The Washington Times - March 20, 2012, 10:23AM

ANNAPOLIS – Senior defensive end Joshua Jones left the Navy football program before the start of spring practice, coach Ken Niumatalolo said Monday.

Jones was listed as a starter entering spring ball, which began Monday. Senior Collin Sturdivant takes his place atop the depth chart.

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Niumatalolo said he was “a little bit” surprised by Jones’ decision, but acknowledged he understood what prompted the decision.

“He came and spoke to me prior to the break. He had some things going on in the hall,” Niumatalolo said. “He’s a great kid. He’s trying to take care of his swimming test and some other things you have to do to graduate here. It started to weigh down on him. Not only the academics, but you’re trying to pass all your physical requirements and try to come out here and be the best player you can be.”

Jones played in nine games last season, starting the final five contests. He had 25 tackles (3.5 for loss) and recorded his lone career sack against East Carolina on Oct. 22.

“I just think the overall burden of it, especially now that he’s getting close to graduating,” Niumatalolo said. “I just thought it became too much for him. He’s a great young man and we’re going to miss him.”

Jones’ departure leaves Navy even less tested at defensive end. The Midshipmen lost Jabaree Tuani to graduation, and Jamel Dobbs left the academy after suffering from an undetermined medical condition.

The Mids have five career starts at defensive end remaining on their roster – three by Wes Henderson and two by Josh Dowling-Fitzpatrick.

Patrick Stevens