SMU Head Football Coach Sonny Dykes on Preparing for Navy

On preparation for Navy: “The thing that has made Navy successful is that they have a culture and what I mean by that is they have a belief system their players believe in and it really carries over to what they do offensively. They’ve got a style of playing that’s unusual, that’s difficult to prepare for, that requires attention to detail, repetition. It’s a great equalizer. I think sometimes they’re going to be limited in terms of their ability to go out and recruit five-star, four-star recruits. What they have to do is they have to figure out a way to even the game up and option football has been the great equalizer for a long time. They’re very good at what they do. The thing when you play Navy is your culture has to be as good as theirs. You have to do the same thing that they’re going to do.

“You have to align properly. No. 1, you’ve got to play really hard because they’re going to play really hard. Your effort has to be as good as their effort is. You have to be excited to play. Their players regardless of the opponent, regardless of the situation, they’re going to show up and they’re gonna play no matter what. You have to match those two things. Then from a offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint for us, you’ve got to play assignment football. You have to play very disciplined. You have to play hard nosed. It’s going to be a physical brand of football and it’s going to be something that you’re not that accustomed to seeing. They do it over and over and over again and they’re very precise at doing it and it’s a little bit like the Air Raid 

“They run the same plays over and over and over and over again and people don’t run those defenses that much and so there’s an execution advantage when you do the same thing over and over again, and you’re accustomed to doing it. We’re gonna have to play a different style of defense than we’re accustomed to playing. When you do that, you just got to play disciplined. You have to do your job. You got to play hard. You have to be physical. Gotta be excited to play. Offensively, it puts pressure on you because you’re gonna have fewer possessions. There’s less margin for error. You can’t afford to bust plays, you can’t afford to drop balls, you can’t afford to again not be precise and not execute at a high level because you’re not going to get the ball that many times. Like I said, it’s a great equalizer and they’re very good at what they do and as good as anybody that does it. They’ve won games because of it.”

On preparing for the triple option in 2020: “I think the two answers to those questions go together. Normally, we’re going to have 130-135 people on our roster. We’re practicing with slightly over 80 right now just because of the COVID situation. That does limit you. We do a lot of good on good in practice because of that where our second team offense will run scout team plays against our first team defense and vice versa. We’ll switch, instead of having scout teams. There’s not a lot of carryover this week because it’s such a different brand of offense and a different style, so that’ll be the one tricky thing we’ve got to plan for it. It’ll be a little bit different our preparation will be this week. We obviously won’t go against each other near as much as we normally do because of that.

“Then the second thing that comes in is, as we just talked about, we’ve had to reduce our practice time just because we were practicing with so few players. Normally, when you’ve got 50 more players there’s a lot of reps to go around and as a result you practice for longer and those guys are getting more work. We also practice our young players a lot on Sunday so we just don’t have enough players to do that and so it has I think affected the way some of those young players, particularly those receivers have developed. We probably haven’t had as much time as we typically do to focus on their development in particular on Sunday. Because those Sundays are really important those guys that don’t play that many reps in the game, they get a lot of work on Sunday and a lot of scrimmaging, that type of thing as well. I think it has hurt our development with some of our young players, but it’s also allowed us to play seven games now or hopefully going into seven games now. It’s like anything else, you have to give up something to get something and so that’s that’s the way we’ve had to do it.”

On if the guys will do anything different as far as braces and practice: Yeah, we won’t do anything different in terms of that (braces). We’ll play the same. Our guys are comfortable with what they’re wearing in terms of practice and in games. There’s really not much you can do. I mean it’s such a different thing. It’s something that we practice when you go into fall camp every year. We have four days in the spring that we devote some time in the day to Navy. We obviously didn’t have spring football this year so that’s four days of preparation, where you kind of do some of those type of things that we don’t really have and then we normally devote about four more days during fall camp to facing triple option stuff.

“We didn’t do that this year just because we were scrambling, but there’s also a lot of players that have played against them. We have a lot of carryover with our defensive players so like anything else there’s, we wish we would have more time. I wish we had more bodies in order to get ready for this game in terms of practice, players and doing a lot of the drills and things that we do really in the offseason to prepare for this but, at the same time, like I said, it’s one of the adjustments that we’ve had make this year, as we start preparing for the game.

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