Navy opens practice minus key players

The Navy Midshipmen began summer practice with their proverbial ship being rocked on the first day. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo opened the Mids 2012 summer practice with the program trying to rebound from its first losing season since 2002. Niumatalolo faces a number of challenges as he looks to retool both his offensive and defensive line-ups and find a new kicker.

In the spring the team lost solid five players including two former starters in cornerback David Sperry and linebacker Matt Brewer. At yesterday's practice the hits just keep on coming for coach Niumatalolo when it was reported by the Annapolis Capital that both captains had been stripped of their captain status and three players were sent home for failing the physical readiness tests.

Senior linebacker Brye French and senior slotback Bo Snelson were voted captains by their teammates back in February. It was announced that due to off the field violations they were stripped of their titles by academy officials. Fortunately they will still be able to play for the team. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo stated that he will use game captains instead of naming team captains for the season.

The real shocker came on Wednesday when the summer depth chart was released and it was missing three key performers. Two starters, wide receiver Brandon Turner and striker outside linebacker John Tate in addition to backup cornerback Albrey Felder failed the Naval Academy's physical readiness test that is mandatory of all Midshipmen. None of the players completed the mandatory mile and a half run in 10 minutes, 30 seconds or less. After they failed their second attempt at the physical readiness test (PRT) the players were sent home and not allowed to practice. In the past players who had failed the (PRT) were allowed to remain with the team to improve their conditioning. This time the three players were sent home until the next test is offered on August 20. Niumatalolo laid down the law, "Our whole team knew a certain date that everyone had to pass the PRT. They knew the date and had a couple months to prepare. It was a hard decision to make, but that standard is what it is. We're not fooling around."

This is another blow to a team those depth chart was already unsettled. Brandon Turner emerged last fall as Navy's big play wide receiver when he played in every game and had a team high 14 receptions for 300 yards (21.4 avg.) with three touchdowns. Brandon is Navy's biggest receiver and a physical blocker. With Turner out fellow senior John O'Boyle and junior Shawn Lynch are in a battle for the starting spot. At striker linebacker I had discussed how John Tate had impressed me in 2010 at NAPS during our 2011 Meet the New Mids feature LINK. I wasn't surprised Tate emerged as a new starter once he was moved back to linebacker from SAM safety. Tate was one of the more talented players at the Naval Academy Prep School in 2010. He is a terrific athlete who is physical and built like a rock. Two fellow sophomores, linebackers Chris Johnson and Jordan Drake, are competing for his starting striker linebacker spot with Tate out. Junior cornerback Albrey Felder's absence has allowed talented plebe Quincy Adams to make the three deep depth chart. Hopefully all three players will, literally, get up to speed. Losing Turner or Tate would be a big blow in my opinion.

In addition to these unexpected headaches Niumatalolo and his staff will have to find a new kicker, improve the play of a secondary that allowed 74.3 percent of the passes attempted again to be completed against it last year, find a pass rush, develop a backup quarterback, break in a new B-back and start two new offensive linemen. There is a lot of work to be done before Navy opens against Notre Dame in Ireland on September 1.

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