Seriously, how can Navy compete?

Submitted by BlueUPer on October 23rd, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Maybe I am missing something, but in this day and age, how are the military academies able to compete with the so called big time programs?  On a recruiting basis, there really is no comparing ND or PItt to Navy or Air Force!  But when they get on the field, espicially of late, Navy and AF can play with most teams.  What allows them to to play at such a high level?  Is it elite coaching?  Intelligent players?  The systems they use?  In basketball, teams lacking overall athleticism rely on systems like Princeton or Penn.  You see many of the academies relying heavily on option football.  Thoughts?



October 23rd, 2010 at 1:38 PM ^

Not many people run it, but with only a week of practice it can be hard to stop. It can equalize a talent deficiency between 2 teams, just my opinion.


October 23rd, 2010 at 1:41 PM ^

I think a number of factors are involved:

1.  The armed services still attract decent athletes - if you want to play D1 ball and don't mind the military commitment later on, you'll receive a good education, job prospects, and a decent level of national exposure.  So whil these are not the top-notch recruits that go to the "big name" programs, the talent level probably isn't that much different than a mid-level MAC or non-AQ conference. 

2.  Discipline.  To survive in the armed services, kids need to know how to follow orders correctly and quickly, the same skills good football players possess.  Plus, getting admitted to the Army, Navy, or AF requires a fair bit of intelligence and academic accomplishment - these are largely officer training schools.  So you are not dealing with idiots out there.

3.  The option offense is something more teams don't see that often, so in a way it is an exotic offense that can catch teams off guard.  Most players have played in the offense at some point in their lives, but it has probably been years earlier.  Tackling a ball carrier in space may be the most difficult aspect of a defensemen's job, and when that ball carrier can also option the ball off at the last moment, it can be difficult to prepare for.  Plus, it's the type of offense that is going to almost always get positive yardage, so if the Service is in the lead, they can just grind out drives and shorten the game time.  That puts pressure on the other team's offense, leading to mistakes.


October 23rd, 2010 at 2:17 PM ^

....and the Military committment as an officer  is well paid with lots of benefits. From an economic point of view, it is a lot more competitive with civilian work then ever before. You attract serious high level people. Many times those types of guys are really good athletes.

You hit some good points.


October 23rd, 2010 at 1:42 PM ^

Smart players that work hard, work together, and always give it their all. Character, determination, and discipline can make up for a lack of talent. It also helps that everyone stays a full four years without transferring and that most of the starters are upperclassmen.


October 23rd, 2010 at 2:39 PM ^

I'm an Air Force Academy graduate and we lost a lot of football players to transfers, they just did it from the prep school or during their freshman year so no-one ever really hears about it.  A big exception is Anthony Schlegel who played at Air Force for two years before transferring to tOSU. 


October 23rd, 2010 at 8:35 PM ^

You are not locked in until you start your junior year classes.  If you leave before then, you owe nothing.  If you leave junior or senior year, you owe the value of your time at the academy to that pont (including tuition, room, board, pay, benefits, etc).  Some guys that get drafted will fulfill a modified service duty (see David Robinsonm, Caleb Campbell), which is usually a year or two of cake military obligations, surrounded by athletic training.  I think the Army actually made Campbell go be a grad assitant for the Army football team rather than play for the Lions.  Others may quit either before they are locked in (see Mike Wahl, an OL from Navy that was drafted by the Packers in a supplemetnal draft) or outright resign and owe the money (Kevin Hickman, a TE from Navy drafted by the Lions in 94 or 95). 


October 23rd, 2010 at 11:25 PM ^

Exactly right, you can leave free and clear until you set foot in your first class junior year.  You can always pick out the juniors on that day as they're the ones forming lines outside of their classrooms, staring nervously at the door.


October 23rd, 2010 at 3:03 PM ^

I'm just saying that they have to conform to the same standards that the NCAA does as far as time commitments, they also have fairly heavy academic schedules and some military duties(although that aspect tends to get overblown) so it's not like they can live in the weight-room or spend all day doing push-ups.

03 Blue 07

October 23rd, 2010 at 2:21 PM ^

I am really glad we don't play any service academies. Not even from the "crap, they could beat us" standpoint; from the "crap, I don't want to have to root against those guys" standpoint.


October 23rd, 2010 at 2:25 PM ^

You have to think about target audience - your typical football athlete, brought up in an environment of discipline, team work, and the brotherhood that goes along with it, would be attracted to continue the same values in a military career.

So, either the military academies are getting the off super-athlete who really feels strongly about military service, or they get the overlooked athletes who are open to the discipline, team work, and brotherhood recruiting message.

Moe Greene

October 23rd, 2010 at 2:52 PM ^

You have to wonder how much Navy is paying Notre Dame for the privilege of scheduling them.....

Methinks a very sad Brian Kelly will be sitting at the end of the bar at the South Bend Chilis next week muttering about the loss of his decided schematic advantage....


October 23rd, 2010 at 3:28 PM ^

Not sure about how much anyone gets paid, but I think the rivalry stems from the fact that the Navy loaned money to fund the building of Notre Dame Stadium.  ND agreed to play them for so many years, now it is tradition/rivalry.  Also ND graduates the most students (aside from academies) who enter the Navy or something like that.   


October 23rd, 2010 at 4:35 PM ^

Check out the Truth & Rumors on CNNSI. I think the one about which ND players might miss this game. I was reading it this morning and the ND fans were talking about how Charlie Weiss thought they could just show up and win against Navy, but Brian Kelly was smarter than that and would have them prepared.


