2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2020 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 123 of 163

122 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY PATRICK ENGEL N avy churned out two generational seasons last decade, led by two record-setting quarterbacks. Keenan Reynolds set the Football Bowl Subdivision standard for career rushing touchdowns (88) in 2015, and Malcolm Perry ran for the most single-season yards (2,017) by a quarterback in college football history in 2019. Each year, Navy went 11-2 and finished in the top 20 of the final Associ- ated Press poll. Staying at the top-25 level without a re- cord-breaker is a big ask. But the reasonable challenge is staying within striking distance of it and winning Commander-In-Chief's trophies. Even if more 11-win seasons don't fol- low, avoiding a downfall is vital. Navy's win total after Reynolds left went down in three straight years and bottomed out with a 3-10 record in 2018. Without Perry, though, Navy is still posi- tioned to have a strong team in 2020. "There's no reason, at least this year, Navy can't maintain its consistent standards we've seen," TheMidReport.com publisher Mike James said. The biggest offseason news was the reten- tion of defensive coordinator Brian New- berry, who turned down an offer to take the same job at Mississippi State. In his first year, Newberry helped Navy jump 80 spots in rushing defense, 70 in total defense and 69 in scoring defense. "For so many years, the idea of defense at Navy was, 'Keep everything in front and you'll be OK' because the offense was so good," James said. "The mindset has changed where instead of just holding down the fort, the defense can be an asset." Linebacker Jacob Springer, the team's sack leader, left as a transfer, but Navy's entire starting secondary is back. So is lead- ing tackler Diego Fagot, a former three-star recruit who held Power Five offers from Illinois and Pittsburgh. "You'll start to see his name pop up in terms of guys who have a chance to get drafted," James said. Perry Olsen is the favorite to replace Perry, but he won't earn the job without a battle. The competition — and familiarity with a complex, read-heavy offense — will wait until August because Navy held zero spring practices before the COVID-19 shut- down. Whoever starts at quarterback will have a proven runner next to him in Jamale Caroth- ers. He started his career as a slot back but moved to fullback in 2019. "He rocketed midseason to the top of the depth chart," James said. "He still has that slot back speed but he's doing it out of the fullback spot." Navy's offensive line lost three starters and nine seniors off the three-deep. One of the returners, right guard Peter Nestrowitz, was named one of Pro Football Focus' top 30 re- turning offensive linemen in college football. "Even if they're not starting, a lot of guys rotate in," James said. "But a lot of those guys were seniors too." ✦ X-FACTOR: Fullback Jamale Carothers is Navy's top returning rusher (734 yards and 14 touchdowns) and is poised to become the team's top threat on offense in 2020. PHOTO COURTESY NAVAL ACADEMY ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION 2020 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2019 Result Sept. 5 or 6 Notre Dame L, 52-20 Sept. 12 Lafayette — Sept. 19 at Tulane W, 41-38 Sept. 26 Temple — Oct. 3 at Air Force W, 34-25 Oct. 17 at East Carolina W, 42-10 Oct. 24 Houston W, 56-41 Oct. 31 at SMU W, 35-28 Nov. 7 Tulsa W, 45-17 Nov. 14 Memphis L, 35-23 Nov. 21 at South Florida W, 35-3 Dec. 12 vs. Army^ W, 31-7 ^ at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads 79-13-1 Last Meeting: Notre Dame 52, Navy 20 (Nov. 16, 2019 in South Bend) Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo, 98-60 at Navy and overall (13th year) 2019 Record: 11-2 overall, 7-1 AAC West (T-1st) Returning Starters: 15 (7 offense, 8 defense) Prediction: Notre Dame 40, Navy 17 RETURNING LEADERS Rushing: FB Jamale Carothers (734, 14 TD) Passing: SB CJ Williams (90 yards, 1 TD) Receiving: WR Mychal Cooper (380 yards, 2 TD) Tackles: LB Diego Fagot (100, 12.0 TFL) Sacks: Fagot (5.5) Passes Broken Up: CB Michael McMorris (9, 1 INT) Reasons For Optimism • Defensive depth and skill • Overall stability • LB Diego Fagot Navy's defense should be a strength again and help win games by itself. It's hard to imagine the program bottoming out again, especially because Ken Niumatalolo made some tough decisions after the prior drop. Reasons For Concern • Losing QB Malcolm Perry • No spring practice for new option QB • Inexperienced offensive line A new quarterback operating a triple-option offense needs as many practices as possible for the endless reads to become second nature. Perry Olsen now has 15 fewer chances. History says the ceiling is lower without a game-changer under center. NAVY MIDSHIPMEN GAME 1 • SEPT. 5 OR 6 • NAVY-MARINE CORPS MEMORIAL STADIUM

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