In case you missed the news, SB Nation has a brand spankin' new site dedicated to the Group of Five (including Rutgers' former home, the American) and FBS Independents. It's called Underdog Dynasty, and they're doing a great job keeping up with college football's grassroots programs. They were gracious enough to answer our questions on Rutgers-Navy. For their questions and my answers, click here.
Q: What's the status on Keenan Reynolds, and how does the offense run when he's not under center?
Mitchell Northam: According to a few Navy beat writers, Gene Wang and Bill Wagner, Reynolds looks like he is good to go for the matchup against Rutgers this weekend as he has practiced with no issues all week. The offense is the same in terms of play style and format no matter who is under center for the Mids, as it has been for years now as they have been living and dying with the triple option. But Reynolds has been the best quarterback at running the offense by far, so while Tago Smith did some awesome things last week, everyone knows that this is Reynolds team and offense until he graduates. Reynolds has chemistry with the fullbacks and slot backs on the traps, pitches and patterns and on the rare occasion that the Mids elect to pass, Reynolds can find a hole and exploit a mistake made by the defense, either with his arm or legs. He's one of the most dynamic athletes in all of college football and if a team wants to beat Navy, they have to stop Reynolds and the offense first.
Q: Winning at a service academy is a unique task, yet Navy has seemingly figured it out, winning every Commander-in-Chief's Trophy since 2003 except two, not to mention several bowl trips in the past decade. What do you think is the difference in Annapolis?
Mitchell Northam: To be honest it's really hard to say. Recruiting at any service academy is tough because they play a weak schedule so they aren't featured on TV as much, freshmen rarely make an impact because guys almost always stay and play for four years, oh, and there's that commitment to serving your country that is required when you graduate. In addition to that, physical training is mandatory for all of those looking to graduate, and that get's in the way of building an athlete's body for football, and that's just for the players that they can find that meet the height and weight requirements in Annapolis. It's tough. But Navy has had some great players over the years, and a few great coaches over the years including current head coach Ken Niumatalolo. During his time the Mids have beaten Notre Dame twice, Wake Forest twice, Indiana twice, Missouri and Pittsburgh. I guess that the biggest difference between Navy the other service academies is consistently great coaching, sticking with the system and finding great players to play in that system that also want to serve their country.
Q: Who are some players that Rutgers fans should keep an eye on besides Reynolds?
Mitchell Northam: On the offensive side, definitely keep an eye on the pair of fullbacks, Noah Copeland and Chris Swain. Copeland is a work horse who has been getting the majority of carries lately, while Swain is the change of pace guy at position that can become dangerous when he breaks a tackle or two and gets into open space. DeBrandon Sanders is another dynamic offensive player who can make an impact as a back, receiver and return man. On defense, Parrish Gaines plays the role of center field for the Mids and already has a few interceptions on the season. If Nova throws a handful of picks against the Mids, one is bound to end up in Gaines' hands.
Q: Do you have a prediction for a final score?
Mitchell Northam: It'll be a close one, but Reynolds directs a game-winning drive in his game back from injury. Navy 27, Rutgers 24.
So there you have it. I'd like to thank Mitchell Northam for collaborating on this great Q&A. For more info on everything Group of Five, head on over to Underdog Dynasty.