"(Teich) had the year we thought he would to start off (his career). He got more comfortable with the offense and let his natural ability take over," Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo told the media on Tuesday during a luncheon to preview spring camp.
Tuani, who led Navy with 15 ½ tackles for loss, is recovering from surgery on his right knee. The powerfully-built 6-foot-1, 265-pounder has been a starter since midway through his freshman year and has recorded 168 career tackles.
Niumatalolo said the absence of Teich and Tuani from spring drills is not a big deal since both are proven performers and provides an opportunity for less seasoned players to get more practice repetitions. Navy needs to identify a backup fullback to replace Vince Murray so it's nice that top candidates such as Delvin Diggs and Prentice Christian will get to work with the starting offense.
Teich and Murray were somewhat 1A and 1B on the depth chart, as was the case when Adam Ballard and Eric Kettani comprised the fullback tandem. Niumatalolo does not anticipate a similar situation next season as Teich will get the bulk of carries.
"Finding a backup fullback is huge because that person is going to play," Niumatalolo said. "That guy (starting fullback) takes a beating and needs a guy to spell him so he can sustain for the entire season."
Navy must also improve its depth at defensive end since Tuani and departing starter Billy Yarborough rarely came off the field. Junior Ryan Paulson is listed No. 1 at the right end spot occupied by Yarborough while classmates Wes Henderson and Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick enter spring camp as backups. None of the aforementioned players saw significant action in 2010.
Navy already had plenty of holes to fill on defense since six starters are set to graduate in May. The Midshipmen suffered two unexpected losses when starting safety De'Von Richardson was dismissed from the Naval Academy for academic reasons and starting outside linebacker Aaron McCauley resigned for personal reasons.
Niumatalolo admitted to being taken aback when informed McCauley was leaving. The undersized outside linebacker played much bigger than his 5-foot-10, 194-pound frame last season in ranking third on the team with 82 total tackles. The Florida native finished second behind Tuani with 10.5 tackles for loss.
"We were surprised," Niumatalolo said of McCauley's abrupt departure. "He was having good workouts, a good offseason. He is a great young man and we wish him the best of luck, but we have to move on."
McCauley, a product of Seabreeze High in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., started 10 of 13 games at the outside linebacker position known as "Striker" in 2010. One of the strongest players on the team with a maximum bench press of 405 pounds, McCauley registered a career-high 14 tackles against Louisiana Tech. He totaled 11 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, against archrival Army.
Senior Jarred Shannon is now listed as the starter at McCauley's position with junior Keegan Wetzel entering spring camp as the backup. Competition is just as wide open at the other linebacker spot nicknamed "Raider" with senior Mason Graham going into spring drills as the starter and trying to fight off sophomores such as Evan Palelei and Cody Peterson.
"If you're a young guy and are not like a shark that smells blood in the water, then you probably don't deserve to play because it's wide open at linebacker," Niumatalolo said.