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Takeaways from Navy’s spring football: New faces on defense, a question at kicker

We have a quarterback, there’s depth at fullback and new faces on defense.

NCAA Football: Navy vs Notre Dame Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Navy Football had a lot of questions going into spring ball this year, following the disappointing 2018 campaign resulting in a 3-10 record. There was a big shake up within the defensive staff between the season and spring ball, but the biggest question on everyone’s mind was who Ivin Jasper was planning to put under center next year.

The Man Under Center

Coach Ken Niumatalolo put any thoughts of a quarterback controversy to bed before they could really get started by announcing Malcolm Perry would once again get first crack at the position.

Ivin Jasper and company spent the spring getting back to the basics of true triple option football – the art of allowing the quarterback to make a decision to handoff to the fullback, pitch to a slot, or keep the ball themselves. The Navy offense relied heavily on zone blocking schemes that matched well with the inside power running of quarterbacks Will Worth and Zach Abey. Perry, however, is much smaller and a scheme like that has presented more of a challenge for the rising senior.

Perry got his first start in 2017 against SMU. He did an excellent job reading defenses and making adjustments, leading the Mids to a victory with 559 yards on the ground. Perry had 33 carries and dished out 37 more to 8 other Navy players

Perry, a big play waiting to happen when toting the rock, has demonstrated underwhelming ability when asked to throw in games. He went 10 for 27 and 227 yards last season through five starts. Those stats were so tantalizing to opposing defenses, they could practically sellout to defend the run at any time without much risk of giving up a big passing play with Perry starting.

Jasper, understanding the significant risk of not addressing that problem, has spent a considerable amount of time this spring working with Perry to improve the senior’s passing ability. Much of the effort manifested itself through drills that were focused on getting Malcolm comfortable with getting set in the pocket and his eyes down field, while avoiding happy feet. They worked on getting him confident throwing under pressure by simulating pass rushers getting in his face. The coaching staff has also said they are working on implementing some run-pass options into the playbook.

For what it’s worth, Malcolm has stated he is feeling a lot more comfortable throwing the ball. Junior Dalen Morris looks to be the backup QB at the conclusion of spring ball.

Lots of Depth at Fullback

Nelson Smith made seven starts last season at fullback for the Mids and entered spring ball as the favorite to retain the starting job. Competition was fierce for the spot, and an injury to Smith provided an opportunity for the freshmen and sophomores to make a run at the top job. Head coach Niumatalolo said there is virtually no difference between players in spots 2 through 4, but Smith did come out ahead to retain his number one position on the depth chart.

New Look, Different Faces, and Different Places on Defense

For years, the Navy Defense has always been about bending but not breaking; giving up a ton of yards, but forcing opposing offenses to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. There has been a steady decline over the last several seasons, however, which has seen the Navy D go from 22nd nationally in points allowed during the 2015 campaign, to 103rd in 2018. There is certainly a correlation there to the offense’s inability to sustain long drives, which has historically been Navy’s first line of defense through time of possession, but you still need to be able to rely on your defense at least some of the time.

Cue new defensive coordinator Brian Newberry and company, who bring a much more aggressive style of play and a very different scheme to the to the other side of the ball that will be new to Navy fans. The new defensive staff has also done quite a bit of mixing up in terms of players and positions as well.

Diego Fagot was backup to Nizaire Cromartie at the Raider position last season and played well, but Fagot was moved to inside linebacker, a role in which he has excelled this spring. Cromartie was the Mids primary pass rusher last season, but he will be asked to drop back into coverage more frequently this coming fall.

Jake Springer spent most of his college career at safety, but has been moved to a hybrid safety/linebacker known as a Striker. Evan Fochtman, who was the backup striker last year, is being moved back to safety to replace Springer. Elan Nash will takeover a position known as Bandit, another hybrid cross between defensive end and linebacker.

Early indications are the players have been taking to the new defensive scheme faster than anticipated; Newberry and his staff are happy with the progress their personnel have made over spring ball.

Who Replaces Bennett Moehring?

Navy loses the all time extra point leader for the Mids to graduation. Luckily for Navy they have two players waiting in the wings to take over. J.R. Osborn (kickoff specialist) and Owen White (punter) are battling to take over Moehring’s role as place kicker. They both have performed well, but Osborn has appeared to take the lead for now, although the coaching staff has indicated they will go with whoever ends up being the better option once the season arrives.

Still a lot up in the air for the Men of Ken for the 2019 campaign, but there is also a lot to be positive about as spring ball comes to a close.