For the second straight week, Indiana defensive coordinator Doug Mallory and his staff are playing a big of a guessing game in preparation.
They know, at least, that Navy’s offense will contain mostly triple option, but they are expecting it to take a bit of a different form this time around. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has told reporters that he intends on diversifying the offense this year to make the Midshipmen a little less predictable, incorporating pistol and shotgun formations and spread sets that will give Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds more opportunity to throw the ball and to simply spread out the slotbacks to make it less obvious when they’ll be running the option.
And the first time the Hoosiers see the new sets in action, it will be the opener. The Midshipmen had an off week last week and haven’t played yet this season, and there’s no available video from spring either.
“They canceled their spring game,” Mallory said. “The first thing we were waiting for in the spring was a TV copy of their spring game. We found out they canceled it, so everything we’ve done is off of last year’s breakdowns. We broke down all of their games from a year ago. You’re getting a lot of reports that they’re trying to spread you out, still run their option game but do it out of some different looks. So what you’re trying to do there is research some other schools in the country that run similar type offenses to see how they try to get to their concepts, to run concepts out of a spread attack. … It’s two weeks in a row. You’ve got Indiana State where you had a new staff and we’d studied four different offenses. Now, without having a chance to see what they’ve done preseason wise, you’ve gotta be able to make some adjustments. They’ve had a lot of success with what they’ve done, I can’t imagine they’ll go too far from what’s made them successful in years past.”
The Hoosiers have been working on dealing with the basic option concepts for two years now, though, and Mallory said they feel much better about their players understanding of the system now than they did a year ago.
“We started running it two springs ago,” Mallory said. “We’ve talked to other people and we’ve researched a lot of things, and we think we’ll have more wrinkles we did a year ago. We play a team two years in a row, I think our kids have a little bit better feel for it. The hard thing to do is to demonstrate, to be able to get that speed, to be able to get the timing of the option game. It’s hard to simulate that in the scout team. I think our kids understand a little bit better, at least the kids that played, how low and hard the offensive line comes off the ball and just how well of a job those slots do when they cut. Things like that, I think they’ve got a little bit better feel for.”