Navy Football’s Spring Practice
Spring practice is coming to an end, and the U.S. Naval Academy’s head football coach, Ken Niumatalolo, is running a tight ship. Niumatalolo’s expectations for the Midshipmen are equally as high for the spring practice as they are for the fall competition. I had the opportunity to speak with Coach Niumatalolo to get a more in-depth look of the work the team puts in day in and day out.
Since January, the Brotherhood’s schedule had been full of conditioning and lifting prior to spring ball. The team went through a series of “4th Quarters” where the coaching staff was able to get a closer look at conditioning, exerting more control over the early morning workouts. Niumatalolo said the team’s performance represents “development, because in spring ball you’re not winning any games or anything, you’re just trying to develop your entire team.”
The Midshipmen suffered tough losses to Army, Temple, and LA Tech last season, as well as the loss of quarterbacks Tago Smith and Will Worth to injuries. The players certainly have their work cut out for them headed into the season. However, Niumatalolo says he has a strategy brewing to prepare for this coming fall.
Shaping Up in Spring Practice
Niumatalolo is making adjustments to the quarterback depth chart to see what will bring consecutive wins in the fall. This year, he said, “we’re going to have a junior and other younger guys behind him.”
Navy has two junior quarterbacks, Zach Abey and Garret Lewis. Abey was the first quarterback to have his initial start in the Army-Navy game and threw a whopping 64-yard touchdown pass against Louisiana Tech. Niumatalolo and other coaches expect to see Abey first on the depth chart based on his efforts in spring practice. Lewis, a strong arm and smart on offense, has a highly decorated high school profile. With a four-time West Alabama All-Star and a three-sport athlete, Lewis is sure to impress. These two will make crucial assets for Navy, along with sophomores Jonah Llanusa and Jacob Harrison adding depth.
Coach Niumatalolo is also working the linebackers to find what will fit best. Last year, he said most were new, didn’t have much playing experience, and were still learning the tips and tricks. This season, he’s excited to see what will transpire with a year of experience under their belt. Coach Dale Pehrson told Navy Athletics that Micah Thomas and Hudson Sullivan are the top two on the inside linebacker depth chart from their efforts in spring practice, but “they still have camp to fight it out” in the fall.
As far as wide receivers go, Coach Mick Yokitis said post-practice, “the one guy who probably stood out the most was Taylor Jackson.” Jackson, a junior, has stepped up and improved in spring practice since his 21-yard gain against Air Force last season.
Many other players have shown potential, but only the remainder of the off-season will help with unanswered questions. The coaching staff described the players as still having a long way to go before the fall season, but they definitely have seen promising material.
Full Speed 24/7
“There’s no such thing as an off-season,” said Niumatalolo. “The grind never stops.”
Navy Football’s spring practice has seen some smooth sailing, but Niumatalolo and the coaching staff see plenty of room for talent to rise.
The team has impressed their head coach, and he sees their hard work and consistent focus. Niumatalolo is appreciative of the players giving their all in spring practice, in the weight room, at early morning conditioning, and off the field. All he asks everyday is for them to “just come to work.”