Blog…Despite Injuries, Navy "O" Gearing Up
Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo
Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo
Posted Aug 23, 2008

A week after failing to score a touchdown in a 17-possesion intrasquad scrimmage, Navy's banged-up offense finally managed to put points on the board this past Friday, albeit against a scout team unit which one onlooker described as "like the seventeenth team defense."

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Physical domination of plebes aside, first year head coach Ken Niumatalolo was decidedly more pleased with his team after Friday's event, pointing out that both the effort level and intensity level of the offense were good, while saying that the most important outcome of the four quarter "situational scrimmage" was that nobody was hurt.

Using a format which included full length warmups and even stadium music, Coach Niumatalolo's goal was to help situate his players- particularly his offensive players- in a game day environment while working on various game situations against the scout team. After starting the first series sluggish on offense, Niumatalolo's voice could be heard echoing throughout the stadium, at one point screaming at left tackle Jeff Battapaglia to finish a cut block. On the sidelines after the possession, Niumatalolo could be heard working closer with the unit, explaining that just because the defense wasn't tackling didn't give the offense an excuse to not finish blocks.

The offense must have gotten the message, as quarterback Jarod Bryant lead the unit back out to two more touchdowns before the "half", while the first team defense continued to effectively stonewall the scout team's offense the rest of the afternoon. Several of Navy's offensive players looked in midseason form during the scrimmage, including Eric Kettani (who had several long runs) and Shun White, who scored a touchdown and also displayed an excellent cut block. It may not have been the record setting offensive day against North Texas last year, but for a Navy offense which has struggled finding an identity thus far in camp it was a welcome sight.

The players weren't the only ones getting the benefit of the scrimmage however, as Coach Niumtalolo readily acknowledged that situating the coaching staff in a game-like environment would help better prepare his staff for the season. When asked about whether or not he was taking different steps to prep both his team and his staff for the season opener than he had taken in last year's Poinsettia Bowl, Niumatalolo made it clear that the differences were night and day.

"That was a totally different deal," said the first year head coach. "This is business. This is the real deal."

As far as the depth chart is concerned, Niumatalolo reported that it is in "permanent pencil" and doesn't expect any changes between now and the opener on August 30th. While he stopped short of saying that the team is no longer evaluating players for spots on either the first or second teams, he did clarify that the lineup is virtually set for Saturday's game with Towson.

"Pretty much 99% of the evaluations are in," said Niumatalolo, who added that sophomore Mario Washington will likely be the team's punt returner for the opener, while sophomore Emmett Merchant and senior Shun White will share the kickoff return duties.

Another player Niumatalolo expects to get on the field this Saturday is junior slotback Bobby Doyle, who both ran for and caught a touchdown during Friday's scrimmage. Doyle, a former high school quarterback, is best known for throwing for a touchdown against Duke last season but figures to play a more prominent role in the running game as Navy's offense searches for replacements with the injuries to slotbacks Greg Shinego and Andre Byrd. Both Doyle and fellow junior Cory Finnerty ran with the first team offense on Friday.

Mid Bits: Coach Niumatalolo all but ruled out the return of senior slotback Greg Shinego for Saturday's opener with Towson, saying that he hopes the veteran ballcarrier will be able to return for the week two matchup with Ball State…Despite coming into fall camp with what seemed to be a stable wide receiver corps, the Midshipmen offense has been forced to reach further down into the hat, with sophomore Mike Schupp seeing a good deal of snaps during Friday's scrimmage. Schupp's appearance was likely due to Tyree Barnes' absence from the field due to an undisclosed injury…Eric Kettani ran every play with the first team offense during the scrimmage, a move perhaps indicative of Niumatalolo's media day statement in which he said Kettani may have to carry the load if one of Navy's young backup fullbacks isn't able to step up…Sophomore Greg Jones was back at slotback roughly a week after being moved to wide receiver…Navy's scout team offense managed but a few first downs against Navy's first string defense, but one player to keep an eye out for down the road may be plebe quarterback Brian Blick. While the scout team rotated between freshmen quarterbacks, Blick was by far the most impressive, showing good quickness as a runner and solid pocket presence

Adam Nettina covers MAC East and Independent Football for

Past Stories:

Gill's Bulls Looking For Bowl in 2008
Best of the Non BCS Quarterbacks
Central Michigan Looks for Repeat
Max Hall, Heisman Candidate?
Business Time for Niumatalolo and Navy
Can a Non-BCS Player Win the Heisman?
Keeping the "Inc" Out of Army Navy
MAC Teams Poised to Strike Back in ‘08
For Navy, Tougher Slate in 2008
Related Stories
Interview: Eric Kettani
 -by  Aug 24, 2008
Blog…Linebackers Lead Navy's Defense Forward
 -by  Aug 18, 2008
In Ken We Trust - 2008 Navy Preview
 -by  Aug 28, 2008

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