October 23rd, 2010 at 4:48 PM ^

We've seen Northwestern and Wake Forest turn into league champs and at times consistent bowl teams.

There arent truly any barriers stopping the academies from replicating that even withing their own unique requirements for a player

And all the triple offense stuff mentioned above. Its fascinating that Navy has now beat the Irish three years in a row. Also, dont forget, they laid a whupping on Missouri program 10 months ago in bowl game


October 23rd, 2010 at 5:21 PM ^

So with all this being said, let's try to "level" the playing field with the likes of the Navy triple option.  WHY don't the elite teams run this vaunted offense that doesn't need the 4-5 star Rivals rated stars, but simply needs the disciplined, intelligent athlete?  Heck, some programs wouldn't even have to leave their backyards to recruit. 

Yes, I'm being a littel facetious, but if they did run this with ANY level of discipline, wouldn't THEY be unstoppable?   Why isn't everyone running it? 

This offense has been around forever.  If everyone ran it would there then be a way to stop it then?




October 23rd, 2010 at 8:50 PM ^

It can be stopped.  Navy scored 14, 13, 37, 6, 28, and 28 in its first six games before today.  It's just a matter of being very disciplined defensively, respecting your assignments, and not getting fooled by misdirection.  That and tackling well. 

Their game against OSU last year was a little misleading.  OSU was ahead comfortably most of the game, but Navy almost pulled off a miracle comeback in the final minutes.


October 23rd, 2010 at 5:47 PM ^

I assume that Navy's players don't have academic double standards like we do in our football program. Add several hundred points to the average SAT scores of some of our players and they might pick up schemes a bit quicker.


October 23rd, 2010 at 5:49 PM ^

There's something to the serious answers that have been listed, but the most important--coming before all of them--is that the academy football programs can take up to 125 kids a year. They can funnel kids through prep school who need development. Some make it, some don't, but the ones who do are typically decent players. Then, all the stuff about the triple, discipline, etc. matters to some degree.

Another answer (and this one is only speculative) is that the academy route is more attractive than ever to FBS walk-on types because the price of education has risen so dramatically.


October 23rd, 2010 at 11:34 PM ^

That is how they traditionally recruit, but Air Force has gotten away from that and I think Navy has as well.  Vinopal was an Air Force recruit and typifies the guy Air Force is starting to go after, high enough to make recruiting services radar, but not so high that a pro career is a serious aspiration.  Air Force's coach, Calhoun, is recruitng fewer players per class but is putting more effort into guys Air Force traditionally didn't go after.


October 23rd, 2010 at 9:02 PM ^

I played for Navy in the mid-90s for two years, and left after my sophomore year as I didn't care for the military lifestyle. My freshman year the team won 3 or 4 games and the coach was canned (ran a pro-style offense) and Charlie Weatherbie was hired.  Weatherbrie brought in Paul Johonson as the offensive coordinator, as well as the tripple option scheme.  At that point, Air Force had been the dominant academy with their own tripple option.  We had graduated a senior QB who went on to spend some time with the Colts and a TE who was drafted by the Lions.  The following season, with the option, we began to flurrish.  The scheme is better suited for the smaller athletic lineman at the academies (we were taught to chop block) and the skill players, few of whom have the NFL measureables.  What would have been my junior season, the team went 9-3 and made their first bowl game in decades, in which they beat Cal in Steve Mariucci's final year, and had NFL players Deltha ONeal, Bobby Shaw and Ryan Longwell.  Paul Johnson subsequently left for Georgia Southern, and repalced Charlie Weatherbie as the head coach around '99 or 2000.  This is when Navy really began to succeed and led to him getting the gig at Georgia Tech. The current guy (won't even attempt to spell his name) was Johnson's right hand guy, and continues to run the same offense.

Navy has made a bowl game six years in a row and I attribute the succes to a combination of the system and inelligence and discipline of the athletes.  When I was there, we had about five or six guys on the team that claimed to have passed up SEC / BIG 10 caliber opportunities.  Everyone else, myslef included, were probably lower MAC level type recruits, who happened to excel academically.  As I said before, the option system helps levle the playing the field against NFL-caliber athletes, particularly on offense, and the defense tends to play disciplined assignment football.  As there is little opportunity for a social life at the academies, football is a special time away from the military side of things, and these guys literally give it their all when they have the chance to practice, train, watch film, etc.  Also, there is also very little turnover once guys make it to their sophomore and junior years.  Most wash out freshman year.  There are virtually never situations where players are leaving after three years, so you have depth charts filled heavily with juniors and seniors. 

The NCAA requirements apply to the academies, witht the exception that they are not hindered by scholarship limits, as everyone who attends is on a 'full ride.'  Each year they send about 40-50 guys to their own prep school (Navy's is called NAPS), in which they field a team and play JUCO teams, so it's essentially like a red shirt year.  I went in to the academy directly, and we had about 60 or so guys in my freshman class, between the NAPS guys and those they brought in directly.  However, about a third or so were cut after three days of practice, though they stayed at the Academy.  Thus, the team does not carry many more than your typical D1 team.

I apologize for the sloppy writing as I've been tossing them back since about 2:30.  I'll stop the rambling and will try to provide any additional info in response to other posts.  GO NAVY! and GO BLUE!