Navy Spring Football Review

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo stood on the practice field this past Wednesday evening and declared Navy's spring camp a success. It was the last of 14 workouts for the Midshipmen, who opened spring camp on March 28 and concluded it with Friday's annual Blue-Gold game. "I'm encouraged by where we're at. We answered a lot of questions," Niumatalolo said.

"I'm encouraged by where we're at. We answered a lot of questions," Niumatalolo said.

Navy needed to identify a backup quarterback and current plebe Trey Miller earned the confidence of the coaching staff with a steady performance throughout the spring.

"I was so impressed with Trey in the last scrimmage. He played with great composure and made great decisions," Niumatalolo said. "Trey is a tough kid and a very elusive runner. He has a great future."

Niumatalolo also felt starting quarterback Kriss Proctor enjoyed a solid camp, displaying good command of the triple-option offense while improving his passing technique.

"I thought he had a very, very solid spring," Niumatalolo said. "I'm very, very pleased with him. He made some decisions in some early practices I didn't like -- throwing across his body. After that, he didn't do that anymore. I thought he was solid in his decision-making and threw the ball well. He is going to be spectacular at moving the ball (next season)."

Starting fullback Alexander Teich sat out the spring after undergoing offseason surgery and that gave the candidates for the backup job an opportunity to work with the first team offense. It was a good battle throughout camp with Prentice Christian (Bowie, Md.) emerging from camp listed No. 2 ahead of fellow junior Kevin Eckel. Senior Delvin Diggs opened spring drills third on the depth chart, but was surpassed by Eckel, who ran very effectively in both intrasquad scrimmages.

"We have solidified our depth at B back. There was good competition there in the spring," Niumatalolo said. "That probably won't be settled until the fall and each guy has things he can work on. Eckel needs to be a better blocker, Christian needs to get better at his assignments and Delvin needs to get better at making plays with the ball in his hands."

There was also excellent competition at slotback and Niumatalolo said he would feel comfortable using any of eight players next season. Senior Aaron Santiago and junior Gee Gee Greene solidified their starting spots while juniors John Howell and Bo Snelson maintained their hold on the backup jobs. However, sophomores Darius Staten and Marcus Thomas were both very impressive at times and will be hard to keep out of the rotation in 2010. Senior Mike Stukel is another quality slot in the mix.

"I feel very good about our A back situation. We are very, very deep at that position and they're all smart football players," Niumatalolo said.

Niumatalolo said Navy now goes into transition mode with players soon beginning offseason workouts. Several players, notably nose guard Chris Mayes, have work to do academically and may need to attend summer school in order to be eligible in the fall.

"I'm encouraged by what we got done in the spring and now the key now is where do we go from here?" Niumatalolo said. "Are we going to have guys who don't take care of academics and get in trouble off the field? Or are we going to have a team that's disciplined and takes care of stuff off the field and has a great summer? That's the big question right now, and that's going to be the key. If we can do that, I think we have a chance to have a decent team."

Niumatalolo said Mike Brass, Navy's assistant athletic director for sports performance, will be the most important figure in the Navy football program during the period leading up to the start of August camp.

"Coach Brass will be the players' adopted father for the next few months," Niumatalolo said. "None of the rest of us (coaches) can work with the players so Coach Brass is the one they are going to spend the most time with during the offseason."

GREEN REVIEWS DEFENSE

Defensive coordinator Buddy Green beat the odds by not missing all of Navy's spring camp. Green was bedridden per doctors orders following complications from gallbladder surgery when Navy opened drills on March 28. Three surgeries in the span of 11 days and an infection had Green down and out, prompting head coach Ken Niumatalolo to remark at one point that he did not expect the wily veteran coach to rejoin the team while spring practice was still underway.

However, Green surprised the rest of the coaching staff by returning to the office for half days on April 11 and showing up in the press box for the second intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday, April 16. Green capped his personal comeback by getting out on the field for the first time for Navy's final spring practice this past Wednesday.

While Green attended just one of 14 practices, he was in constant communication with chief lieutenant Dale Pehrson and other members of the defensive staff. Green carefully evaluated film of each practice session and was actively involved with updating the depth chart each Monday.

Following Wednesday's practice, Green discussed the progress of the defense, which returns just two full-time starters from 2010 -- left end Jabaree Tuani and safety Kwesi Mitchell. This was an important spring for the defense as Green needed to identify three new starters in the secondary, basically four new starters at linebacker and two new starters along the line.

Tuani sat out spring drills while recuperating from offseason surgery and there was terrific competition at the defensive end position in his absence. Juniors Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick and Collin Sturdivant waged a war at right defensive end and emerged from spring camp tied atop the depth chart.

"Fitz and Sturdivant both stepped it up and gave great effort. I thought they both performed well this spring and that battle will carry over into the fall," Green said.

Jamel Dobbs was a revelation this spring and thrust himself into the mix with surprisingly consistent play for a plebe. The 6-foot-1, 255-pound Georgia native is very tough and aggressive, Pehrson said. Green and Pehrson also like the potential of juniors Ryan Paulson, Josh Jones and Wes Henderson.

"I feel like that group of ends is very solid. The experience isn't there, but we are faster and more explosive across the board," Green said.

Navy lost its top two nose guards, but Jared Marks eased the coaching staff's concern about that position with a strong spring. The sturdy 6-foot-5, 297-pounder was an immovable object at times. "I think Jared definitely solidified that spot. He gives us a big guy inside that can hold the point of attack," Green said.

Current freshman Chris Mayes was expected to establish himself as the backup nose guard, but was suspended from football-related activities due to academic issues. That leaves rising sophomores Alex Doolittle and Barry Dabney on the depth chart, which is a concern to the coaching staff.

Green said he is quite comfortable with starting outside linebackers Jarred Shannon and Mason Graham, both of whom saw significant action on special teams in 2010. "I thought Jarred and Mason both came out here and gave a blue collar performance this spring," Green said. "I expect big things out of them next season."

There is plenty of talent and depth at inside linebacker with Matt Warrick and Caleb King fighting for the starting spot at MIKE while Max Blue and Matt Brewer duke it out to be No. 1 at SAM.

Tra'ves Bush must fill the big shoes of departed Rover Wyatt Middleton and Green was pleased with the way the current sophomore responded this spring. "I think Tra'ves had the best camp of all the defensive backs as far as consistency," Green said.

Jordan Fraser, who will also be a junior in 2011, also performed well in Green's estimation and held the starting spot at free safety throughout camp. It is wide open at right cornerback with senior David Wright, junior David Sperry and sophomore Jonathan Wev all listed No. 1 at some point this spring.

"That corner position is totally up for grabs. Someone needs to step up in the fall and seize the job," said Green, adding that current freshmen Wave Ryder and Shawn Lynch both showed well this spring and will be in the picture for playing time in nickel and dime packages next season.

GoMids.com Top Stories