Photo courtesy of Army athletics
Army and Navy won’t meet on the FBS scene until December, but the two service academies will actually square off in a football game this week.
On Sunday, Army and Navy will meet in a sprint football contest. Before the schools square off, here’s a list of things to watch for:
Despite both teams making the championship game last season, neither team has their “answer” at quarterback. Army won the league title last season despite senior Ryan Sullivan — not because of him. Navy had its issues all season with senior Brayden Chmiel.
Both quarterbacks do some things well. Sullivan is good with the short passing game, can dink and dunk with the best of them and Chmiel is maybe the most electrifying rushing quarterback in league history. Chmiel has the most rushing yards by a quarterback in Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) history and should only further the gap between himself and the next closest guy in his final season.
Despite some positive things these two quarterbacks bring to their football teams, they both have issues in their games that keep them from being elite at the position. Both guys got benched throughout last season because of their lack of production. Sullivan has the experience edge on his backup, junior JC Watson, but the young quarterback is far more intriguing as a prospect.
Sullivan also hasn’t shown the ability to consistently push the ball down the field; he’s far more comfortable in the short passing game, heavy stick, screens, and hitches. Chmiel has his issues as well. The senior has gotten worse in almost every major passing category since his freshman season.
Now some of that may be due to the fact that there has been a lack of talent at the receiver position. Navy hasn’t had a great receiver since 2015 grad Matthew Hite. But at the same time, Chmiel’s arm and ball placement have not been consistent. Last year, Chmiel didn’t have a single game with 10 completions and he only had one game with 100-plus yards.
Both quarterbacks have major flaws. It’ll be interesting to see if either guy has improved over the offseason. Each one of these guys has some pride to play for because both head coaches have shown they will pull them if they aren’t getting it done. The quarterback situation will be a must-watch for both teams.
Army Receivers vs. Navy Secondary
This is the marquee position group match-up. For Army, it will have junior wide receiver Kraig Hamilton, who is a candidate for a breakout season and the extremely underutilized senior, Nitai Chun. Army will have some other guys chip in but those two will be the guys to watch.
The Navy secondary is led by senior cornerback Grant Hooper, who is arguably the best corner in the league. Across from him is Adam Weissenfels who is very versatile and good enough to be the top corner on most teams. Army likes to spread the ball around, but come crunch time, the Black Knights are going to feed their guy.
Navy’s Playmakers vs. Army’s “Big 3”
Offensively, Navy needs guys to step up if it hopes to beat Army. Outside of Chmiel, Navy doesn’t have much proven fire power. Senior offensive lineman Cameron Jackson and Jim Kenneally are both great linemen who will tasked with slowing down Army star defensive end Navonte Dean. Dean had the most sacks in the league last season with 10.5.
Behind Dean is senior linebacker Tate Blessinger, who is one of the best at his position in the CSFL. His 40 tackles last season led the Black Knights. Championing the secondary is senior Ryan Leach, who might just be the best safety in the CSFL. Leach was tied for the most interceptions with seven.
Dean, Blessinger, and Leach stir the pot defensively for Army. Navy doesn’t have anyone who is that caliber of player on offense. One player who could really pop and be that guy is sophomore running back Terry Totta. Totta has what it takes to be an explosive playmaker. What remains to be seen is if he has what it takes to be a feature back.
Don’t bet against Totta, but he has his work cut out for him with these fall exhibition games. Even if Totta pops, Navy will still need help from someone on the outside. Navy doesn’t have a single receiver returning who had 10 or more receptions or even 200 yards receiving.
Someone will have to step up if Navy hopes to put points on the board outside of a Chmiel scramble or designed run. Navy will be looking to find its next star while the Army defense has stars on all three levels.