Today we take a look at one of the most under appreciated elements of the Navy triple-option offense, the wide receivers.
When you think of Navy Football’s high-powered triple-option offense, you are probably thinking about the man under center, speedy slots, and battering ram fullbacks. You certainly aren’t thinking about possession receivers or constant deep threats. The truth of the matter is Navy receivers are valued for their blocking ability over their pass-catching ability. Obviously they have to be able to catch the ball and run routes effectively, but a Navy wideout who cannot block is one you will see sitting on the sideline.
Navy has had some clutch receivers in the triple-option era. Some names you will likely recall are Jason Tomlinson, OJ Washington, Tyree Barnes, Greg Jones, Jamir Tillman, and Tyler Carmona. Jones (2010) and Tillman (2015 & 2016) are the only two in the last decade to eclipse 500 receiving yards in a single season, and Tillman is the only player in the triple-option era to accumulate more than 600 yards in a single season (615; 2016). In any event, these guys aren’t getting involved unless the ground game is rolling, because Navy isn’t built to support a balanced offense; last season Navy called a running play about 85% of the time. Which brings us back to the original point: Navy receivers are overwhelmingly valued for their ability to block.
The good news for the Mids is they only lose two of their receivers from last season: Taylor Jackson, a 3 time letter winner and the teams leading receiver in 2018; and two if you count Zach Abey who was lining up outside at the beginning of the season.
Navy sees four of their top five receivers return for the 2019 campaign. Unfortunately, one of them made a permanent switch to quarterback and another is a slotback. Sophomore Mychal Cooper and Junior Ryan Mitchell were the 4th and 5th leading receivers for the Mids respectively; they are both listed as the starting WRs on the depth chart and posses terrific blocking ability. Cooper is probably the most exciting option out wide for the Mids this year. Cooper made several big plays as a freshman in 2018, and he has the size, speed, and hands to have a break out 2019 campaign. Mitchell has made appearances in 14 games across two seasons, including time in all 13 games last season. He possesses all the tools to be a great wideout, but his best skillset comes from his abilities as a blocker.
Senior OJ Davis and Sophomore Marcell Gleaton are the only other two returning letter winners to the team. Davis is probably the most impressive story of the bunch because he was an outside linebacker until a year ago. He made the switch to wide receiver during spring camp and left a good enough impression with the coaches to play in every game during the 2018 campaign. He even took over as the starter once Abey returned to the quarterback position; Davis now sits at number two just behind Mychal Cooper. Gleaton has limited experience at the college level, but he has state championship roots from his high school days, and the coaching staff thinks he has big time playmaker potential.
The player to watch from this group is Mychal Cooper. Anyone who can reach the D-I level and make an impact as a freshman is a guy you need to keep an eye out on for an encore performance. My prediction for most improved is OJ Davis. Anyone who can make the leap from linebacker to wide receiver, and six months later be starting at the new position, is that scary kind of athlete who doesn’t come around very often.