Navy football
Navy football looks to improve in 2023 (Photo courtesy Navy Athletics)

Navy Football 2023 Preview: New Year, New Coach

New year, new coach is the Navy Midshipmen's slogan heading into the season. What does 2023 have in store for the team?

Which team has a new coach, 17 starters returning and a bowl in their sights heading into the 2023 season? You guessed it: the Navy Midshipmen.

With longtime coach/mentor Ken Niumatalolo stepping down after many years, there are new names on staff — or are they really new names? Under new coach Brian Newberry, who was promoted from defensive coordinator, the Midshipmen look to get back on track.

Let's take a look at what the 2023 season holds in store for them.

New Coach Steering the Fleet

Brian Newberry looks on for Navy.

Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Things will be different with the departure of Niumatalolo after 15 years — but not too different. The former defensive coordinator of four years, Newberry will take the helm as a rookie head coach. Other than having Grant Chestnut as the new offensive coordinator, the coaching staff will look very similar to last year. P.J. Volker is moving from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator, and Danny O'Rourke is returning for his eighth season as special teams coach. The coaching staff is stable and knows the Naval Academy style and its student-athletes' unique situation well, which is a big deal.

Navy's Midshipmen Standout

Navy Midshipmen

Photo courtesy of Navy Athletics

The Midshipmen's Offensive Player of the Year award goes to ... Lirion Murtezi (our FanBuzz first prediction for the 2023 season). The center/guard extraordinaire is well on his way to becoming the standout of the season. Leave it to this offensive lineman to take the wind out of the sails of any opponent.

Murtezi brings much-needed size to the offensive line, weighing in at 315 pounds and standing 6-foot-3. Lirion also has strong leadership traits on a team full of future leaders; he has been made an offensive captain as a junior — a rarity at a service academy. And that's considering he was gone for half the season in 2022. That's called making a good first impression. With center David Hixon gone, Murtezi will have an opportunity to shine brightly in 2023.

2022 Was No Smooth Sailing

They may not have given up the ship, but the Midshipmen struggled last season. A 4-8 record left the team reevaluating things from stem to stern. Many of their losses were close calls, and their schedule was hard. The skies are clearer heading into 2023.

Toughest 2023 Game for Navy?

A Navy player pumps his fist in 2022.

Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Traditionally, we would say the Southern Methodist University game would be toughest, but that's in-league play, obviously.

Navy's Aug. 26 Week Zero matchup against the Fighting Irish in Ireland is an intimidating first game for the Midshipmen. This age-old series (and, in more recent years, rivalry) always makes these games intense, but traveling to Europe will only up the ante. The pressure and Week Zero spotlight alone make this the toughest game of 2023.

Predictions From An Expert (Allegedly)

Brian Newberry

Coach Brian Newberry gets in on the action. (Photo courtesy of Navy Sports)

A fresh face at the head coach position could bring much-needed motivation to the Midshipmen. With so many starters returning, there is a beautiful blend of innovation and stability. Navy can also boast having one of the strongest defensive lines in the American Athletic Conference. That will help them "clear the decks" of their opponents.

Assuming Navy can win against Tulsa and East Carolina, as it did last year, a reasonable overall record estimate would be 6-6 — which is strong enough for bowl game consideration. The Midshipmen should avoid some of the scarier members of the AAC this year, but Notre Dame, SMU and Air Force will keep them on their toes, and the final game against rival Army is always a toss-up. Teams such as the Football Championship Subdivision's Wagner and rebuilding conference opponent University of South Florida will provide much-needed relief. The Midshipmen's AAC record may be 4-4 if the stars align.

Navy is coming into this season locked and loaded, and is set up for success.

Navy Midshipmen

The cutest mascots in the AAC: Navy's "Bill the Goat." (Stacy Godfrey/U.S. Naval Academy)

Looking for the right sports website to sail with this season? FanBuzz has all the latest updates on all things Navy.

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