Navy Spring Practice Update: Week 3

The Navy Midshipmen continued to prepare for the 2011 football season with their third week of spring practice. The Mids spent this past week both battling with mother nature and at times each other. The scrimmage was conducted in a driving rainstorm that featured heavy winds and ended about a half hour early because of the miserable weather.

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said "We ended up calling the scrimmage a little earlier than we planned, but I wanted to get out of here before we had any injuries." Niumatalolo continued, "We still got in over 100 plays and I saw some good things on both sides of the ball. I was encouraged."

The scrimmages this week were lively as players battled for position on the depth chart and often with each other. This year the CBS college sports network is showing the Navy spring practice game live for the first time in the program's history. The UFC should have taped some of the practice battles this week. There were three fights in one practice. The second fight that broke out between nose tackle Jared Marks and Eric Douglass looked like they were auditioning to be the next Brian Stann in a brawl that ended with about a quarter of the roster getting in the mix. Some fans have asked about the changes on the depth chart. That is not uncommon in spring practice since Ken Niumatalolo became head coach. Niumatalolo is known for rewarding players who played well with a move up the depth chart. Equally, he seems to attempt light a fire under those players he believes might be under performing in order to lift their games. The only changes that matter are those done after spring practice concludes.

The good news this week was the return of defensive coordinator Buddy Green who had gallbladder surgery and missed the first two weeks of spring practice. With Green out longtime assistant and recruiting coordinator Dale Pehrson was in charge of running the defense. Green spent time in his office this week and watched yesterday's scrimmage from the press box.

Quarterback Kriss Proctor had his best throwing day of the spring hitting on 4-of-7 passes for 92 yards despite the miserable weather conditions. Niumatalolo said "I was really pleased with Kriss. I thought Kriss made great decisions and played with great composure." Niumatalolo compared Proctor to predecessor Ricky Dobbs earlier in the week when asked for a comparison.

"Kriss is probably faster than Ricky. They are different types of runners. Ricky is more of a power runner while Kriss is probably more elusive and faster," said Niumatalolo. "Option-wise, I think he'll do a good job and help us get the ball dealt. Backup quarterback Trey Miller continues to play well carrying the ball nine times for 44 yards. Miller completed 2 of 6 passes for 23 yards."

Returning starting wide receiver Brandon Turner had a good scrimmage. Turner, a junior, caught two passes for 62 yards and rushed 18 yards on a reverse. In the battle for backup full back Kevin Eckel gained 61 yards on five carries with his brother, former Navy star B back, Kyle Eckel looking on. Before spring practice Niumatalolo said "I'm really excited about Prentice Christian. He ran a 4.5 in the 40 and is a big kid, one of the stronger guys on the team." Christian, a junior, had his best scrimmage this spring rushing for 37 yards on six carries.

Kicker Jon Teague looked like Josh Brown of the St. Louis Rams with the gusting wind at his back. Teague hit field goals of 54, 50 and 49 yards during the scrimmage. Teague validated his head coach's preseason confidence when he said, "I feel good about Teague being our place kicker and kick off guy," said Niumatalolo. "Teague has been under fire. He kicked on one of the biggest stages last year in the Meadowlands against Notre Dame and kicked well so he's been under the pressure. I feel good about him."

On the defensive side of the ball junior defensive end Collin Sturdivant led the defense with seven tackles, including two for a loss and a sack during the scrimmage. Sturdivant (6-3, 219) has benefited from the move from linebacker to defensive end. Defensive end Joshua Jones (6-1, 248) posted five tackles. Jones is quick off the snap and recorded two of his stops behind the line of scrimmage. Brawling nose guard Jared Marks was active with five tackles. Sophomore nose tackle Barry Dabney recovered a fumble. Dabney is in the battle for the backup nose tackle spot behind Marks. Barry is a 6-1, 289 pound former NAP lineman from Nashville. For a nose guard Dabney is a good athlete who can move. Junior defensive end Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick recorded a sack.

Inside linebacker Michael Huf led the linebackers with six tackles. Huf is a 6-2, 230 pound sophomore inside linebacker with 4.8 speed from Pennsylvania. Huf was a direct admit last year and is very physical. Linebackers Mason Graham and Matt Warrick each had five tackles.

Safety Tra'ves Bush paced all defensive backs with five tackles and a pass break-up. Bush has the difficult task of trying to replace Navy star Wyatt Middleton. Bush took over as Navy's nickel back last year and is having a great spring. The only returning starter from last year's secondary is cornerback Kwesi Mitchell. Mitchell had four tackles during the scrimmage.

For the first time in school history the annual Blue-Gold Spring game will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, April 22 by the CBS Sports Network.

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