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Mids’ Sumrall enters stage left to bolster line for running game

- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2011

ANNAPOLIS | Back in high school, Navy's David Sumrall generated quite a bit of attention for an offensive lineman.

That's what appearing as Schroeder in the musical "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" can do in a midsized southern town.

"I sold out shows in the school just because people wanted to see a football player sing," Sumrall said.

The senior-to-be is in position to make a little bit more noise in the coming months as he tries to lock down a starting job for the Midshipmen.

Few Mids have a greater opportunity this month than Sumrall, a rising senior whose experience to date is mostly on special teams. He is the heir apparent at left tackle and the only new starter on Navy's effective offensive line.

The Mids lose Jeff Battipaglia, a three-year starter, to graduation off a team that has won 27 games over the last three seasons. And while Navy's run-heavy triple option doesn't place as much of an emphasis on finding blind-side protection for a quarterback, breaking in a new left tackle is still a significant step for any team.

"It's going to be a big spring for him," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "He's very similar to [starting right tackle] Ryan Basford. He's about 6-5, 270ish, can run. He's everything we're looking for in a tackle from a physical standpoint."

And he can sing. Sumrall is a member of several church groups on campus and participates in choirs. He acknowledged he's a country music aficionado - and considering the Murfreesboro, Tenn., native went to high school less than an hour from Nashville, it's understandable - but he also knows his effort on the field this spring could earn him a full-time job.

That would solve one of Navy's biggest questions entering next season, particularly since the Mids will also have a new starting quarterback, Kriss Proctor, in their Sept. 3 season opener against Delaware.

"I can tell these guys have had significantly more playing time than I have, so I feel like I have to prove myself," Sumrall said. "Even if it's a little bit more effort. If we're running out, I'm going to make sure I'm the first one out there. Just little things like that. I'm on dead sprint, all the time, just trying to prove myself."

That was apparent on the first day of spring practice, which included a moment for Sumrall to savor.

Sumrall took his place for a basic pass-blocking drill, the sort of thing he had done countless times before in his career. He wasn't about to do anything fancy or unanticipated.

But the moment stood out because of the alignment of personnel: No one was in front of him.

"I look back and I see all these young tackles and I'm just like, man," Sumrall said. "It kind of just gave me chills."

It's the view Battipaglia and Matt Molloy, who started for a season and a half at right tackle before concussions ended his career, enjoyed the past few years while Sumrall served as a backup.

As for getting used to being a starter? Sumrall certainly likes the sound of that.

"I was always right behind those guys and I played right behind them, so I never got the opportunity to start," Sumrall said. "Being out here with the ones officially, it was kind of an eye opener. I have to get used to [the fact] that I'm a starter. Sometimes, I have to [think] 'Oh, that's me, I'm No. 1, I have to go up there.' It's important I show what I can do."

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