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Navy football: 5 players to watch during 2019 season

Last season didn’t go as planned for Navy. However, there are a handful of players returning and are set to have big roles this season.

Lehigh v Navy Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Navy Midshipmen posted a subpar record of 3-9 in 2018, one of there worst years in the past few decades. Despite a bad taste in their mouth, and the mouths of many Navy fans, there are reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming year. Specifically, Navy will be returning a substantial amount of players who saw real minutes last season. Let’s take a look at some of the Midshipmen who are likely to be impact players throughout 2019.

Malcolm Perry

The starting quarterback for any Navy team will undoubtedly play one of the biggest roles throughout the year. This year, Malcolm Perry, will be returning for his senior season and have another chance to lead the Midshipmen from under center. In 2018, Perry began the season as the starter, but after injuries and durability issues, he was transitioned back to A-back(Navy’s running back position).

So, what exactly are we “watching for” when it comes to Perry? Well, sure, his health is an obvious aspect to monitor. However, the health of any Navy quarterback is constantly something to consider given the nature of the triple-option. Just because Perry has had injuries in the past does not mean he is bound to have more this year, and that is the exact reason why he is being given another shot at the position.

What we need to watch for is his throwing ability and accuracy. We need to watch for his decision making - whether to pitch the ball or keep it for himself. Lastly, we should be excited at how high Perry’s ceiling truly is. Had he been a junior or senior on the Navy football teams of earlier this decade, he would have been a brand name much like that of Keenan Reynolds.

Nelson Smith

The first option in the triple-option is to hand off the ball to the fullback. In Navy’s offense, this position is referred to as the B-Back. Although we put tons of emphasis on the play of the quarterback in the triple-option, the true determinant of a successful option team is the threat and/or reality that the ball can be taken up the middle for at least three yards every single down. While a consistent three-yards is a luxury, what’s even better is the danger that the B-Back can break free for a long run straight down the middle of the field. Navy’s junior B-Back, Nelson Smith, has both the dominant strength to punish linebackers filling the holes up the middle but also the tremendous breakaway speed to score on long runs.

We saw glimpses of brilliance from a very young sophomore on the Midshipmen squad early in 2018 against Hawaii. I remember watching the game saying, “Who the heck is that?”. Well, I quickly learned the name Nelson Smith. We saw another breakout performance from him against Temple when Smith rushed for over 100 yards on 18 carries.

Last season was a learning and growing year for the then sophomore. Mistakes were made. He was coming off his first collegiate off-season. It was his first chance at seeing real playing time. This year, we should expect big things from Smith. The best part is that he’s still only a junior.

Ford Higgins

You can’t have a successful rushing offense without a stellar offensive line. Ford Higgins was named one of the team’s four captains this off-season. While we may not be able to attribute many specific statistics to Higgins’ performances, we can observe his leadership, toughness, and heart by the way he plays and carries himself on the field. Higgins embodies exactly what it means to be a Navy offensive lineman. He is humble. He is demanding of excellence of his teammates and himself. And well, he’s slightly undersized.

The senior lineman is listed at 6-foot-2 and merely 260 pounds. This makes him the smallest starting offensive lineman by 22 pounds, at least. While many may see his lack of size as a disadvantage, in reality, this is exactly why he was voted to be a captain by his teammates. They trust him and know that despite his physical nature, he is able to overcome by his shear desire to win and love for his teammates. Look for Higgins to set the example all year long for the Midshipmen.

Marcus Edwards

Many of the service academy athletes excel in something more than just the sport you see them play. Marcus Edwards is one of those people. Edwards was one of the very few Midshipmen, throughout the school, to be early selected to serve as a Nuclear Submarine Officer. Not only does it take incredible intelligence to be a Submariner, but it also takes a special person to have the opportunity to select a service assignment the year before the rest of the school.

The senior defensive end has gotten limited playing time throughout his career at Navy. He didn’t even get to see real playing time until just last year. But when Edwards has had the opportunity to take the field, he has made the most of it. Navy uses a rotation of defensive linemen in order to keep fresh legs attacking the quarterback. However, entering the season, Marcus Edwards is set to play a significantly larger amount of time in 2019. Just like everything else he does, we can expect him to do very well every time he takes the field.

Jackson Pittman

The enforcer up the middle. That’s exactly what Jackson Pittman. The senior nose guard, from THE Brentwood Academy, has been terrorizing offensive lines since his freshman year. Pittman has started every single game over the past two seasons and saw some sort of action in every game his freshman year. Therefore, Pittman will be playing for the accolade, this season, as someone who played in every game for all four years.

The strength of the defensive line is centered around his ability to fill up the middle. At 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, Pittman has the size to hang with any offensive line in the country. What makes him special is his excess in speed and quickness compared to your average offensive lineman. Let’s see if Jackson Pittman can close out his Navy career with a perfect attendance record.