Camp Insider: Who Has the Edge?

In this week's column: Adam Nettina gets you ready for fall camp with which plebes to watch out for this year, and reveals the factor which coach Niumatalolo says will give Navy the edge in 2010. Also, an exclusive conversation with an opposing team's defender and his surprising comments about what it's like to play the Mids!

Impact Newcomer: Who will it be?

One of the questions I get most from Navy fans has to do with which plebes will make the biggest impact on the field in the fall. Plebes traditionally have a rough transition into the Academy, and it's rare to see true freshman play– much less actively contribute – during their first seasons. That being said, the success of players like Gee Gee Greene and Jabaree Tuani in recent years -- coupled with a general upturn in Navy recruiting -- has proven that a select few plebes can come in and make an immediate difference. The key, one Navy coach told me, isn't so much in high school accolades or the "looks test," but rather in how players react mentally to the challenges of plebe summer. According to this assistant, it's all about being able to mentally weather the storm, and predicting who will "make" it isn't something coaches are willing to do come the first few weeks of camp.

Keeping this in mind, the coaches are nevertheless excited about the physicality of the incoming class, and have high hopes for a number of the plebes. One player multiple coaches mentioned to keep an eye out for will be Wave Ryder. Ryder is a legitimate 6-foot-2 defender with outstanding athleticism for his size, and is blessed with a work ethic which has already caught the attention of the staff. He originally committed to Utah State but later changed his mind and committed to Navy. Back in May I spoke with USU coach Gary Andersen, who at the time was still upset over losing Ryder to the Mids. While anything can happen within the next few years, one Navy assistant compared Ryder to a more athletic version of former Navy S Josh Smith coming out of high school, and said that the Ryder has a chance to get in on special teams action this year.

Of course, the impact performer of the future could be any number of current plebes, and ruling anyone out or assuming one player has a better chance than another so early in their careers is just silly. After all, Ross Pospisil, who could rightly be counted as one of the best Navy defenders of the past decade, was a virtual nobody out of high school, and had no other offers besides Navy. Only time will tell who rises to the occasion, but the staff if excited to see what this year's freshmen class has to offer.

Conditioning Edge

Navy is known for an outstanding conditioning program under assistant Mike Brass, who coach Ken Niumatalolo likes to refer to as a "glass half empty" guy when it comes to assessing the team's overall physical fitness. That being said, Niumatalolo praised Brass and his team during last week's media golf outing, saying definitively that the team had its best offseason in his entire tenure at Navy.

This is an impressive statement, and an important factor when contextualizing the upcoming season. The demands of a 12 game schedule -- as well as the nature of high-paced, spread offenses around the country – has increased the importance of team conditioning to the point where it becomes one of those "x" factors which can serve as a talent multiplier.

I had the chance to speak with new San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre last week during WAC Media Days, and the former Duke defensive coordinator told me that the importance of conditioning cannot be overlooked for non-BCS conference teams. Given the challenges of putting together consistent depth at programs like Navy or San Jose State, a well conditioned team becomes all the more important, and makes Niumatalolo's statement one of the most encouraging for Navy fans to get wind of.

The Biggest Question Mark?

Punt returner, which will likely see a plethora of candidates during camp, according to one Navy assistant.

Opponents Respect Navy

Finally, check out my conversation with All-WAC defender Tank Calais from WAC Media Days. Who says opposing defenses don't have respect for the option?


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