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2020 Navy football: Spring outlook, key replacements, position battles

As the Navy Midshipmen prepare for Spring Practices, we highlight some of the key areas to watch with the future 2020 Navy Football team.

NCAA Football: Navy at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Navy Midshipmen are coming off one of their best seasons in school history. In 2019, the Midshipmen bounced back with an 11-2 record, a significant improvement from the 2018 season of 3-10.

On the surface, things look relatively bright for Navy. Coach Ken Niumatalolo was able to retain his defensive coordinator, Brian Newberry, despite multiple lucrative job offers. The Midshipmen return six offensive starters, incuding rising stars Jamale Carothers, CJ Williams, and Mychal Cooper. On defense, Navy is bringing back seven starters, featuring Jacob Springer, Diego Fagot, and Evan Fochtman.

However, as is the case with most record-setting teams, the Midshipmen are staring at a few gaps in their roster that were once filled by key players.

Key Replacements

Let’s start with the most obvious: Malcolm Perry

As Malcolm Perry was working through the 2020 NFL Combine drills a week ago, the rest of last year’s quarterback room was back in Annapolis sprinting through the line in front of the coaching staff during “4th Quarter Workouts”.

Freshman Perry Olsen and junior Dalen Morris finished the 2019 season No. 2 and 3 on the quarterback depth chart. From the limited playing time we got to see from each of them during the season, it appeared as Olsen was the primary back-up to Malcolm Perry. Yet, there was still an overwhelming gap in speed of play and comfort with the offense between the Malcolm Perry and Olsen.

As the rising senior, Dalen Morris will have to win the startin job convincingly in order for Coach Niumatalolo to stray away from the younger player who has more potential in the long run.

On defense, the Midshipmen only have a few minor areas to clean up. Nose tackles, Jackson Pittman and Dave Tolentino are both graduating, and the third player on the depth chart was Alefosio Saipaia. Saipaia, who will be a sophomore next season, has a big hole to fill, literally. His experience is much more limited than what Pittman and Tolentino had coming into 2019, and the depth at the position is questionable.

One final key replacement will be sophomore defensive back Michael McMorris. McMorris entered the transfer portal after the season ended. He recorded 47 total tackles in 2019, putting him fifth overall on the team.

Position Battles

Yes, all eyes will be on the guys wearing the green practice jerseys and taking snaps from under center. But, there are a few interesting battles that will impact who we see on the field come August 29th when Navy travels to take on Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland.

As a sophomore, fullback Nelson Smith broke out on the scene and made a name for himself as the future force of the Midshipmen rushing attack. Expectations were through the roof for Smith’s junior campaign in 2019. Instead, Jamale Carothers stole the starting job and the show many times on offense. Carothers, a rising junior, will be looking to avoid falling in the same trap as Smith did after a stellar sophomore year. Naturally, Smith, who indeed had some injuries throughout last year, will be looking to re-establish himself in the rotation and earn back some carries in 2020.

The second inside linebacker position is a wide open race. Navy sent off five of their six inside linebackers listed on the final depth chart of 2019 to graduate. Diego Fagot is the lone remaining inside linebacker. Coach Newberry could transition some of the bigger outside linebackers to the inside position. Or, one of the underclassman that are currently at the position could step up. Ultimately, we should expect Fagot to be a sure shot at inside linebacker and a handful of changes to the rest of the linebacker depth chart between now and the start of the season.

Finally...

The key to success with any Navy team is maintain their culture throughout the entirety of the off-season. Navy’s talent pool didn’t really change at all from the end of 2018 to the start of 2019. They simply re-discovered their culture and set their minds to their goals. This stemmed from their 260 pound center, who dominated 300+ pound defensive lineman all year, to the head coach that made tough coaching changes to improve the teams’ chances of winning.

In order to win, sacrifices must be made. They must be made in the classroom to avoid distractions, in the weight room to match up against future NFL stars, and on the field to limit the amount of self-inflicted issues during the game. The 2020 Navy Football team’s culture development began the day after beating Kansas State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Soon we will get our first glimpse of what this 2020 Navy Football season will entail.