Navy football uses scrimmage to size up roster
By Gene Wang,
The Navy football team concluded training camp on Friday afternoon by scrimmaging for the second time at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, but with the season opener against Notre Dame two weeks away, Coach Ken Niumatalolo and his staff still have choices to make at several positions.
The auditions continued with five other place kickers during a scrimmage in which quarterback Trey Miller produced a handful of long runs, including a 73-yard touchdown, and cornerback Jonathan Wev had a defensive highlight with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Freshman Austin Grebe won the kicking contest at the end of the scrimmage, Niumatalolo said, but Nick Sloan, another freshman, has been perhaps the most consistent of the bunch. Freshman David Reisner and juniors Brynmor Hughes and Steve Picchini also kicked during the scrimmage, which lasted approximately two hours.
“We’ve got to make a decision and move forward these last two weeks,” Niumatalolo said about choosing a place kicker. “Hone in on a couple guys, the holders, snapper, because we’ve been rotating snappers and holders, too.”
Another special teams position up for grabs is punt returner. Normally junior Matt Aiken handles that duty, but the starting wide receiver was on the sideline with crutches and a brace on his right leg to help stabilize a knee injury suffered in last weekend’s Blue-Gold scrimmage.
Senior slotback Gee Gee Greene and junior wide receiver Shawn Lynch each returned punts on Friday, and Niumatalolo said they are the finalists to start there against the Fighting Irish in Dublin.
Lynch also has moved up to first-team wide receiver in place of Aiken, who is doubtful to play in the opener. The Midshipmen did welcome back Brandon Turner, the other starting wide receiver who recently passed his physical readiness test that cleared the senior to practice.
Greene (three receptions, 42 yards), meantime, drew cheers from the sideline with a diving one-handed catch at midfield on a pass from Miller, who finished with 184 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries and completed 6 of 7 passes for 101 yards.
“Today we did some good things, but still we had too many mental mistakes,” offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said, referring in part to an ill-advised pass from quarterback John Hendrick that nearly was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
Hendrick, a sophomore, is trying to fend off freshman Keenan Reynolds in the competition to become the backup quarterback. During the series in which he almost threw an interception, Hendrick also missed a wide open Lynch on a pass attempt over the middle of the field. Reynolds played the final 10 minutes of the scrimmage, completing both his pass attempts for a total of 15 yards.
“My biggest thing with John is inconsistency,” Jasper said. “John understands that. He knows it. I’m always up front with him. Again, if it came down to it, either one could play. It will come down to who we feel good about.”