Mick Yokitis returns to coach at Navy

Mick Yokitis was hired to replace the departed Joe DuPaix last January just five years after playing his last game for the Navy Midshipmen. Yokitis has returned to coach the Navy wide receivers position where he was a three-year letterman. It was Yokitis, known for his blocking prowess, who joked when he was playing in the Mids run dominated scheme that his position was actually, "wide tackle".

Yokitis never expected to be coaching after graduating. His service selection was the Marine Corps and he expected to be leading men in combat. His military career was suddenly ended by health issues. They say in life adversity creates opportunity and it did for Yokitis. He was offered the opportunity to be the head coach at the Naval Academy Prep school, which he accepted. For the past three years he served as head coach and offensive coordinator for a NAPS team that averaged over 28 points per game.

I recently spoke with Yokitis who believes he has inherited a good solid group of players at wide receiver. Most of these receivers know how to play Navy football. Mick praised former wide receiver coach Danny O'Rourke, who replaced DuPaix as slotback coach, as having the receivers ready to go. Yokitis coached many of these players at the prep school. He said returning veterans Doug Furman and Brandon Turner are the starters but they are being pressed hard by Matt Aiken. They all played last year and have experience. Yokitis says Aiken has a chance to be a really good player.

"He's very talented catching the football, running routes and has a lot of upside," said Yokitis. "I'm going to continue to push him like crazy to get everything I can out of him. I'm very excited about what he's going to bring to the table."

We discussed the change at quarterback from strong armed Ricky Dobbs to Kriss Proctor and how they spent more time working on timing this spring. Yokitis stated that the receivers still spend the majority of their practice time blocking in the run game. Overall, Yokitis says that as a staff they feel good about the offense.

"We're getting a lot of players back," said Yokitis. "We're losing Ricky (Dobbs at QB) but Kriss (Proctor) has played a lot of football. He's been in there and he knows what he's doing. He'll ((Proctor) do a good job for us. On offensive line we lost our best one (Jeff Battipaglia) but we return all the rest. If we stay healthy the first five have played and we're excited from a skills standpoint. Teich at fullback is a great, great player and captain. He's not practicing right now (shoulder surgery) but we'll get him back this fall. We've got a ton of quality ‘A' backs."

Yokitis has spent the last three years coaching young players. For the first time in his career he has to recruit. Yokitis has been assigned to cover the Dallas area in Texas along with the states of Oklahoma and Arkansas. Yokitis game plan was to first speak with ex-coach Joe DuPaix and discussed DuPaix's recruiting strategy. DuPaix had worked the Dallas area which has been a prime recruiting area for Navy. Yokitis reached out to longtime Navy coach and current Georgia Tech coach Todd Spencer, who had recruited Texas, to discuss the area and contacts. He spoke with Danny O'Rourke, who recruits the Houston area, for the Midshipmen to gain a better understanding of the Texas market. He also discussed strategies with the rest of the current Navy coaches to learn some best practices to be successful.

Yokitis shares that the Navy coaches recruited their assigned areas three weeks before spring practice. After the annual Blue & Gold game concludes they will spend three of the following four weeks on the road. This time of year they reach out to coaches, send out emails to coaches, get film on their players and then rank lists of potential recruits. The goal in the spring is to visit as many high school coaches as possible to evaluate next year's high school seniors. They hope to target a number of players and land five or six.

Yokitis isn't allowed to comment on this year's incoming NAPS class. However, he did discuss some of the current team members that he coached at the prep school.

"We have a ton of A backs that will help us in the future," said Yokitis. "Darius Staten, Marcus Thomas and Mike Patrick are guys that have a chance to play next fall. At receiver we have Matt Aiken who we think will be a great player and Casey Bolena who's having a nice spring. We have two backup quarterbacks in Trey Miller and Jarvis Cummings battling for second string that are doing well. On offensive line we have a kid Collin Watkins who's developing nicely."

On the defensive side of the ball he mentioned safety Jonathan Wev has the ability to help. He also discussed the move of Shawn Lynch from wide receiver to safety. Lynch is a terrific athlete. Andrew Glaize is a linebacker he coached at the prep school that Yokitis believes will contribute in the future.

Yokitis stated that the opportunity to coach at the Naval Academy is a dream come true.

"I'm glad to be back and very excited," said Yokitis. "It's great working with Coach Niumat(alolo). It's a pleasure. He is a very wise man not just football but with life in general. I'm learning a ton every day."

The feeling is mutual. Niumatalolo spoke highly of Yokitis after the new assistant was hired.

"Mick is the perfect fit for the Naval Academy," said Niumatalolo. "He played at the prep school, played four years here, served in the Marine Corps and coached at the prep school. He understands the mission and what it takes to be a student-athlete at the Naval Academy. He's a very good football coach and is going to be an outstanding recruiter."

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