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Niumatalolo charts course for Navy


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POSTED: Monday, August 24, 2009

Ken Niumatalolo's coaching journey comes full circle in November.

Navy's visit brings Niumatalolo back to Aloha Stadium—minutes away from his alma mater, Radford High School—where he played and coached with Hawaii in the late 1980s and early '90s.

After taking over for Paul Johnson in 2007, Niumatalolo became the first Navy head coach to lead the Midshipmen to a bowl game—and the second to win the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy—in his debut season.

; Navy has posted at least eight wins in all of the last six seasons, a streak Niumatalolo extended with last year's 8-5 campaign, which ended with a loss to Wake Forest in the EagleBank Bowl.

Strengths

No secret here. Navy's triple-option offense led the nation in rushing for the fourth straight year last season, averaging 292.4 yards per game. The Midshipmen didn't attempt a pass in a 34-7 win over SMU last season, when quarterback Ricky Dobbs rushed for 224 yards and four touchdowns. With Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada sidelined by injury, Dobbs rushed for 495 yards after taking over late in the season. He returns as the clear starter and will operate behind an offensive line featuring four returning starters.

Inside linebacker Ross Pospisil led the Midshipmen with 106 tackles and was elected a team captain in the spring.

Weaknesses

Running the option exposes quarterbacks to punishment, and the Midshipmen run thin in experience behind Dobbs, with two sophomores backing him up. How they emerge from a physical test at Ohio State to open the season could impact the Midshipmen's fortunes down the road.