2007 Navy Preview

Posted Apr 19, 2007

Navy's offense has been great under head coach Paul Johnson, and now it should be something truly special with the most experience, talent and speed the backfield has had yet, highlighted by home-run hitter Reggie Campbell. Will it be enough to overcome the defense?

Navy Midshipmen

Preview 2007

By Pete Fiutak

- 2007 Navy Offense Preview | 2007 Navy Defense Preview
- 2007 Navy Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Navy Preview

Can we finally all admit that there’s a place in major college football for a well-run option attack?

With 37 wins and four bowl games in four years under head coach Paul Johnson, despite having a mediocre group of D-I athletes compared to most other schools, Navy has shown in the day and age of the spread offense, which more often than not requires an elite player or two to run effectively, the quickest way to turn a program around is on the ground. 

Head coach: Paul Johnson
6th year at Navy: 37-25
11th year overall: 99-35
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 15, Def. 7, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 35
Ten Best Navy Players
1. FB Adam Ballard, Sr.
2. C Antron Harper, Sr.
3. QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, Jr.
4. RB Reggie Campbell, Sr.
5. CB Rashawn King, Jr.
6. RB Shun White, Jr.
7. NG Nate Frazier, Soph.
8. LB Clint Sovie, Jr.
9. OT Andrew McGinn, Jr.
10. LB Irv Spencer, Sr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Aug. 31

at Temple

Sept. 7

at Rutgers

Sept. 15

Ball State

Sept. 22


Sept. 29

Air Force

Oct. 10

at Pitt

Oct. 20

Wake Forest

Oct. 27


Nov. 3

at Notre Dame

Nov. 10

at North Texas

Nov. 17

Northern Illinois

Dec. 1


2006 Schedule
2006 Record: 9

9/2 East Carolina W 28-23
9/9 Massachusetts W 21-20
9/16 at Stanford W 37-9
9/23 Tulsa L 24-23
9/30 at Connecticut W 41-17
10/7 at Air Force W 24-17
10/14 Rutgers L 34-0
10/28 Notre Dame L 38-14
11/4 at Duke W 38-13
11/11 at Eastern Mich W 49-21
11/18 Temple W 42-6
12/2 vs. Army W 26-14

Fine, so it’s not like Navy has actually beaten anyone with much of a pulse during Johnson’s reign, with only four wins over D-I teams that finished their seasons with winning records, but this is still Navy. Maybe two or three players on each side of the ball would find playing time for roughly 80 other D-I programs. It’s the system, but it’s also the players running it.

It takes a special type of mindset to do what Navy does, and being a military academy certainly helps the cause when it comes to the discipline needed to run the attack. Johnson finds the right players, who fit exactly what he needs to do on offense, so Navy can control the clock and keep their undersized defense off the field. It works.

This year’s offense might be the best yet under Johnson, and will be a rock-solid lock to finish in the top three in the nation in rushing, if not number one overall again. Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada was a solid fill-in once starting quarterback Brian Hampton was lost for the year, and now he should be ready to blow up with all the running backs returning. The line needs work, and Jason Tomlinson, a decent receiving threat when he was used, is gone, but the running game will still thrive, cranking out well over 300 yards per game.

The defense will be a problem early, as most of the top playmakers are gone, including the fabulous linebacking tandem of Rob Caldwell and Tyler Tidwell. Fortunately, the offense, which helped Navy finish 11th in the nation in time of possession, will do its part to hang on to the ball

Yes, Navy will be Navy again. It’ll win seven-plus games, go to a bowl, and run over, around, and through everyone to do it. Maybe someday, someone else will use the formula to try to change a downtrodden program’s fortunes by running the ball like Navy. Hopefully for Midshipmen fans, that change won’t include hiring Johnson.

What to watch to watch for on offense: More big plays from the running game. Is it possible for a team that finished first in the nation in rushing to do even more on the ground? Absolutely. Navy has speed and explosion with Kaheaku-Enhada, one of the faster Midshipman quarterbacks in a long time, under center. Tailbacks Reggie Campbell and Shun White can flat-out fly. While ball control is always a must for the offense, there will be more home runs now that Kaheaku-Enhada knows what he’s doing.  

What to watch to watch for on defense: A lot of bending, with the hope to not break too often. Last year’s veteran defense knew what it had to do to make plays, and it was just quick enough to get where it needed to be. Now six of the starting front seven is gone, along with key safety Jeremy McGown and corner Keenan Little. It might take a while before the new group is close to as productive as last year’s D, but it’ll only get one game of tune-up (Temple) before facing Rutgers.

The team will be far better if … it can return a kickoff. For a team that relies on field position, the return game needs to be much better. Navy averaged a pathetic 16.3 yards per kickoff return last season, and could use far more pop from Reggie Campbell or one of the other speedsters. Defensively, being better on third downs would be nice.

The Schedule: There are a few tough games (perhaps demanding some national attention), but enough cupcakes to ensure another winning season. Games against Temple, Ball State, Duke and Air Force before October are all must-wins, considering there’s an early trip to Rutgers along with dates at Pitt and Notre Dame. Playing Wake Forest isn’t going to be any easier than it would’ve been last year, but that might be a needed win with two straight road dates (Notre Dame and North Texas) to follow.

Best Offensive Player: Senior FB Adam Ballard. The battering ram broke his leg early in the Army game, but will be back at 100% by the start of the season. When he’s healthy, he’s option one that every opposing defense must deal with. Ballard has the toughness to be a 20-carry workhorse, or can be used just to get five yards here and there to grind out a long drive. Considering his 223-pound size, he has good breakaway speed when he gets into the open.

Best Defensive Player: Junior CB Rashawn King. A good-sized corner who tackles like a safety, he’ll be the team’s number one shutdown man and one of the leaders of an inexperienced defense. While he hasn’t picked off a pass yet and has to prove he can handle opposing number-one receivers on a regular basis, he’s one of the team’s faster players and has the skills to potentially be special.

Key player to a successful season: Junior OL Anthony Gaskins. Consider Gaskins a representative for the entire offensive line, which needs to fill the holes and come up with a consistent season to give the skill players some room to move. Tackle Andrew McGinn is a talented veteran, but he’s very small, as is 6-1, 247-pound guard Antron Harper. 6-4, 300-pound Ben Gabbard will likely hold down one guard spot, while the 6-1, 275-pound Gaskins has to be versatile enough to play center or guard.

The season will be a success if ... the Midshipmen win at least eight games. It’s not going to be easy, as supposed breathers like Ball State, Duke and Northern Illinois all good enough to come up with wins if Navy isn’t sharp. Beating a team like Rutgers, Pitt, or, to dream the impossible dream, Notre Dame, would make the season special.

Key game: Sept. 29 vs. Air Force. Navy has done a great job against the Falcons over the last few years, winning four straight, but each was by seven points or fewer. Now there’s a new Air Force coaching staff and a new attitude. If all goes according to form, Navy should be 3-1 before Air Force comes to town, with dates at Pitt, home against Wake Forest and at Notre Dame coming up in the following four games.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- First quarter scoring: Navy 94; Opponents 43
- Fourth down conversions: Navy 12-19 (63%); Opponents 10-25 (40%)
- Average rushing yards per game: Navy 327; Opponents 116.7

Related Stories
Behind Enemy Lines?
 -by GoMids.com  Sep 25, 2007
Behind Enemy Lines? Part II
 -by GoMids.com  Apr 22, 2007
2007 Navy Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 23, 2007

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