Before we start giving specific recognition to the individuals on the Navy offensive line, we must first exacerbate how incredibly important the men up front are to the success of the offense.
It goes without saying (even though I’m about to say it) that the Midshipmen run the ball…a lot. Everyone understands that no team will be able to move the ball on the ground if their offensive line cannot push the defensive players back. Unlike Alabama, who uses their 6-foot-7, 360 pound offensive lineman to go head-on against the likes of Clemson and Ohio State, the Midshipmen use a much different method to average one of the highest rushing averages in the country, yearly. The offensive scheme that Navy uses, the triple-option, highlights their lineman’s advantage over their opponent: quickness. Although the Midshipmen on the offensive line may not be stronger than all of the defenses they face, they are able to get outside the tackle boxes and up to the second level to block for the running backs.
Because Navy runs the ball so frequently, opposing defenses will over-play the rushing attack and become vulnerable to a deep pass. We’ve all seen the Midshipmen complete those wide-open passes on 2nd & 3 that lead to a touchdown. However, those passes only become available if the first down running play is successful. Furthermore, all too often the defensive line gets to the quarterback before the play is even able to develop or before he is able to make a clean throw...often resulting in an interception.
In order for Navy’s offense to be successful this season, the offensive line need to be able to make big plays on first down. This will open up the playbook for offensive coordinator, Ivin Jasper. Then, the line must hold off the rushers from reaching the quarterback long enough so that the defense can bite off on the play action and allow the quarterback to see the field.
The line is led by Ford Higgins. Higgins, a two-time letter winner, has demonstrated incredible leadership ability which is why he was selected by him teammates to be one of the four team captains. Higgins is listed as the starting center but has the ability to play any position on the line. Frankly, he epitomizes what it means to be a Navy Football player. Standing at a mere 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, Higgins plays with tremendous heart and competes with guys that are well over 100 pounds heavy than he.
Listed at starting left guard is David Forney. Forney is a senior who can back up Higgins at the center position. The fellow senior saw plenty of playing time last season and will fortify the left side of the formation. Next to him is another senior, Kendel Wright. This side of the line is clearly the stronger side due to its experience and size. However, Wright can easily fill-in at right tackle if needed.
The right side of the formation is much less experienced. Peter Nestrowitz is listed at the starter at right guard and Billy Honaker at left tackle. Both Honaker and Nestrowitz are juniors, but Honaker is the only one with any relevant playing time. These two will be the biggest questions on the offensive line heading into fall training camp.
The offensive line has the potential to supersede this year’s expectations and help Navy go from likely winning five or six games to winning seven or eight. Will they? Time will tell.