College Football Countdown: No. 87 Navy

The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Today at No. 87: Navy

Coach: Ken Niumatalolo (32-21, fifth season)

2011 record: 5-7

Look back: After opening up the season with back-to-back wins over FCS opponent Delaware and then Western Kentucky, the Midshipmen lost their next six games in the row. Four of those games were by three points or less. The team rallied to win the next two – against Troy and SMU – before losing another close game against San Jose State. Navy ended the season with a 27-21 win over Army –  its 10th straight victory in the series.

Offensive starters lost/returning: 4/7

Defensive starters lost/returning: 8/3

Key losses: QB Kriss Proctor, RB Alexander Teich, QB Trey Miller, DE Jabaree Tuani, NG Jared Marks

Top returnees: QB Trey Miller WR Matt Aiken, S Tra’ves Bush, LB Matt Warrick, WR Brandon Turner, CB David Sperry, SB John Howell, SB Gee Gee Greene

Strengths: It’s no secret that Navy has been one of the top rushing teams in the country for the past decade or so but the program took a slight dip when it finished 2011 in fourth place in the country. Niumatalolo wants to get back to the basics which will mean getting more production from his quarterback and rushers. Trey Miller will most likely step into the starting role this season with the departure of Kriss Proctor. Miller, who saw some action last season – rushing for 150 yards and passing for another 250 –should provide the Midshipmen with solid leadership behind center. Gee Gee Greene will join Miller in the backfield. He rushed for over 500 yards last season and will be expected to pick up a lot of the slack lost with the departure of Proctor and Alexander Teich.

Weaknesses: Both offensive and defensive lines will be a concern again this season. The offensive line loses three starters from last season and finding suitable replacements will be a must if this team wants to find success running the ball. On the defensive side, the unit was a mess, ranked 86 in total defense and allowing 413.83 yards per game. Losing end Jabaree Tuani won’t help. He led the team in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (13.0).

Outlook: For fans, last season’s team appeared to be just a bit off. The defense had its struggles stopping people and the team just couldn’t pull out close games. Building overall toughness and beefing up the defensive line will be key for Niumatalolo and his staff. Navy opens the 2012 campaign on the road against Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland followed by a visit to Penn State. A quick start could go a long way to building this team’s confidence.

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 vs. Notre Dame

Sept. 15 at Penn State

Sept. 22 VMI

Sept. 29 San Jose State

Oct. 6 at Air Force

Oct. 13 at Central Michigan

Oct. 20 Indiana

Oct. 27 at East Carolina

Nov. 3 FAU

Nov. 10 at Troy

Nov. 17 Texas State

Dec. 8 vs. Army

Rest of the countdown:
No. 88 Tennessee
No. 89 Kent State
No. 90 Louisiana-Monroe
No. 91 Bowling Green
No. 92 Syracuse
No. 93 Minnesota
No. 94 Boston College
No. 95 
No. 96 Oregon State
No. 97 Rice
No. 98 Ole Miss
No. 99 Colorado
No. 100 New Mexico State
No. 101 Duke
No. 102 Idaho
No. 103 Army
No. 104 Maryland
No. 105 Colorado State
No. 106 Miami (Ohio)
No. 107 UTEP
No. 108 Troy

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