When the positional look at Navy’s interior offensive linemen rolled out earlier this month, Bradyn Heap was competing for a job at center with Tanner Fleming and the Midshipmen had Graham Vickers at offensive tackle – just as had been the case since the spring.
Things were shuffled a bit, but Chris Culton, who works primarily with the Mids’ tackles, was kind enough to discuss guys both coming and going.
1. It looks like you’ve tinkered with where you have guys playing.
CC: We have Vickers playing center now and [Andrew] Barker is still battling to get in the rotation. Right now, our two tackles are Heap – we moved him out from center to tackle – and [Ryan] Paulson. Those are our two right now. Barker and [Collin] Watkins and [Matthew] Van Halanger are kind of working in to get in the rotation, but right now, it’s Paulson and Heap.
2. How has Paulson taken to offensive line after being moved over from defensive line?
CC: I have to give him a lot of credit because he had zero foundation. I think he had only six practices in the spring at o-line and I basically was in his ear every single play telling him what to do. He didn’t know what I was telling him, but I was telling him ‘You turn out on this guy, or you go here, you go there.’
I gave him kind of a playbook and installation schedule on what to work on in the summer. Because we don’t have contact with them in the summer, a lot of it was on him. He has definitely put in the classwork time. He knows his assignments and that’s the big thing. I told Ryan ‘We don’t have the ability of three years of a relationship to develop here, so we’re going to have to do this quick.’ You’re going to have to trust me and I’m going to have to trust you, but we’re going to have to get well past point A, B and C if we’re going to make this thing work.
I put him in the mix and kind of let him play around. He is a phenomenally gifted athlete. It’s been pleasant to work with him. He’s still got a long way to go, but he’s definitely put the time in.
2b. How tough is it for a guy to make that switch at that point in his career?
CC: We’ve done it in the past. Very few people can do what he is attempting to do as far as assimilate an offense, the technique, the calls, the habits, the footwork. It is tough. This is a hard thing. I’d have loved to have had him as a sophomore. You play with the hand you’re dealt, and this is his chance to get on the field and I told him basically ‘How bad do you want it, and that will determine it and I will ll see that when we come back in the fall.’ He’s done a decent job.
3. What are the early impressions of Heap at tackle?
CC: Bradyn is probably the most physically gifted offensive lineman we have. What we’re trying to get Bradyn to do is play at that game speed and get him confident in himself. The only way you develop that is going out there and doing things right and correcting your mistakes. He physically can do it. The question is whether mentally he can do it and turn it loose. He’s getting there. It’s a process.
4. What had you seen from Vickers earlier in camp, and from your perspective how does he fit in at center as a guy who maybe hasn’t been there a whole lot?
CC: He’s an athletic guy. He actually played center at the prep school and was a center here for the first two years. We just recently moved him to tackle last spring [i.e. 2011]. He’s a very athletic guy. He’s not the biggest guy, but he moves very well. We mess with him and call him the Canadian because he’s half-Canadian but he’s only been to Canada once.
He’s a guy who won’t say anything. He’ll chirp a little bit in a different setting, but he doesn’t say crap when he’s out here. He’s an athletic kid and we have high expectations for him.
5. Watkins’ development, how’s that gone?
CC: Collin’s been steady. I think that’s the best word for Collin is he’s steady. You know what you’re going to get. He hasn’t taken that next step yet. I’m not afraid to put him in a game. He knows what he has to do to get to that next level.
Our philosophy here is to get the best five offensive linemen on the field, regardless of what position they’re playing. We moved John Dowd right before the Maryland game two years ago and said ‘He’s one of our best five offensive linemen.’ Graham was a good tackle and Heap was languishing at the [No.] 2 center and Tanner kind of had a tough day, so we said ‘We have to get our best five going.’ Once we get set with that, we’re going to roll with it. That’s the combination we’re trying look for.
5b. Any of the younger players standing out in camp?
CC: E.K. Binns is a guy that is really as far as a freshman goes, he’s a true freshman and for him to come in and get in the mix is pretty impressive from the standpoint of there’s a lot of stuff you have to know. For him to be out there and actually run plays, that’s what’s unique. He can actually run plays. He’s got a long way to go, but athletically and physically – that’s been pleasant to see his development.