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Whether or not Navy had a favorable schedule last season didn't really matter. The Midshipmen went 11-2 and beat Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl. However, reaching those levels again will be close to impossible without Keenan Reynolds, the four-year starter at quarterback.
Tago Smith, now a senior, enters as the favorite to start after biding his time behind Reynolds for most of his career. Smith has limited experience, but has at least learned from Reynolds through the years. The issue is that only one starter returns to the entire offense from a year ago and he's a wide receiver. Jamir Tillman had 29 receptions for 597 yards and five touchdowns, but that's not a huge deal in the triple-option.
The offensive line will be mostly new faces with limited experience across the board. Their two most experienced linemen started a total of five games last year. Outside of Smith, Dishan Romine (378 yards, 10.5 yards per carry), Toneo Gulley (189 yards) and Shawn White (84 yards) step into starting roles. This offense was outstanding in 2015, scoring 36.8 points per game to go with 326.7 rushing yards per game. But without Reynolds, it's unlikely they reach those numbers again.
While the offense was great last year, it was Navy's defense that catapulted the team to higher levels, allowing just 21.8 points per game. Again, some of that had to do with schedule as they allowed 41 to Notre Dame and 52 to Houston. But coordinator Dale Pehrson did the job in his first year and gets back six starters from that group.
The core of the unit returns with all four linebackers in tow including Daniel Gonzales and Micah Thomas on the inside. Elsewhere, there are some holes that need replacing. The line loses some studs and will need guys to step up including end Amos Mason. The secondary is mostly fresh as well outside of safety Daiquan Thomasson. It's hard to see Navy's defense being as good this season, but playing in the AAC, they shouldn't take a major step back.
The Midshipmen open the campaign with a couple games that should get them on the right foot against Fordham and Connecticut. Things won't pick up until they travel to Air Force and East Carolina, with those games being sandwiched by a home game against Houston. Other than that, Notre Dame may be the only game in which Navy isn't favored in their final seven games of the season.
Navy's over/under at 5 Dimes is only at 7 with the under at -210 in early June, so not much is expected from this team with a new quarterback. The Midshipmen should still be one of the better teams in the AAC, as seen when no one could stop the triple-option last year in their inaugural campaign in the conference. Getting past Houston will be a little too tough, though, in the West division.
2016 Navy Midshipmen Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Fordham
Sept. 10 vs. Connecticut
Sept. 17 at Tulane
Oct. 1 at Air Force
Oct. 8 vs. Houston
Oct. 13 at East Carolina
Oct. 22 vs. Memphis
Oct. 28 at South Florida
Nov. 5 vs. Notre Dame (EverBank Field)
Nov. 12 vs. Tulsa
Nov. 26 at SMU
Dec. 10 vs. Army (M&T Bank Stadium)
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