2015 In Sports
2015 In Sports

Navy Spring Football Report
Gordy Larson
19 May 2012
    Lest you think I've forgotten our other opponent in the CIC trophy chase, I've included the spring report for Navy in this response.  Navy did not lose as many starters as AFA this past year, but they did lose six of their top players from last years team that went 5-7 and eked out a narrow victory against us.  From my observations, the biggest losses to graduation were at Fullback (Teich), who was their second leading rusher, and in the defensive line (Tuani at DE and Marks at Nose Guard).  They also lost their academic all american right tackle Dodd, as well as their center and right guard.  The most interesting story (certainly not mentioned in their spring report) was that their QB Kris Proctor resigned to avoid being dismissed from the academy prior to graduation.  Thomaswick sent me an article about it, but the article did not give the reason for his resignation.  One can only speculate that it was likely an honor violation.  Proctor led Navy in rushing with 1100 yards last year. 
    I've taken a close look at the official spring report, with particular interest in what they've done to fill the gaps left by graduation.  According to the depth chart, the replacement for Teich at FB is a relatively small fullback, Noah Copeland (5' 10" 205 lbs) who has yet to carry the ball in a Division 1 level game (Army has three guys in the starting backfield who outweigh Copeland).  The replacement QB is a junior, Trey Miller (6' 0" 199 lbs), who got about the same amount of playing time as our backup Santiago last year with comparable stats.  He played the entire Central Michigan game and looked reasonably good in that one (Navy won by a single point when Central Michigan decided to go for two on their last TD).  The QB is the key player in the triple option and it remains to be seen whether Miller will measure up to the standards set by Dobbs and Proctor.  Navy also has to replace three starters on the right side of their offensive line, which may or may not be a problem.  Navy has 4 guys returning at linebacker and 3 of 4 defensive backs, but their defense was a bit porous last year and the loss of Tuani at DE and Marks at NG may hurt them, but the learning curve for defensive linemen is usually easier than for offensive linemen.
    It's certainly hazardous trying to read too much into a spring scouting report, especially given that there's a full season to play before we meet Navy.  Navy starts their season playing against Notre Dame in Dublin Ireland, and one would expect that the Fighting Irish will put on a display of power unless they spend too much time in the pubs before the game.  The following week, Navy takes on Penn State; so it's likely that they'll start the season at 0-2.  They'll get a breather against VMI before takind on San Jose State, Air Force, and Central Michigan.  Their homecoming game is against Indiana, which could be interesting, although Indiana is not expected to be competitive in the Big Ten this year.
    At any rate, here's what USA Today had to say about Navy this year.  It's actually a pretty good analysis in my humble opinion:
Navy defense must improve after rough year
Navy opened spring ball hoping to answer the questions that led to the program's eight-year bowl run coming to an end last season.
And while there's a new quarterback and some things have to be worked out on the offense, it's the Navy defense that will be most closely watched in the Sept. 1 season opener in Ireland against Notre Dame and beyond.
The defense was banged around quite a bit last year and is now younger and more inexperienced. Shifts have been made, even moving one of the backup quarterbacks, Jarvis Cummings, to outside linebacker, but we won't know the results until the season.
You almost think it has to be better than last year, when Navy was 78th in the country in scoring defense, 86th in overall defense, 92nd against the run, 101st in first downs allowed, 105th in pass efficiency defense and 117th in tackles for loss.
Those are heavy duty numbers to try to come back from, and the opening game against the Fighting Irish just might be a tough way to start.
--If you missed it, Navy was part of the carousel of programs moving around the country and the Midshipmen will become a football-only member of the Big East. You get kudos if you can tell us who will make up the rest of the league.
"When people look back, they will mark this as a truly historic day for the Big East Conference," said commissioner John Marinatto. "America's first national football conference is adding a program with true national appeal. Navy's decision to make the Big East its first football conference home after over 100 years of independence demonstrates the value of our new expansion model and the long-term viability of our football product. The Big East is truly proud to be associated with one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country and one of the most storied programs in college football."
--DE Joshua Jones, projected as a starter after the loss to Jabaree Tuani, left the team just before the start of spring practice, which moved fellow senior-to-be Collin Sturdivant up to No. 1 on the depth chart.
"He came and spoke to me prior to the break. He had some things going on in the hall," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "He's a great kid. He's trying to take care of his swimming test and some other things you have to do to graduate here. It started to weigh down on him. Not only the academics, but you're trying to pass all your physical requirements and try to come out here and be the best player you can be."
--The loss of DE Joshua Jones came after fellow DE Jamel Dobbs left the program and the academy after a medical scare on the day of the Army game. He was found slumped in a chair and disoriented but tests didn't provide any answers.
--The Mids were running a counter play that was confounding their defense. "We got it from Army," said coach Ken Niumatalolo, noting "spring is a time you try a lot of different things." He said Army had success with the play against both Navy and Air Force.
--The Mids open their 2012 season in Dublin against Notre Dame.
