Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Enemy Lines, Part 2

(Note: This is the second segment of an e-mail correspondence between me and my friend Christian Swezey, who covers Navy football for The Washington Post. For our initial e-mails – and so these two make more sense – scroll down to Part 1).

Jake Schaller Wrote: Sweze - Making a crack about what AF stands for is one thing, but how dare you question the BlogDog’s skills! I’m sure Norm is well aware that Navy’s helmets have blue facemasks while Notre Dame’s are gray.

Besides, I only have Mountain West Conference helmets, so I’ll just have to write “Navy” on one piece of paper and “Air Force” on another and do it that way. I was thinking about making BlogDog choose between the sky and water (Get it? Air Force and Navy?) but I’m not exactly sure how I’d do that.

Anyway, interesting stuff about the morale at the Naval Academy. But, like you said, I’m sure that Air Force will get everyone in Annapolis fired up. And I think that comeback against Duke probably was a season-saver.

My take on Navy? I haven’t seen too much of the Midshipmen yet, but it’s pretty obvious by the scores of the games that they’ve struggled on defense (thanks to key injuries) and been great on offense.

I think Air Force’s offense likely will be able to put up points on Navy’s defense. The key matchup, I think, will be Navy’s offense against Air Force’s defense. Not including the BYU game, the Falcons have been much improved on defense this year. And that’s huge.

Remember last year, when we couldn’t believe how Air Force played with its two inside linebackers about 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and Navy’s fullback would pick up big chunks of yards before he got touched? I doubt we’ll see that this year. New Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter employs an aggressive style, and I think you’ll see the Falcons try to attack Navy. They might get beat for a couple of big plays, but they also should make a few.

Which team do you give the advantage to when Navy has the ball and when Air Force has the ball? And which team do you give the advantage to when it comes to special teams, coaching and intangibles?


Christian Swezey Wrote: Navy O vs. AF D will be closer than last year. As you noted, Navy won without ever getting out of second gear. AF's defense never got aggressive and the Mids were content to gain 5, 6 and 7 yards simply running up the middle. The Falcons never made them to do anything different.

No matter what defenses do, though, the Mids have an answer. This is the first time since 2002-03 that they have a starting quarterback back, and it shows. I have seen more wrinkles from Navy on offense in four weeks than I'd seen in the previous few years. Just when you think Paul Johnson has shown everything he has, he comes up with quite a lot more.

When AF has the ball ... that's a close one. Navy (finally) came up with a few things that worked against Duke. Not least were some safety blitzes from sophomore Ram Vela and the pairing of two rather highly recruited d-linemen, Nate Frazier and Andy Lark, together. Previously Lark had been Frazier's backup.

Lark and Frazier have excellent size and Frazier has good speed, too. Both were very accomplished heavyweight wrestlers in high school. Lark usually ties up one or two people up front and Frazier has been stunting to get to the QB quicker.

Ball State used its tight ends to great effect, so I would not be surprised to see Dekker be a big part of the game plan on Saturday. Duke and Rutgers were able to throw downfield but they have more speed at WR than Air Force, so I discount some of that. AF's best chance to get downfield is if Carney buys time; I do not think they will get anything off straight routes down the field.

Other than downfield passing, Navy is vulnerable in the open field. They are not great tacklers there. This is where underneath routes for Hall and Smith will be important. Get them in the open field with some space, or if Carney can break contain, AF will be in business.

Does AF have some good athletes? Is the defense better with Carson Bird playing? I have to say, I was a little surprised he didn't play more against the Mids last year. And how is the o-line looking? Dekker won't be any good to the Falcons if they have to max protect.


Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying the back and forth banter between you and your friend. But I was looking forward to his answer to one of your questions, and I didn't see it. You asked, "And which team do you give the advantage to when it comes to special teams, coaching and intangibles?" Since I think we have the edge in all three, methinks perhaps he is avoiding the question.........What is your take?

jake.schaller said...

I'll bring it up in my next e-mail to him.

Thanks for the note!