Jasper: Bryant staying at QB a "possibility"

Navy will look for its third 2-0 start in seven years when they play Ball State on Friday. And for the second consecutive game, Navy's Ivin Jasper will be calling plays for Jarod Bryant. Although Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada will dress for the game, he is not expected to play. Does Jasper call a different game for Bryant? And is Kaipo guaranteed to start when healthy? The answers may surprise you.

This wasn't the way Kaipo's senior season was supposed to start – with him on the bench nursing an injured hamstring.  However, after Jarod Bryant helped lead Navy to victory against Towson last Saturday, Kaipo will watch his fellow senior try to do it again against Ball State. 


Last season it seemed as though former Navy coach Paul Johnson had a different game plan, when Bryant played, to more suit his style.  But against Towson, it appeared that Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper opened things up for the back-up quarterback.  So does Jasper call a different game if Bryant is behind center as opposed to Kaipo?


"Not really.  It all depends on how the defense plays.  Jarod is probably a better inside runner, but if Kaipo goes and the defense [forces us inside], then Kaipo will have to just do it.  It's all about what the defense gives you – you have to play it that way," said Jasper.


Jasper didn't have to worry too much about what plays to call against Towson because as long as it included Shun White, it was destined to work.  White rushed for a Navy single-game record 348 yards – something Jasper called a "once in a lifetime opportunity for an A-back" in Navy's offense.


"[Shun] had a great day and now we can go to a week where he can have ten yards rushing.  It's just a matter of what the defense tries to take away from us," said Jasper.


It turned out that Towson's failure to counter Navy's outside running attack, allowed Jasper to keep things pretty simple, which helps with a more capable opponent looming in week two.


"The way they were playing, we just [decided] to keep doing what we were doing until they adjusted and they kind of never did.  We just kept running the basic stuff," said Jasper.


"There are always different things you can do and certain things that you have in your package that you don't want to show.  But what we did on Saturday [against Towson] is run the triple [option].  It's the biggest part of our offense and it is something that we will take into every single game."


Navy fans hoping for an extremely complex game-plan against Ball State probably shouldn't get their hopes up.  For Jasper, keeping things simple is a key ingredient to the offense's success.


"Whenever we put too much in and try to do too much, we have a hard time with it.  But when the players know what their assignments are and if they play fast, they do a good job with it," said the first-year offensive coordinator.


It may be more important to simplify the plan against Ball State because Navy will be without Navy senior right tackle Andrew McGinn.  McGinn suffered a concussion against Towson and he has yet to be cleared by doctors.  Staring in his place will be senior Mike Von Bargen.

"It's going to be the first time under the lights for [Von Bargen] and I know he is going to be nervous but hopefully he will be able to get out there and play fast," said Jasper.  "The beauty of the offense is if we can just come off the football and play fast, it helps.  Now he might go the wrong way, but as long as he is going 100 miles per hour, it might help us in some situations.  In practice he has been pretty solid.  He is going to be close to home and I'm sure he will have a lot of family there…he's going to be excited."


"I'm sure he is going to take advantage of this opportunity," continued Jasper.


And while Navy will be without a key starter on the offensive line, two slot backs who missed the opening game will be ready to contribute.  Andre Byrd and Greg Shinego will both see time, and according to Jasper it's important for one of them to "step-up" in order to keep Navy from being "one-dimensional" at the position.


Not expected to join Byrd and Shinego this week will be Kaipo, who is hoping to return next week against Duke.  And even though Kaipo has yet to have contact in practice since injuring his hamstring, he does not believe that he needs to be hit before playing in a game.


"[I don't think I] necessarily [need to] get hit, but get the rhythm back.  If you sit out for a month or more you lose your timing a bit.  And you need to get the offense used to my voice again…used to me being in the huddle…used to me calling the plays and my cadence.  If you don't have the rhythm, you don't have the flow," said Kaipo.


The Hawaiian native admits that it is "less frustrating" watching from the sidelines because he knows that Navy has "very capable guys playing quarterback" in Bryant and sophomore Ricky Dobbs.


But what if Bryant is spectacular against Ball State?  Would Kaipo be guaranteed of starting when he is healthy?  Or would Jasper and Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo consider staying with the hot hand?


"There's always a possibility with those kinds of things.  If the team is going great and doing well – do we want to mess up the chemistry?  But that is something we will talk about once we get there.  I'm kind of hoping to have that problem.  I'd love to be in the position that we are playing so well and things are going so great that it is an issue for us," said Jasper. 


"But in the past it has always been that if a starter gets hurt and is ready to play, he will start.  But we will cross that bridge once we get to it."


Meanwhile if Bryant has any chance to help lead Navy to a victory over Ball State, he will need to cut down on the turnovers according to Jasper.


"[Bryant] graded out pretty good [against Towson].  Just the turnovers – it just kind of threw everything off.  Near the goal line, he kind of got caught in the same position as he did against Ball State last season.  He got caught in between [pitching and keeping the ball] and he tried to pitch it at the last minute and it got knocked out of his hands.  But overall he played good.  Hopefully he can be better from the first game to the next game because we are going to need him to have a good game this week."


One dimension of the Ball State game which Jasper and the entire Navy coaching staff probably hopes will go a little more smoothly is the officiating.  Against Towson there were a few blown calls that caught Jasper's attention, including an illegal formation.


"Every year maybe once or twice we get called for [illegal formations] but Kenny is all over that.  He's already got that covered.  They also missed placing the ball on the 40-yard line after the kick-off out of bounds, but I'm pretty sure we will make sure that does not happen again."


As for whether or not Jasper would like to be on the sidelines discussing these issues with the referees during the game…don't count on it.


"I'm just happy to be up in the box especially when it gets cold.  I'm from California. I don't like the cold weather."


And it's not until Jasper gets into the friendly confines of the press box that he knows what he will call for the opening play of the game.


"I really don't know what [the first play] will be.  It usually comes to me when the ball is in the air after the kick-off.  But I have ideas of what I want to do."


Jasper hopes that next week, when thinking of that play, that Kaipo will be in the huddle to help execute it.


"[Kaipo] ran [on Tuesday] with the team and he did conditioning.  So hopefully he will be ready to go next week."


Until then, it's Jarod Byrant's show.



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