Spring Snapshot 2012: Navy Midshipmen

Two solid opponents down. So far, both Ohio and Virginia give Penn State fans cause for some concern. But this next opponent is unlike any the Nittany Lions have played in years, with one of the most difficult-to-prepare-for offenses in college football (just ask Notre Dame). Today we look at Penn State's third opponent: The Navy Midshipmen.

Where they call home: Annapolis, MD

Endless running begins/ends: March 19/April 14

If they suck, this guy gets fired: Ken Niumatalolo

The lowdown...

Navy is the team every BCS program schedules with a bit of hesitancy. The triple-option/flexbone offense is run by very few teams run anymore, making it all that much more difficult to gameplan on just a few days notice. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo took over for Paul Johnson, who was on his way to Georgia Tech, in 2007. The train basically stayed on the tracks until last year, when Navy missed a bowl game for the first time since 2002. But it was a year full of close calls, and Navy could have very well gone 10-2 had it put up at least a field goal more in five of its seven losses. This year, things aren't looking all that much better, with a bunch of players graduating to serve their nation, and those remaining in need of experience.

More specifics below the fold...

More 2012 Spring Snapshots
Ohio Bobcats - 3.12.12
Virginia Cavaliers - 3.13.12
Navy Midshipmen - 3.14.12
Temple Owls - 3.15.12
Illinois Fighting Illini - 3.19.12
Northwestern Wildcats - 3.20.12
Iowa Hawkeyes - 3.21.12
Ohio St. Buckeyes - 3.22.12
Purdue Boilermakers - 3.26.12
Nebraska Cornhuskers - 3.27.12
Indiana Hoosiers - 3.28.12
Wisconsin Badgers - 3.29.12

What they return...

Quarterback Trey Miller will step in to the full-time gig this year, after spelling Kriss Proctor a few times last season. He's not guaranteed the job, though. Navy usually has success replacing their quarterbacks, mostly because it's 99 percent about making the right option reads. Throwing is an afterthought in this offense.

The linebackers should be a great foundation for the defense to build upon, with Matt Warrick, Matt Brewer and Tra'ves Bush all returning. They were three of Navy's top four tacklers in 2011. They will get help from a young, but increasingly experienced defensive backfield that includes corners Parrish Gaines and David Sperry.

What they lost...

The big hits come on offense, with Proctor and two of three backs gone from last year's team. Compounding issues on this side of the ball, Navy will miss three of last year's starting offensive linemen.

On defense, the loss of defensive lineman Jabaree Tuani (13.5 TFL, 5.5 Sacks, 4 FF, 3 FR) will sting more than any other single departure from the 2011 squad. Also, finding a replacement kicker will be one of the top priorities. Last year, kicking was in full meltdown mode. Nowhere to go but up, right?

Style on the High Seas...

The triple option offense--more specifically, Navy's flexbone scheme--is ridiculous to prepare for on one week's notice. You can bet your bottom that Ted Roof will be thinking about Navy from the moment spring practice wraps up in April. Here's the base formation for this style offense:

300px-flexbone_formation

On any typical play, one of the slotbacks (SB) begins to motion toward the backfield, sweeping by or receiving the handoff from the quarterback. The QB has a ton of options, including handing off to the fullback up the gut, keeping the ball and cutting up field to the outside, or pitching to the slotback already in motion. All the while, it could end up being a pass play, in which case the defense had better not bite too hard on the run play action.

We'll have much more on the Navy offense as the off-season progresses. But there's your quick intro.

See you tomorrow for Spring Snapshot 2012: Temple Owls.

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