And while Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo was pleased with the individual performances of several of his younger players during the roughly two hour scrimmage, the second year headman was unimpressed when it came to his team's overall intensity and focus.
"I didn't like our mentality or the way we prepared" said Niumatalolo, who also questioned whether or not his team was "mentality into in" when talking with reporters after the scrimmage. "I will reserve further comment until I watch the tape, but my first impression is that I didn't like our physicality. I didn't see the fire that we need to be a successful team."
Despite Niumatalolo's concerns, Navy's first team offense did look effective against the first team defense, scoring on three of five attempts against their fellow starters. Ricky Dobbs was nearly flawless throwing the football, connecting with wide receiver Mike Schupp on a 42-yard touchdown pass en route to a 97-yard day throwing the ball. While Navy's first string defense was able to tighten down when Navy's offense approached the red zone, the defense also benefited from a missed Jon Teague field goal and a delay of game penalty on the two drives in which Navy's first team offense did not score. Fullback Alex Teich looked impressive running between the tackles, and showed excellent balance and power when maneuvering his way through the second level of the defense. And while the rising sophomore failed to "punch it in" when given the opportunity near the goaline, he finished the day with one of the most impressive personal performances of the scrimmage, totaling 52 yards on only nine carries.
Of the other players who impressed Niumatalolo was backup quarterback Kriss Proctor, who finished the day with 58 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Proctor looked calm and collective going through his option reads, not only running the ball effectively himself but distributing the football to fullback Kevin Campbell (53 yards, 1 TD) and Vince Murray (66 yards) with excellent precision. While fellow backup quarterback Mike Stukel looked impressive during the scrimmage with some nifty open field running and cat-like elusiveness in the pocket, coach Niumatalolo said that Proctor's consistency with the offense has given the California native a leg up in the competition over the past week.
"Proctor continues to make progress and in the last couple of days Stukel has not done as well. Proctor has a little bit of a wiggle to him and he knows what he's doing with the option. He has presence about him. Stukel is physically gifted. He can run between the tackles and he's fast, but mechanics wise he is a tad behind Kriss at this point."
Kameron Smith, the other reserve quarterback previously thought to be in contention for the backup job, did not have a good day running or throwing the football with the third team offense. And while Navy's first team offense by and large got the better of the first team defense, Navy's backup defensive units stood strong for most of the morning, with reserve linebackers Trey Grissom, Jerry Hauburger, Caleb King, and Max Blue providing the spark for a unit which has been noticeably thin in the secondary over recent weeks.
In all, the first scrimmage of the spring season likely provided both the staff and inquiring Navy fans with a better idea of which young players are going to capitalize on the myriad of position openings this offseason. While the team's overall cohesion and energy may not have been as consistent or focused as the staff would have liked, given the usual circumstances of spring football it was not completely unexpected. The Mids will attempt to move forward over the next week, as practice continues in lead-up to next Saturday's scrimmage and the Blue and Gold Spring Game on April 17th.
The Quotable Buddy Green
Defensive Coordinator Buddy Green took some time to speak with reporters after the scrimmage. Here are some highlights from the conversation.
On what he is looking for this spring:
"I'm more concerned about individuals getting better…We're not worried about schemes as much or the this or that…we're worried about guys playing technique properly, and about getting better technique overall…Are young guys getting better? Are the guys that we lost – we lost three starters in the secondary - are we finding young guys who are making progress every day that we can possibly count on…We're looking for depth and we're looking for individual progress to go on right now"
"No doubt. [Tyler Simmons] can play either spot. [Ross Pospisil] can play either spot. We moved [Pospisil] to SAM and [Tony Haberer] to MIKE so that gives us the flexibility to play Tyler at either spot. He can play SAM or MIKE linebacker."
On who would start at rover if the season began tomorrow:
"Right now, if we would have to play tomorrow, it's still up for grabs. The guy who is making a move though is Kwesi Mitchell. He was a corner and we moved him from corner to safety…based on paper and as far as rating and what he's done and improvement, I'd say he's right there…but [the position] is still up for grabs…
On whether or not he thinks Emmett Merchant will return to the team:
"I don't expect him back."
