Curry is filling Navy’s slot

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ANNAPOLIS | By the second week of fall camp, the concerns Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper had about the Midshipmen’s slotback position started to subside.

The Mids relied heavily on Shun White as a senior last year, and the exhaustion of his eligibility left a void at the position. But Jasper was satisfied with the progress he was seeing from an untested group.

“Mike Stukel was having a great camp. Gee Gee Greene was having a great camp. Andre Byrd was having a great camp,” Jasper said. “We were like, ‘Hey guys, we’ve got a good core. … But wait a minute. Marcus Curry isn’t even there. It’s going to be even better.’ ”

Jasper was right. In two games, Curry has proved to be a legitimate weapon for Navy (1-1), which visits Pittsburgh (2-0) on Saturday. In the season opener at Ohio State, Curry converted a pair of receptions into 101 yards and two touchdowns. Last week against Louisiana Tech, Curry went to work on the ground, racking up 124 rushing yards and a score.

All of that production has come even though he missed the opening stretch of practice with pneumonia. Curry spent five nights at Anne Arundel Medical Center and a few more days resting once he returned to the academy. And as the days wore on, he grew anxious to get back on the field.

“It was rough being in the hospital all those days,” Curry said. “You ain’t doing nothing, so you’ve got all day to think. I was just sitting there, bored, just thinking about coming back.

“When I finally got out, it was like Christmas Day. My first day of practice, I was all happy, but when I started running those first couple sprints, it was like, ‘Phew, I’m kinda tired.’ Those first few practices hurt real bad, but I was able to push through it.”

After each practice, Curry ran extra sprints until he was back in shape. Once that happened, Curry showed Navy’s coaches the tools that vaulted him to the top of the slotback depth chart in the spring.

In addition to his skills with the football, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound sophomore is bigger than a typical Navy slotback and has the strength to be a dominant blocker. He has been able to pick up the Mids’ scheme quickly; as a running back at Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas, he was taught to cut-block would-be tacklers - the same strategy Navy employs. Against Louisiana Tech, Curry had the most knockdowns of any Navy slotback, most notably opening up the right side for Cory Finnerty’s 16-yard touchdown run.

“He’s a pleasant surprise because, going into the spring, we didn’t know what we had,” Jasper said. “We were so worried about that because Shun White was the last of the Reggie Campbell, Zerb Singleton, three-headed monster that we had. We didn’t know what we had, and here comes Marcus Curry out of nowhere. It was like, ‘Wow.’ ”

Curry has benefited from the presence of White, who has stayed in Annapolis as an assistant this semester. The pair lifted weights together this summer and spent time together socially. All the while, Curry was soaking up as much knowledge as he could.

“Last year, he took me under his wing when I was a freshman,” Curry said. “I was always watching what he does, on and off the field. He’s probably one of my best friends on the team right now. Just always being around him, I learn more of the game.”

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