College Football

New offensive coordinator Grant Chesnut says Navy offense will change and evolve — including more passing

New Navy offensive coordinator Grant Chesnut used the word “evolve” about a dozen times during his introductory news conference Thursday afternoon.

While the Midshipmen will continue to employ the triple-option, Chesnut made it clear there will be changes.


“We want to generate explosive plays and be creative in how we’re doing that. We want to be able to get the ball out on the perimeter in multiple forms and fashions. We want to have the ability to be under center and in the [shot]gun as well,” Chesnut said.

Navy’s offense identity will remain the same as Chesnut understands the importance of pounding opponents with the ground game to control possession and chew up the clock. He spoke about the importance of effort, execution, toughness and physicality — all of which have been hallmarks of the Midshipmen ever since Paul Johnson returned as head coach in 2002 and brought back the triple-option.


Chesnut, who spent eight seasons as offensive coordinator at Kennesaw State, believes strongly in those core principles.

“Obviously, we’re going to run the football; That’s something that is important here at the Naval Academy and we’re not going to deviate from that,” Chesnut said. “My hope is that when our opponents turn on the tape they say, ‘Oh my gosh, these guys play harder than anyone in the country.’ We want to be disciplined and fundamentally sound.”

However, Chesnut insisted the passing game would become a more prominent part of the Navy offense moving forward. His system features short route passing concepts or what he described as the “quick game” to take advantage of opposing defenses that put nine and 10 men in the box to stop the run.

“We need to be able to throw the football successfully. If that’s eight to 12 times a game or 15 to 20 times a game will be determined by what it takes to win the football game,” Chesnut said. “There are a lot of times when [teams] are giving you free access and easy gains.”

Navy football offensive coordinator Grant Chesnut talks with a Kennesaw State player during his stint with the Owls. While the Midshipmen will continue to employ the triple-option, Chesnut made it clear there will be changes.

Chesnut talked about finding creative ways to get the ball on the perimeter and noted screen passes were one way to do that. He believes in occasionally moving the pocket to help the quarterback find passing lanes and utilizing run-pass-option plays, both from under center or out of the shotgun set.

Chesnut is an offshoot of the Johnson coaching tree, having played offensive tackle at Georgia Southern when the option guru was head coach. At Kennesaw, he worked under coach Brian Bohannon, who was a Johnson assistant at Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech.

Johnson always served as his own offensive coordinator as a head coach, calling plays from the sideline and sending wide receivers or slotbacks into the game to deliver the information to the huddle.

“I think all the things you hear me talk about — effort, execution, being disciplined and being physical — are things I learned from Coach Johnson,” Chestnut said. “I don’t know that there’s been anybody who has been better at calling this triple-option than Coach Johnson. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him as far as calling the offense.


“I cannot understate the impact Coach Johnson’s had on me.”

Chesnut employed the option while serving as head coach at Central High and offensive coordinator at Mary Persons High, both of which are located in Georgia. He was the first assistant hired by Bohannon after he was charged with building the Kennesaw State football program from the ground up.

Together, they built a powerful offense using the spread options as the Owls ranked top three within the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing offense in six of the last seven seasons. Kennesaw State led FCS in rushing average in 2017 and 2019 and finished second after setting a program record with 352.9 yards per game on the ground in 2018.

“The beauty of starting a program from scratch was that we were able to build out the offense. An ability to adapt and evolve made us very successful at Kennesaw State,” Chesnut said. “We’re going to bring a cohesive plan together that fits our personnel at the Naval Academy.”

Navy quarterback Tai Lavatai drops back to pass during a game against Tulsa on Oct. 8, 2022, in Annapolis. New offensive coordinator Grant Chesnut insisted the passing game would become a more prominent part of the Navy offense moving forward.

Chesnut admitted it was difficult having to tell Bohannon, whom he described as a “very close friend and not just my boss,” he was leaving for Navy. Because Bohannon spent six years at the academy, he was excited for Chesnut to get the opportunity to do so.

“I have a lot of respect for [Bohannon and will always consider him a close friend and confident, someone I can reach out to bounce things off,” Chesnut said. “We did a lot of things together there that were very special. To build a program from the ground up and be very successful was really rewarding.”


Chesnut knows he must adjust his play-calling to fit the personnel available at Navy and noted it’s important to find option elements that “we can hang our hat on.” While recognizing the importance of long drives that last 10 plays or more, he believes it is imperative to generate a handful of explosive plays during a game.

Last season, Navy introduced an offensive package that included a tight end used exclusively as a blocker. Chesnut wants to expand the role of tight ends and involve them with the passing game as well.

In addition to serving as offensive coordinator, Chesnut will help coach the offensive line — an additional duty he took on throughout the eight-year tenure at Kennesaw State. Ashley Ingram, who was promoted to assistant head coach this week, will continue to coach the offensive line as well.

“It all starts up front. If you can’t win in the trenches you’re going to have a hard time sustaining drives,” Chesnut said. “I feel I can be most valuable coaching those guys up front.”

Ingram was one of three offensive assistants retained by Newberry. Quarterbacks coach Ivin Jasper and wide receivers coach Mick Yokitis were the others. Chesnut and his offensive assistants from Kennesaw State routinely came to Annapolis for “coaching clinics” with members of the Navy staff.

Newberry said Chesnut had input into the makeup of the offensive staff and the latter was excited that such experienced option coaches were remaining with the program.


“When you have Ivin Jasper and Ashley Ingram in a room with you there is the power of counsel. I’ve sat down and talked ball with those two men numerous times and have learned a lot from them over the years,” Chesnut said. “It will definitely be a collaborative effort.”