The Midshipmen saw momentary success in 2016, crafting up a 9-4 regular season, but dropping their bowl game 48-45 to Louisiana Tech. Nine-year head coach Ken Niumatalolo led Navy to wins over Houston and Notre Dame, the Midshipmen could not overcome either Army or Air Force, leaving them at the bottom of the military academy totem pole for the 2016 season. I asked Coach Niumatalolo about the upcoming year.
“I don’t want to be one of those coaches that says I don’t look at that stuff (pre-season magazine/content), because I do,” said Nuimatalolo. “I always use it for motivation, always look to see where we’re ranked. I’m a super competitive person and I love to see people doubt us, rank us at 90 or whatever, and then exceed every year.”
Navy will start a quarterback who was thrust into the drivers seat late last season, and after experiencing losses at Army, their conference championship, and bowl game, there’s not much more heartbreak that can affect Zach Abby. He now has the experience to be aware of situations where the team is losing and be able to work to dig the team out of trouble.
When asked how Abby has responded to spring practice, Coach Niumatalolo informed me that he was improving daily. “The great thing about Zach is that he has the physical tools, he’s strong, fast, and has a good arm,” explained Niumatalolo. “He simply wasn’t ready last year, he hadn’t gotten many reps as the third-string quarterback, then got thrust into the toughest part of our season. But even with those growing pains, I think he got increasing better in each of the three games he played. Now he has spring ball under him and it’s encouraging.”
However, it’s no secret that Navy’s offense outweighs the defense in production. It’s not a certainty on whether we will see much growth from Navy this season, but there chances look slightly better than Air Force’s. Navy will be plagued by three rough weeks toward the end of the regular season.
My regular season prediction: 6-5