Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, this way-too-early preview will be written as though the 2020 Navy-Notre Dame football match will be played as it is currently scheduled: August 29th in Dublin, Ireland. Of course, things are subject to change with the constant development of understanding the COVID-19 and its ultimate impact. For now, plans remain the same. But, with all the logistics and integrated planning that is required by the Navy and Notre Dame football programs, it’s obvious that contingency plans are undoubtedly being made.
Navy and Notre Dame met in Ireland eight years ago in 2012. This marked a significant moment in the Navy-Notre Dame rivalry, but also in the sport of college football. Naturally, Notre Dame has strong roots to Ireland, but the U.S. Navy is also a world-wide force that is well-known throughout the globe. Furthermore, these programs were contributing to the globalization of the sport. In that meeting, the Irish dominated, winning 50-10.
Those who follow each of these teams will recognize 2012 as one of the most significant seasons in each program’s recent history. This Irish team, led by Manti Te’o, made an appearance in the National Championship game against Alabama. For Navy, this was Keenan Reynold’s freshman year and marked the start of an exciting finish to the decade.
The Navy Football program sent off their players on spring break after two weeks of grueling, early morning workouts. However, due to the pandemic, all Midshipmen were told to stay home and not return to school, effectively cancelling spring practices. While spring practices are essential for every team in the country, this spring was especially important for the Midshipmen.
These practices would have been Coach Niumatalolo’s first look at finding a replacement for star quarterback, Malcolm Perry. Perry, who is set to graduate in May, leaves huge shoes to fill for whoever takes his spot. These shoes will be the biggest when the Midshipmen take on their toughest opponent of the year, Notre Dame, in the very first game of the season. Offensive coordinator, Ivin Jasper, needs a quarterback running the triple-option with confidence. This confidence comes best with experience, and that’s exactly what the Midshipmen are lacking at the quarterback position.
Perry Olsen is a rising sophomore and looks to be the front-runner for the job; however, missing the reps that he would have gotten in Spring Ball makes things extremely uncertain. Taking on Notre Dame, a game where the offense needs to be the a complete and cohesive unit, will be a tall task for whoever is under center. The Midshipmen will be pressed to quickly overcome first game kinks with a relatively inexperienced quarterback against one of the top programs in the country.
On defense, the Midshipmen are slowly losing players to the transfer portal. Just last week, safety Chelen Garnes added his name to the portal to follow other impact players. Garnes joins other key defenders, Jake Springer and Michael McMorris, who both indicated they would be leaving Navy earlier this offseason.
Fortunately for Navy, the Midshipmen retained defensive coordinator, Brian Newberry, despite multiple other job offers. This will be Newberry’s second season with the team, which could mean an even better defense than last year’s considering the players familiarity with the system.
While Navy is hurt by the lack of reps in Spring Ball, so are the Irish. Although it looks like they will be losing a few players from last season’s defense, the Midshipmen return a decent amount of players on this side of the ball. The Midshipmen got destroyed by Notre Dame’s air attack in 2019 and it’s safe to say Coach Newberry will be much better prepared come August 29th. Ultimately, containing Irish quarterback Ian Book, will be the toughest test Navy will face all year.