- Kriss Proctor looked very impressive running the ball during the scrimmage, and showed an uncanny elusiveness in one-on-one situations. While he does not have the same physical tools that Mike Stukel does in terms of speed or athleticism, Proctor clearly seems to have a leg up right now on his classmate if for no other reason than he seems to understand the option reads better and looks more comfortable and in control while directing the offense. I would say he is the clear #2 at this point, with Stukel and Kameron Smith rounding out the pack. I would not be surprised to see Kameron Smith move to defensive back for the second half of spring practice, as he did not look impressive in any facet of his game at QB in the scrimmage. The real question could end up being what the team decides to do with Mike Stukel if Kriss Proctor beats him out this spring. Coach Niumatalolo mentioned the possibility of moving him to A-back in such an event when I talked with him last week, a point several high school coaches observing the scrimmage also seemed to find intriguing.
- Vince Murray is having one of the best camps of anyone on the offense, and really showed it during the scrimmage (six carries, 66 yards.) Murray is a guy who runs somewhat high but he has good feet and the ability to bounce off people at the second level. Coach Niumatalolo said that Jordan Eddington has taken a step back after a good first week of spring practice, leaving the door open for Murray. I know the staff likes the security it gets with Kevin Campbell behind Teich (who is the CLEAR number one at this point), but do not be surprised if we come out of spring with the more explosive Vince Murray as the backup fullback. As for Eddington, he does not look comfortable with his spacing in the backfield and with coming through the mesh, and fumbled the ball twice during the scrimmage.
- Ricky Dobbs had a real good day throwing the ball. He made a nice pass early on in the scrimmage despite being rushed by Ram Vela (who did a great job coming off of a block) to complete a long pass to Greg Jones, and later hooked up with Mike Schupp on a crossing route for a long touchdown score throughout the air. Dobbs finished 7-9 for 97 yards a touchdown.
- Marcus Curry had a very good day at slotback with several medium to long gains from scrimmage. Curry has really good quickness and arguably better lateral movement than Shun White has, which considering Curry's 5'11 frame is very impressive. A number of people have thrown out comparisons to former Navy slotback Karlos Whittaker when discussing Curry, and I think it's a valid comparison. I especially like the fact that Curry finishes plays. He's not a "duck out of bounds" type player, and can get the team an extra 2-3 yards on sheer leg drive alone.
- There were several defensive standouts in the scrimmage, mostly coming from the linebacker corps. Jerry Hauburger made a great play in the backfield to blow up a sweep to a slotback at one point, while Ram Vela did a great job to slow up Mario Washington on another play while Trey Grissom and Tyler Simmons came in to finish Washington off. I really liked what I saw from ILB Max Blue, who while noticeably undersized plays with great instinct and fantastic discipline in the open field. Blue is a form tackler in the truest sense and made 1.5 tackles for a loss during the scrimmage. He and fellow plebe inside linebacker Caleb King both showed the rare ability to make plays on ballcarriers in the open field, something which should help them to solidify their places on the special teams unit this fall. In another year they could end up being a Pospisil/Haberer combination.
- I had several high school coaches near me accurately predict the plays that were going to be run based off of checks by slotbacks at the line just prior to the ball being snapped. I'm not sure if this is more indicative of the great job the staff does is their high school coaches program or just a "dummied down" version of the offense run in practice, but frankly I was getting a little concerned.
- Coach Niumatalolo was really animated during the scrimmage. Several times he got into the faces of wide receivers Mario Washington and Gary Myers for not finishing blocks, and nearly tore apart Tyler Simmons in front of the entire scrimmage when the overzealous linebacker appeared to hit quarterback Ricky Dobbs as he was going out-of-bounds. He was also fairly hiked-up when addressing the team after the scrimmage, no doubt expressing his disapproval with the level of focus.
- Bobby Doyle held for the field goal kickers today despite not being listed on the depth chart as a holder. I spoke to one former Navy slotback in the stands who told me the move to Doyle as a holder made sense, as the rising senior is one of the most sure-handed players on the roster and played quarterback during high school.
- Coach Niumatalolo said that OLB Clint Sovie was held out of the scrimmage for precautionary reasons due to a stinger. Ram Vela and Craig Schaefer saw the most action at the two outside linebacker spots with the first team, with Travis Sudderth seeing the bulk of his snaps with the second team.
AUDIO: Coach Ken Niumatalolo discusses scrimmage