--Navy has won 10 straight and 11 of the last 12 games against Army, but has failed to win the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy each of the past two seasons after winning seven straight. Air Force has won the last two.
--New assistant coach Shaun Nua is working with the defensive line after serving as a graduate assistant at BYU. "I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to expand my horizons and learn from different coaches," said Nua, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers. "I love BYU, but I didn't want to stay there forever. I wanted to coach at a different school and I couldn't think of a better place than the Naval Academy."
KEY QUESTIONS: The real question as Navy got into spring ball was: who are those people on the defensive line? The offense, now under the direction of the seemingly-able Trey Miller, always seems to take care of itself at Navy but the defensive front is as inexperienced after graduations and defections. Coach Ken Niumatalolo and his staff have shifted some people around to try to find the answer but this figures to be a work in progress.
CB Shakir Robinson -- The sophomore-to-be made his way into the depth chart picture with a strong spring.
"Shak has gotten much better," defensive coordinator Buddy Green told the Annapolis Capital-Journal. "The thing about Shak is that he studies the game and doesn't make the same mistake twice. He's very disciplined for a freshman and does a pretty good job as far as tackling."
LB Jarvis Cummings was making a successful shift from quarterback to outside linebacker.
"We're really excited about him," said coach Ken Niumatalolo. "He's done some good things at outside linebacker. He's made a smooth transition, but I've been excited just by his attitude. He's not sulking. He doesn't have his head down. He's been a team player.
"I'm happy for Jarvis. We're excited about him."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This doesn't help our prolific passing attack." -- Coach Ken Niumatalolo, whose team runs the option and hasn't passed a whole lot, on a windy practice day.
2012 OUTLOOK: Having had their bowl run stopped and having failed to win the all-important Commander-In-Chief's Trophy in the annual battle with Army and Air Force, Navy looks to bounce back and will try to do it with another new starting quarterback at Trey Miller takes over. You can always expect the offense to run, but you have to wonder about a defense that was looking for answers and shifting bodies around, and a kicking game that is inexperienced.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Trey Miller showed enough last season to tell you he is ready to take over the starting job. Kriss Proctor's elbow injury opened the door for some valuable snaps for Mill and the job is now his. FB Alexander Teich and slot Aaron Santiago are gone, leaving Gee Gee Greene and John Howell as veteran slotbacks but also leaving the fullback in the hands of inexperienced.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: There was nothing the Navy defense can really point to with pride over last season, and that was with star DE Jabaree Tuani. He's gone, others up front have left and there is a whole lot of inexperience on this side of the ball. The linebackers are a solid group but the front is untested and the secondary needs improvement. The Mids do return their top tacklers but all are from behind the front line.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: The Mids were looking for a kicker, and there was open competition and new faces arriving. Junior Brynmor Hughes was listed as No. 1 on the depth chart, but this figures to be a wide-open battle in the spring; after K Jon Teague had such a rough time of it last year.
DB Jalen Boyd -- Listed as a three-star recruit by Scout.com, he was committed to Air Force but opted for Navy. Did someone say Big East influence?
OL Toye Adewon -- The 6-4, 290-pound blocker was being lured by Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico and Utah but brought his bulk to Annapolis.
DT Nate Hoff -- The 6-2, 285-pound Hoff was the target of almost every school in the MAC. He chose Navy.
--LB Brye French has moved from outside to inside, something coordinator Buddy Green says he did some of the time last season.
"There were a lot of defenses in which we used him as a spy underneath for crossing routes and he did a really good job. He has the ability to cover guys out in open space," Green told the Annapolis Capital-Journal. "We think he can help us a lot in the passing game and improve our coverage at the inside linebacker spot. We're just trying to get more speed on the field."
--Freshman FB Maiku Polamalu sustained a knee injury in spring camp but should be OK after an MRI revealed no significant damage.
"It's actually better than we thought. It came back that he doesn't have any tears. He might have some strains," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "I thought it was worse than that. He might come back at the end of the spring."
--K Brynmor Hughes, listed as the No. 1 kicker, was out with an injury.
--LB Jarvis Cummings was shifted from quarterback and given the full spring to get used to a new position.
"You want to give a kid a full spring and a full fall to get a chance to show what he can do," said offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper. "Sometimes, if the guys are in the same class, and I didn't see him beating Trey out and that's the reason I talked to him. I said 'Hey, you're probably not going to beat Trey out. Do you want to sit behind Trey or do you want to go someplace where you can play?'"
Said Cummings, who appeared in two games as a QB last season: "As soon I got done with the meeting, I took it in full-heartedly and said I was dedicating myself to this position. There's no point moping around and saying 'They changed me from quarterback.' Just take the new position and learn it as fast as I can."
--WR Shawn Lynch was back on offense, his original spot, after his year at safety.
"Shawn didn't play as much (at safety) toward the end of last year and we just felt he was needed more at receiver," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "Brandon Turner became a weapon for us last season. He was basically like a tight end, but teams started to figure out which way we were running by where he lined up. Having a big guy (Lynch) on the other side will make us harder to defend."