Wins over rival Army and bowl bound SMU are only a few of the positive accomplishments of Navy…
Navy Doing More with ‘Less'
Note: "AN" is GoMids writer Adam Nettina, while "DP" is coach Dale Pehrson.
AN: Another service academy recruiting maxim – if you will – is that Navy picks up a lot of guys who only have Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) or Division II offers, and seldom have other Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) offers. We've seen a few players commit to Navy over the past few years with other FBS and in some cases BCS offers though. Are you finding a general increase in this trend?
DP: More FBS and very few BCS. It's possible though. Those are the kinds of guys that, number one, are probably a kid who doesn't think like a lot of kids out there. They're looking for something more out of their academics and looking to serve their country. A kid like Jeff Battapaglia was that kind of guy – he had several BCS offers but decided to come here because that's what he wanted to do, he wanted to serve his country. They're sort of kids who are looking for maybe something more than just the football side of it. There are those guys out there; you just got to find them. The I-AA guys, usually those are guys who want to play Division 1 (FBS). Take Jabaree Tuani. He had two or three I-AA offers, but he wanted to play against the best. We were the perfect fit for him because we're going to play a great schedule obviously and he was going to get a chance to test himself against some of the best players in the country. That's kind of what sold him. There are different reasons for guys wanting to go to the Academy – some want to go Division 1, some want to be able to serve their country, but there are good players at every level. A lot of people don't realize, but with the scholarships being cut back over the years – what it used to be not that long ago was 120 then it was 90-something – there are 10 or 20 kids right there who used to get I-A scholarships who aren't anymore. So when you talk I-AA sometimes that I-AA guy now was a Division 1 guy 10 years ago. Those are the guys we're trying to find.
AN: As a side note, I've had some of my own theories about talent at the Division I-level, and how, because of the growth of the prep game, we're now dealing with a surplus of "FBS-caliber" players who are forced to "settle" for the FCS level. I've always thought this was one of the dynamics working in Navy's favor over the last decade…
DP: Well, with what we're looking for in our offense, and what were looking for in our defense, it kind of blends to that. Obviously if we could get a 6-foot-6, 300-pound guy who could really move we'd take him. But because we don't need an O-lineman who is 6-foot-6, we can find a really good player who (FBS programs) would take at 6-foot-6, but they're not going to take him because he's 6-foot-3. He's still a really good player, he's just 6-foot-3. But we don't need him to be 6-foot-6. Now obviously if we could find that guy we'd take him, but we don't need him to be. It's the same on defense. I'd love all my guys to be 6-feet-6, 310-pounds like the rest of the world, but because we move, we slant, we do a lot of different things on defense -- we can get away with a guy who is maybe a 6-foot-2 guy who is still a really good player.
AN: You mentioned Jabaree Tuani, and obviously the departing senior is a prime example of not "fitting" the bill in terms of height and weight at the FBS level. Do you actively use players like him as examples to recruits? Do you find many recruits already aware of certain Navy players that maybe fit the same "mold" as they do?
DP: A lot of times guys will say, ‘I really like that player,' and we'll make not of that, and that's who we'll have them host. Our guys do a really neat thing when the recruits come in. The hosts who are responsible (for the recruits) will take them bowling, and a lot of times 20, 15 team members will go by the bowling alley just to hang out and meet them. So say like if Tuani can't host on a weekend, at some point he'll go to meet those recruits. We'll get a lot of guys who their favorite guy is Ricky Dobbs, or their favorite guy is (Kriss) Proctor, or their favorite guy is Tuani. We get a lot of that.
AN: It's the question that is on every one's mind – recruiting against Air Force. A couple of years ago it seemed like Navy was starting to win the majority of the head-to-head matchups, but with the two losses, are you having to do any ‘damage control' on the recruiting front? How is recruiting going against the Falcons this season?
DP: I think it is going fine. It really hasn't actually changed a ton over the years. The two programs are a little different. Air Force is different in terms of location, feel -- everything really than we are. Sometimes it will come down to who's winning or who went to a bowl or that kind of thing, but a lot of the time it just comes down to the kid feeling more comfortable at one or the other. And if you look at all three academies they all offer tremendous benefits. They're all wonderful schools, but a kid might feel more comfortable here than at Army, or Army more than Air Force. That comes into play probably more than anything else…
Adam Nettina has been covering college football at the Naval Academy for the past five seasons. He is the former Sports Editor of the Utah Statesman and currently writes his own sports and pop-culture blog called Option Pitch and Waffle Crisp.
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