To those on the outside, it would appear that much has changed for Navy coach
After averaging nine wins a season in his first three years as Paul Johnson's successor, Niumatalolo had his first losing record as a head coach.
Navy also announced plans last winter that it would be joining the
It would seem that their first losing season in a decade and their decision to join a league has put a different kind of spotlight on the Midshipmen when they open practice Wednesday for the 2012 season.
But Niumatalolo doesn't see it that way.
"I think all of us — the players, the coaches — are excited to start again," Niumatalolo said one afternoon last week, sitting in his office. "That's [one of] the great things about sports; when the season's over, it's over. Nothing carries over. You kind of move on."
That doesn't mean Niumatalolo is complacent. The competitor who still gets upset when he loses in tennis against his assistants or in pickup basketball games doesn't like the 5-7 record that was added to what is now a career mark of 32-21.
"I just look at it from the standpoint that we have to challenge ourselves and we just have to work harder," Niumatalolo said. "You've got to step back and look at the totality of things and look at everything. We went 5-7, which is not good. We lost to Air Force, which is not good. But we lost five games by 11 points. So we know we're not far off, but we're still off."
Here are five keys to look at as the Midshipmen open practice.
Competition at placekicker: Though Jon Teague ended his Navy career by making a pair of fourth-quarter field goals in a 27-21 season-ending victory over Army at
Development of Trey Miller at quarterback: The junior from outside Atlanta showed some promise when Kriss Proctor was injured against East Carolina last season, but Miller is the most inexperienced quarterback to start a season since Niumatalolo took over. Miller reminds some of
The influence of new defensive line coach Shaun Nua: Navy finished 112th (out of 120) in the country in sacks last season and lost one of the best defensive linemen in school history in Jabaree Tuani. Jamel Dobbs, who started for the part of the 2011 season, left the academy after the season and Joshua Jones, who replaced Dobbs, decided to forego his senior year to concentrate on finishing the requirements needed to graduate. Nua, who played four years in the
Production at fullback: It might not always be the most important position in the triple option, but the Midshipmen have been blessed with a string of powerful fullbacks. While Navy fullbacks have become progressively smaller from the likes of Kyle Eckel, Adam Ballard and
How Navy comes out of its first two games: The Midshipmen open with a trip to Dublin, Ireland to play