If there is one thing the Mids could rely on for the past three seasons it was Jamir Tillman making a clutch catch at some point during the game. Tillman had 40 catches last season, which was a record for Navy during the triple-option era, and he finished his Navy career second in program history with 1,626 receiving yards.
The key word there is “finishing”. By the time the 2017 season rolls around Tillman will have graduated the program and the gaping hole he leaves at the wide receiver position is one of many offensive issues Ken Niumatalolo must fix if Navy is to be successful this fall.
Tillman may have caught 40 passes as a senior, but to those who watched Navy games that number will seem low. Given the infrequency with which the Mids aired out the ball, 40 catches is the equivalent of 100 or 120 in a regular offense (even those numbers might still be low). Basically if Navy was going to throw the ball it would be sent Tillman’s way and despite the defense knowing this the strategy still worked.
To put this in perspective you have to realize that none of the returning receivers for the Mids caught more than six passes in 2016. That is 15% of Tillman’s total. While Navy is not expected to start throwing the ball more often, the threat of the pass must be there for the offense to work.
The two most obvious candidates to replace the production of Tillman are senior Brandon Colon and current freshman Zach Fraade. Colon has only 10 career catches, but he has been in the program long enough to learn the ropes and at least be part of a rotation that can pick up their overall production.
Fraade is an interesting prospect because at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he has the body type to replicate what Tillman was for the Mids. He is widely regarded as the best athlete at the position, but he has had trouble staying healthy which has slowed his development.
Whether it is Colon, Fraade, or someone not even yet on the radar, Navy must find a pass catching receiver who is also an outstanding blocker to replace one of the key offensive components during their recent run.