ASU Football: A Look at the Navy Midshipmen

Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

It's bowl week, so it's time to get to know the Middies

Anchors aweigh, Sun Devils.

It's bowl week, and on Saturday Arizona State will be in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl taking on the Navy Midshipmen for the first time in program history.

The Midshipmen are back in a bowl for the ninth time over the last 10 seasons, so let's take a look at what the boys from Annapolis will bring to the December 29th matchup.

Navy's Season to Date: The Middies enter the bowl at 8-4 on the year. They suffered two terrible losses to Notre Dame and Penn State to open the year, being outscored 84-17, before throttling VMI. Following a 12-0 loss to San Jose State, Navy reeled off five straight wins to gain bowl eligibility. They emerged from another hard fought battle with Army with a 17-13 win.

Navy's Last Game: The annual national treasure that is the Army vs. Navy game was a thriller. The two teams hammered each other on the ground, with Army having a great day with 370 yards. The Black Knights held a 13-10 lead late into the fourth quarter before Navy's Keenan Reynolds scored on an eight-yard run for the eventual game winner.

Navy's Statistical Leaders:

Navy's National Ranks (Among 124 FBS Teams):

  • Rushing Offense: 6th (275.6 ypg)
  • Passing Offense: 117th (110.4 ypg)
  • Scoring Offense: 84th (24.8 pg)
  • Rushing Defense: 78th (178.0 ypg)
  • Passing Defense: 36th (210.9 ypg)
  • Scoring Defense: 31st (22.7 ppg)

Navy on Offense

You know what you are facing when you play a service academy: the triple option. Navy runs, runs, runs, and runs some more. Only three teams have thrown the ball less than Navy's 160 attempts: Army (115), Air Force (139) and New Mexico (154).

Freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds operates the offense after taking over for junior Trey Miller on October 20th against Indiana. The 5-foot-9, 177 pound Reynolds has impressed the coaches with his poise, passing and above all, ball protection. He has thrown eight touchdowns and just one interception, and run for 628 yards and a team-high ten scores. He's got some speed and despite his size, he's not afraid to go after those tough yards.

As with any triple-option attack, the Midshipmen feature a number of running threats.

Speedy slotback Gee Gee Greene leads the team with 765 yards and a very impressive 7.1 yards-per-carry average. He's a great athlete and leads the team with 303 yards receiving on his 17 catches. Fellow starting slotback Bo Snelson also brings good quickness to the offense, with a 6.5 yards-per-carry average and 273 yards. When the team wants to pound it with power, they go to fullback Noah Copeland, a 205-pound sophomore. He is second on the team with 691 rushing yards and five touchdowns, and is good for about a catch every game.

In the rare event the team passes the ball, they strike downfield, as Navy ranks sixth in the nation at 14.4 yards-per-completion. Senior Brandon Turner has a good combination of speed and size (6-foot-4) and leads the team with 20 catches and three touchdowns, and the ASU secondary must not sleep on his big play ability. Presenting a similar size/speed package is Casey Bolena with 13 grabs on the year. Shawn Lynch is a home run threat, averaging just over 20 yards on his 14 receptions, and can run like the wind.

The offensive line replaced three starters, and has done reasonably well this season. Navy's offensive scheme calls for a line built on quickness and the ability to move rather than brute strength. They have a solid and experienced left side of the line led by senior guard Josh Cabral, who is a mauler. This should be an interesting battle against an ASU defensive front employing the same philosophy.

Navy on Defense

The Midshipmen run a 3-4 defensive alignment, but unlike most every other 3-4 system, they rarely make plays in the opponent's backfield. Navy ranks 94th in the nation in sacks and 102nd in tackles-for-loss. Nevertheless, they have a solid, stout group that has played well enough to rank 52nd in the nation in total defense.

Up front, the Middies have some tough but undersized players. Nose tackle Barry Dabney is a 297-pound space eater whose job is solely to engage as many blockers as possible. The ends are on the light side, with 255-pound Wes Henderson having some good tools and is the best playmaker up front, with 3.5 sacks and five tackles-for-loss. On the right side, Evan Palelei is a high-motor type player.

The linebackers are the strengths of the defense. Keegan Wetzel is a very quick weapon off the edge, and his seven sacks and 15 tackles-for-loss are both team highs. On the other side, Jordan Drake had the same success, but brings good speed and the ability to cover a lot of ground. On the inside, Matt Warrick is a hard-nosed and versatile player. The team's leading tackler in 2011, he is stout against the run and is also good in coverage, having a team-best three interceptions. Fellow middle 'backer Brye French is a smaller player at 216 pounds, but flies to the ball well and has 74 tackles. Cody Peterson also sees a lot of time and has taken over for French as a starter alongside Warrick, and has 62 stops on the year.

Navy has been better against the pass this year than in prior years. While they lack any elite talent in the secondary, all players are tough and good tacklers. The star of the unit is strong safety/rover Tra'ves Bush. The senior leads the team in tackles with 82 and five pass breakups, and can be a danger from a few spots on the field. Joining him along the backline is the awesomely named Wave Ryder, a big-bodied free safety who can deliver a big hit. At cornerback, the team's best attribute may be their size. Sophomore Parrish Gaines has a great 6-foot-2, 196-pound frame, but can be inconsistent. One the other side, there is a lot of inexperience, as three freshmen populate the depth chart at field cornerback. Kwazel Bertrand took over as the starter in October. A slight 163-pounds, he has good cover skills and has four pass breakups on the year.

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