When asked specifically of any players had caught his eye, Niumatalolo did not hesitate in saying that his young quarterbacks had clearly progressed over the offseason, saying both Kriss Proctor and Mike Stukel have "done a good job" while also pointing to the progression of the team's backup linebackers as a positive sign.
Niumatalolo also said that backup nose guard Francis Archibald has done "some good things," and said that he has been impressed with backup linebacker Max Blue thus far. As far as personnel changes go, Niumatalolo reported that former backup quarterback Brian Blick has been moved to safety, a shift not totally unexpected considering the recent departure of rover Emmett Merchant from the program. Equally as interesting were Niumatalolo's comments about the possibility of moving his other young quarterbacks to other positions, a scenario the staff is apparently still mulling over. As for the move of Blick to defense and other possibilities, coach Niumatalolo said it was a matter of common sense and need.
"It was a numbers game. We're kind of low at that position, and you know quarterback is unlike other positions in that you can't rotate guys in and out of there…We knew we were going to move somebody. There was some thought that it was going to either be Brian or Kameron [Smith], but there are still some possibilities with those other two quarterbacks – Stukel and Kriss Proctor – where we could move [one of them] to A-back if we wanted to keep Kameron there and move Brian to DB."
I asked Niumatalolo what dictated the decision making process in transitioning his young quarterbacks to other positions, questioning whether or not "need" at a given position was weighted more than a player's natural preference for one position over another.
"Both," Niumatalolo reiterated, saying that he also wanted to give Brian Blick a chance to see the field because of the sophomore's natural athletic ability. Niumatalolo wrapped up his comments on Monday by praising junior-to-be wideouts Mario Washington and Mike Schupp, who despite a tough day on the practice field have shined throughout the first week of practice.
"I've been really excited [about them], and Mario had a good practice Saturday…He's been really aggressive in getting the ball…so we just have to continue to where he's consistent…and Schupp, he is just a consistent player."
- I spent a good part of the afternoon watching the receivers and their drills. I don't know if I jinxed the Navy receivers with my presence or if Coach O'Rourke was just particularly fired up, but he was really getting after his players for not demonstrating proper technique while blocking. He seemed particularly let down that Mario Washington wasn't driving through enough with his inside shoulder while practicing a cut blocking drill, telling the talented and athletic wideout to "do it again" until he got it right. And while Gary Myers has impressed with his athletic ability, coach O'Rourke was noticeably upset at his body positioning in stalk blocking exercises.
- Staying on the wide receivers, one player who really jumped out to me today was Greg Jones. Former Navy slotback Shun White told me before the beginning of last season that fans would like what they saw out of Jones in the future, although at the time the 5'10 Jones had been playing slotback. Now a wideout, Jones shows consistently good hands in the passing game and a great ability to break on the football and square up his body. He's currently second on the depth chart behind Mario Washington, and could develop into a nice complimentary target to go along with "Super Mario and Mike Schupp.
- Travis Sudderth was back practicing with the defense, although from what I saw the "A" group included Ram Vela and Craig Schaefer rotating with Clint Sovie on the outside.
- Coach Niumatalolo is now going with North Carolina as his National Champion in basketball.
Have a question for a player or a coach during spring practice? Shoot Adam Nettina a line at AdamNettina@gmail.com.