Replacing quarterback Malcolm Perry isn't going to be easy, but don't count out Navy in the AAC title race. The Midshipmen have won at least nine games in three out of the last five years and are 27-13 in AAC play in that span. Whoever replaces Perry at quarterback will have a solid group of rushers to utilize, while the defense brings back six starters from a unit that held teams to just 22.3 points a game last fall. Missing both UCF and Cincinnati on the 2020 schedule is a huge boost to Navy's hopes of finishing in the top half of the conference once again.
Previewing Navy's Offense for 2020
Last season, Navy built its entire offense around the talents of Malcolm Perry, who established a Football Bowl Subdivision record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 2,017 yards. Perry is not easily replaced, and the cancellation of spring practice due to the coronavirus pandemic made that task more difficult. Perry Olsen is now the most experienced quarterback on the roster.
Navy does return a dangerous weapon in fullback Jamale Carothers. After playing games on the junior varsity, Carothers was promoted and soon took over the starting spot, finishing second on the squad in both rushing yards (734) and touchdowns (14).
Navy returns almost all its key skill players. Junior Mychal Cooper emerged as the go-to receiver in 2019 with 18 catches for 380 yards. Senior CJ Williams is the top slotback after totaling 298 rushing yards, 210 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Right guard Peter Nestrowitz and right tackle Billy Honaker are the lone returning starters on the offensive line. Justin Self will be asked to replace fiery leader Ford Higgins at center.
Previewing Navy's Defense for 2020
Navy’s defense lost only three starters to graduation but a couple of projected key performers entered the transfer portal. Perhaps the biggest loss comes at nose guard, where Jackson Pittman was a three-year starter and a dominant force as a senior. Senior Mike Flowers (6'3", 318) has the size and talent to do the job but must improve his stamina and consistency. He will be surrounded by a pair of proven performers in defensive tackle Jackson Perkins and left end J’arius Warren, both returning starters.
Inside linebacker Diego Fagot enjoyed a breakout season as a sophomore, leading Navy in total tackles (100), while ranking second in tackles for a loss (12) and sacks (5.5).
After initially entering the transfer portal, sophomore Chelen Garnes withdrew his name and was expected to replace Jacob Springer at the hybrid outside linebacker position known as “striker.” However, Garnes entered the transfer portal again in May and won't return to the team.
The Midshipmen boast a pair of talented safeties in Kevin Brennan and Evan Fochtman. Brennan finished second on the squad with 81 tackles and added two interceptions and four pass breakups. Fochtman recorded 53 tackles to go along with two interceptions and five pass breakups. Cornerback Michael McMorris considered a transfer but is slated to return to the team in 2020.
Previewing Navy's Specialists for 2020
Bijan Nichols was outstanding as a freshman, finishing 12-of-17 on field goals and 61-of-62 on extra points. Nichols was a talented punter at Rockwall-Heath High in Texas and may need to fill that role as well in 2020 if Navy cannot find a suitable replacement for Owen White.
Navy authored one of the finest single-season turnarounds in FBS history, going from 3–10 to 11–2. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo credited the team culture as crucial to the bounce-back campaign and was hoping to build on the momentum. Losing spring practice and summer workouts did not help, although the coach was impressed with the work ethic and leadership he saw during winter strength and conditioning workouts. Finding a QB who can operate the offense effectively with sound decision-making is the key for an offense that is loaded with talent at the skill positions. Nose guard and cornerback are the primary question marks for a defense that is otherwise very experienced.