more of the one- and two-back zone-read option game from Maryland now that he’s the starter. Zone blocking offenses have been a problem for the Navy defense in the past because they get the defensive line moving laterally, making typically undersized Navy linemen a lot easier to push around. That, coupled with Maryland’s depth at running back, could help the Terps to a big day on the ground.
As for Navy, their biggest advantage might be the Terps’ relative inexperience in the defensive line against a veteran offensive line playing in an unconventional offense.
TD: Finally, what is your prediction for the game?