Navy's two defensive units were so effective through the first half of the scrimmage that the two units yielded just three points through the scrimmage's first ten possessions, with a 33-yard Jon Teague field goal standing as the lone bright spot for the Midshipmen offense early on.
Yet as is often the case in spring football, it was a tale of two halves for the Navy offensive units, which fought their way back to finish the scrimmage on a high note. Ricky Dobbs tossed two touchdown passes to finish off the scrimmage, including a quick strike to sophomore slotback Marcus Curry and an out pattern to receiver Mario Washington. The second team offense managed just one score on the day, getting an athletic burst from sophomore quarterback Mike Stukel, who blew past a mixed second and third team defensive unit en route to a 35-yard touchdown run. Coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed that the defense clearly came out with more intensity to begin the day, but said that he wasn't surprised by the back-and-forth nature of the scrimmage, which he described as being a microcosm of the spring thus far.
"The number one defense played really well to start the scrimmage and then the offense picked it up in the second half," said coach Niumatalolo when asked to sum up the afternoon. "I was encouraged by the way the defense started the day and I was encouraged by the way the offense fought back later on. That is kind of the way the spring has gone. There will be days where the offense can't get back to the line of scrimmage and then the next day the offense comes out and beats the defense."
Saying that the defense "set the tone" for the afternoon, Niumatalolo did not hesitate when asked which player impressed him the most. Saying junior inside Tyler Simmons has been a "mad man" during spring camp, Niumatalolo echoed defensive coordinator Buddy Green's comments that Simmons was "running sideline to sideline all day long."
As for Navy's defensive coordinator, he said he was pleased with the progression of his first and second team defensive lines, but said that he still needs to evaluate the tape before making any further comments on his unit.
The Midshipmen will take to the practice field on Tuesday and Thursday of this week before returning to Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Friday evening for the annual Blue and Gold spring game.
Offensive Personnel Report
- Ricky Dobbs did not have any huge runs on the day but was effective when it counted. He ran the ball inside with a good physical presence and showed good decision making in the passing game, connecting on 8 of 13 passes. He did however throw several balls that came within inches of being intercepted, including an out pattern to Mario Washington which cornerback Kevin Edwards nearly snared coming out of his break.
- Mike Stukel and Kriss Proctor both received earfuls from Ken Niumatalolo on several occasions, although the consensus seemed to be that Stukel had the better scrimmage overall. Not only did he connect with Doug Furman on a long pass pattern, but he also displayed tremendous footwork and speed on his 35-yard touchdown run. Nevertheless, Proctor remains ahead in the race for the backup quarterback job, with Stukel needing to show better consistency with making his option reads. He failed to "punch it in" while running between the tackles near the goaline after the long pass to Furman, and like Proctor had some issues receiving the snap on occasion. At one point head coach Ken Niumatalolo could be heard telling the sophomore to be that "you are not a fullback."
- Kriss Proctor meanwhile fumbled a snap but did manage a nice run off of a designed roll on a third and long situation to pick up a first down. I've been somewhat ho-hum on Proctor's athletic ability in the past, but it is more than apparent that he has the quickness, speed, and vision to be an effective open field runner in this system. The thing about Proctor however is that he doesn't look like Stukel when he runs. He's almost effortless in his motion, but no less effective.
- It was somewhat hard to judge the second team offense because Patrick Snow was not at center. Snow was held out of the scrimmage and instead the job fell to Eric Douglass, who seemed to struggle with snapping the ball and then taking on nose guard Chase Burge.
- Mike Schupp made a great catch to begin the scrimmage, going up and getting a ball with his hands despite a great break by the defender. I've said it before and I'll say it again; this guy just does not drop passes. He did however have a false start penalty called on him.
- Alex Teich had a relatively quiet day outside of an early catch which saw him break a Ross Pospisil tackle in the open field and pick up a long third down conversion. The most impressive run by a fullback came from Vince Murray, who in the later stages of the scrimmage exploded in full force on a would-be tackle attempt by Kevin Edwards, who was so rattled by the blow hat he looked noticeably woozy coming back to the sidelines. Kevin Campbell did not produce any carries to write home about, but he was effective in picking up 4-5 yards of tough inside real estate.
- I was surprised to see Aaron Santiago play a number of snaps at slotback with the first team offense, splitting time with Marcus Curry, Cory Finnerty, and Bobby Doyle. There does not seem to be one "go to" slotback right now, and despite decent performances from both Curry and Finnerty during the scrimmage the slotbacks were held in check off of the option. Neither backup quarterback seemed completely comfortable pitching the ball to the slotbacks.
- Dobbs' touchdown pass to Curry came against the second team front seven and the first team secondary. While the scrimmage began with ones on ones and twos on twos, both the offense and defense mixed up personnel packages as the afternoon went on, with the defense playing up to three units of linebacker to include various combinations of inside and outside groupings.
Defensive Personnel Report
- If you haven't already bought into the Tyler Simmons hype you might as well buy in now. Simmons has been a one man wrecking ball this spring, and on two separate occasions shot the "A" gap in the scrimmage to deliver a bone-crushing sack on the quarterback. He nailed Kriss Proctor early in the scrimmage and took on the role on the vocal leader of the defense as the afternoon wore on.
- I thought Craig Schaefer had a very good scrimmage and has had a good (albeit somewhat under-the-radar) spring. He recorded a sack on Ricky Dobbs while he also came up with a crushing hit on the fullback while playing against the second team offense. I asked coach Green about Schaefer after the scrimmage and he said he has been pleased with Schaefer's camp, but said that the outside ‘backer position is far from settled.
- Jerry Hauburger had a nice strip of Corey James on one of the first team offense's first possessions of the day. Coach Green said after the scrimmage that Hauburger is still in a fight for the starting OLB position with Craig Schaefer.
- Chase Burge was an absolute stud today. He had nine tackles (including one for a loss) and really disrupted the play of Navy's second team offense inside. While much of his success came against untested center Eric Douglass, the 6'4 Burge nevertheless clogged up virtually every inside running play which came in his direction. I talked to Eric Kettani during the scrimmage and the former fullback told me Burge is a physical "freak" who routinely posts shuttle run times comparable to Navy's slotbacks.
- Caleb King had a big hit to dislodge the ball on a crossing route to a slotback late in the scrimmage, and also came up with some violent sounding collisions on the afternoon. I like the confidence King plays with. Even though he has only recently made the move up to playing with the B-unit at linebacker you can tell that he's one of the more vocal members of the defense, and he really flies around very well.
- Nate Frazier looks noticeably quicker this spring and when not double teamed really made an impact during the scrimmage. He beat Curtis Bass clean on one play to sack Ricky Dobbs, and caused havoc on several pass plays which saw Ricky Dobbs duck and run or cover behind a caving offensive line.
- Ross Pospisil was a standout, as usual.
- Darius Terry is a good "last line of defense" on the defense. While undersized, he consistently shows the ability to come seemingly out of nowhere and make he open field tackle. He impressed me during the scrimmage, as did backup outside linebacker Aaron McCauley.
Adam Nettina can be reached at AdamNettina@gmail.com
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