In a normal season, the challenges of running a Division 1 football program at an institution whose mission is training future American naval officers are not small. In a season where teams tried to play football around a global pandemic, Navy probably had a tougher situation than anyone else trying to play football in the fall of 2020.
Even in a normal 2020, Navy would’ve had numerous questions to answer after an 11-2 season in 2019.
Some of those questions remain, most notably: who is this team’s starting quarterback?
Sophomore Xavier Arline started 3 games in 2020 and after spring practice had not separated himself from fellow sophomore Tai Lavatai.
Arline is built a lot like recent Midshipmen great Malcolm Perry, but it took Perry a few seasons to build up to his transcendent 2019 season.
The biggest losses are fullbacks Nelson Smith (graduation) and Jamale Carothers (dismissed), though I expect senior Isaac Ruoss to still put up respectable numbers. Carothers would have been a steadying force on a young offense.
There’s not much proven returning at slot back either, as seniors Chance Warren and Carlinos Acie are the post-spring starters. Neither rushed for more than 95 yards in 2020.
Its worth underscoring that service academies always lose more than the average senior production and you can’t evaluate it exactly like civilian schools. Nowhere is that truer than the offensive line, though the Mids return 1 full time starter (senior C Pierce Banbury) and 1 part time starter (junior RT Kip Frankland).
2020 was a big step back for the Navy defense and they certainly suffered from not having preseason contact practices. But on the plus side there’s a lot of production returning.
Senior MLB Diego Fagot is an all-conference lock and will be near the top of the country in tackles. At the hybrid ‘Raider’ and ‘Striker’ positions juniors Nicholas Straw and John Marshall return after starting much of last year.
I’m also intrigued by long term potential of sophomore Donald Berniard Jr, who was a rare plebe to start on the line last year.
Almost the entire Navy secondary returns, including multi-year starters: senior FS Kevin Brennan and senior CB Michael McMorris.
The Mids’ 2021 schedule is also going to be a major challenge, with non-conference games vs Marshall and Notre Dame, as well as getting AAC powers Cincy and UCF at home.