The Washington Times - August 9, 2011, 08:16AM

A recent conversation with first-year Navy wide receivers coach Mick Yokitis:

Q: What’s it like being a first-year coach here and being in that situation after having gone to school here?

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Yokitis: It’s basically coming back to home for me. I love my time playing here. I came back. I’ve been part of the program; I was up at the prep school, so I wasn’t too far away. I stayed in contact with the coaches all the time, but I couldn’t be more excited and back working with coach Niumat. He’s got to be the best head coach in the country. It’s working with great kids, every single day, day in and day out. There’s no other place I’d want to be.

Q: You get a unit that loses Greg Jones. How do you evaluate the group that you have that maybe isn’t necessarily as well known?

Yokitis: We lost, obviously, an unbelievable football player. But I think we have a couple young kids that are going to step up and fill into his role. I think we have a good mix this year. Obviously, we do block. We have a couple kids – [Doug] Furman is going block like crazy. We got [Brandon] Turner who can do a lot of everything. We just have to get him back out on the field. And we have two young sophomores, Matt Aiken who played a lot last year and Casey Bolena, who are are going to be special players for us.

Q: Tell me a bit more about Furman. He’s a guy who seems like he’s been around here forever. Is this his opportunity?

Yokitis: He’s played a lot of football. My first year coaching at prep school was when Furman came up to prep school, so I’ve known him for a long time. Just at prep school, I knew he was going to be a great player. The attitude he brings to practice every day, he’s going to try to get the younger guys to [adopt]. He knows how to practice. He comes and plays hard, and he’s played a lot of football.

Most people don’t know him because he hasn’t caught the ball. His job is a little bit different. Everybody’s got roles. Doug knows his role. His role is to set the tone. That’s what we talk about all the time. Set the tone. He’s going to come out here and set the tone and try to decleat somebody and do his job blocking and along those lines, he may catch a ball here or there. But his role on the team is very well-defined and that’s to be the enforcer.

Q: How difficult is it to get a guy to embrace that when the position is “receiver” and your job is just to blow people up?

Yokitis: It’s hard. I know from experience, when I played here, that was my role. My role was the enforcer. We had Jason Tomlinson, Tyree Barnes and these other guys that caught the ball. And it’s tough. You come out of high school, we all were great players in high school. Doug caught a lot of balls in high school. To come here and to know and to accept, but that’s Navy football. Navy football, that’s what we’re about. We don’t care who makes the plays. We’re about winning football games.

Q: How about Turner? Is he a guy who might be able to extend the field a little?

Yokitis: Turner is a guy who is going to do a lot for us. He’s a guy who can play the enforcer role, he can come crack and knock you out. He can run by you and stretch the field. He can catch the ball. He’s going to be a very, very good player for us. He can do a lot.

Q: You mentioned Aiken as a guy who has played some. How about him?

Yokitis: Aiken played in almost all the games last year. A little bit here and a little bit there. He had a couple catches  that were called back on him. He’s a guy we think has a chance to be the guy.

Q: Anybody else stand out the first couple days, and does anybody else have a chance to break out a little bit? Or is it too early?

Yokitis: It’s too early to tell. The two sophomores we think are going to break out are already there, Aiken and Bolena. Bolena established himself in the spring to where he’s running with the ones right now. He’s rotating in. He’s doing a great job, like we thought he’d be able to do.

The freshmen, it’s too early. They’re running around and we’re trying to get them in the right direction. But they’ve got some talent.

Q: You mentioned this as a job you love. Have there been days since you got back [earlier this year] that you just pinch yourself?

Yokitis: Me and my wife, we’re both from Pittsburgh. We love it here. We don’t want to be anywhere else. Just coming to work every day, going ‘Where else would I go?’ I’m hoping coach Niumat will keep me on staff for a long, long time. I wouldn’t want to coach for another person. He’s a special person, and that makes the job great, too – not just being here with kids, but working with coach Niumat day in and day out.

Patrick Stevens