Navy Monday Practice: Part I

Conditions were once again blustery on the banks of the Chesapeake this past Monday, as Ken Niumatalolo's Midshipmen took the field for the first time since Saturday's scrimmage. The practice began with the usual assortment of stretching and position specific drills, although today there seemed to be a real focus on special teams (in particular kick returns) for the first twenty minutes of action.

A Case of the Mondays?

Gary Myers and Marcus Curry were back with the kickoff returners as expected, but today they were also joined by slotbacks Corey James, Cory Finnerty, and fullback Alex Teich. Despite a stiff wind that was consistently knocking kicker John White's balls short, all of Navy's prospective returners fielded the kicks with little or no problem, with Marcus Curry and Alex Teich bringing a noticeable quick step to the return game. However, in the one case I saw the team practice a "live" kickoff return featuring both the offensive and the defensive return teams, a short kick led to a miscommunication and muffed ball. As you can expect, the scenario led to a series of up-downs for the return team, a prospect which would unfortunately become a reoccurring theme throughout the afternoon.

Once again the Midshipmen were in full pads for the afternoon's activities, although didn't spend nearly as much time in eleven on eleven "scrimmage" situations as they had on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. Still, in the cases where the Midshipmen offense and defense went head to head, the consensus seemed to be that the defense won out. Not only did the first team defense stonewall the first team offense on the first full series of the practice, but the Midshipmen second and third team defenses frustrated Navy's offensive units even when Ricky Dobbs was in the game. Nate Frazier and the defensive line really seemed to be getting the better of Brady DeMell and company up front, although Navy's offense eventually found some rhythm with several nice runs by fullback Kevin Campbell and Alex Teich. Jordan Eddington had a nice run as well, although the former outside linebacker still appears to be coming through the line of scrimmage and into the second level with too high of a pad level. Kriss Proctor and Mike Stukel appeared to be hit or miss on their initial reads, which led to some unfortunate collisions that saw the defensive front seven quickly collapse on the rotating Navy fullbacks. Navy's second team offensive line really seemed to struggle in terms of their blocking assignments.

Navy's young quarterbacks continued to show signs of inconsistency with the blustery conditions in the passing game, and once again had some trouble handling the ball from under center. Kriss Proctor did not have his best day of the spring, fumbling a snap in eleven-on-elevens while also throwing several wobbly, end-over-end balls that should have been intercepted. Ricky Dobbs continued to look impressive throwing the ball despite the stiff wind, although he was picked off by Kevin Edwards in seven-on-sevens when he tried to drop a fade pass in-between three defenders. He redeemed himself later with a strike down the sideline to Cory Finnerty, who showed the most consistent hands of any slotback on the afternoon.

Despite some fine individual plays Navy's offensive players still struggled with ball security throughout the session. Gary Myers had some drop problems that led to a series of up-downs, while Ricky Dobbs and Mike Stukel also had mishandled snaps. Mario Washington had an uncharacteristic day which included at least two drops (one in a goal line drill), although to be fair many of the passes thrown to Navy's receivers throughout the afternoon were far from picture perfect. Nevertheless, Coach O'Rourke was none to pleased with his top two ball catchers, making both Washington and fellow junior Mike Schupp run through a series of up-downs to conclude the afternoon. If defensive coordinator Buddy Green was happy with his defense in the effort he didn't show it however, with the defensive coordinator making his entire defense go through up-downs seemingly every time I turned around from watching the offense. Despite the mistakes, head coach Ken Niumatalolo says that he is starting to get a clearer picture of his team, including the players who are making the most of their spring opportunities

"On Saturday we had a good practice and I think we were able to see a lot" said the second year head coach. "I think we're starting to get our evaluations of guys and getting an opinion of people right now."

CONTINUED IN PART II

VIDEO: View a short clip from practice (subscribers):

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