You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

Navy’s Jarvis Cummings embraces change to linebacker

He figured to sit as a backup QB

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — The text requesting a meeting with offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper arrived just after Jarvis Cummings returned to Navy from winter break. There were only so many reasons to summon the quarterback.

Or, more specifically, the soon-to-be-former quarterback.

"I looked at it and said 'I don't know what this could be about,' " Cummings said this week. "I had about a million things going through my head: 'I haven't been in trouble, my grades are good.' I just started eliminating things and it just came down to 'Well, I'm probably playing somewhere else this spring.' "

Indeed he is. The No. 7 remains the same, but Cummings is roaming the Midshipmen's practice fields this spring in a white defensive jersey as an outside linebacker.

Such is life for many would-be quarterbacks at Navy. The program has the luxury of bringing in large recruiting classes, and Cummings was one of three quarterbacks in his class alone.

One of them, Trey Miller, is entrenched as Navy's starter after serving as Kriss Proctor's backup and will be around the rest of Cummings' career. Another group of quarterbacks already has spent a fall in the Mids' system in the class behind Cummings.

All of which made it sensible for Cummings, who played in two games last season, to make a switch.

"You want to give a kid a full spring and a full fall to get a chance to show what he can do," Jasper said. "Sometimes, if the guys are in the same class — and I didn't see him beating Trey out and that's the reason I talked to him. I said 'Hey, you're probably not going to beat Trey out. Do you want to sit behind Trey or do you want to go someplace where you can play?' "

That doesn't always make it the most welcome news. Leadership, often overstated beyond the point of cliche in sports, is a fact of life at the academy. No position on the field is imbued with as much of the quality as quarterback.

Nonetheless, former quarterbacks still can thrive for the Mids. Jeremy McGown is one of the best examples, enjoying a strong career as a defensive back in the middle of the last decade. More recently, Jarod Bryant was used as a slotback as a senior in 2008, and Mike Stukel emerged as a useful slotback last season after beginning his career as a quarterback.

That knowledge, coupled with the opportunity to play at a position where Navy remains inexperienced, bolstered Cummings.

"As soon I got done with the meeting, I took it in full-heartedly and said I was dedicating myself to this position," Cummings said. "There's no point moping around and saying 'They changed me from quarterback.' Just take the new position and learn it as fast as I can."

The man delivering position-change news to quarterbacks knows what it's like to be on the other end of the conversation. Jasper was a quarterback and then a slotback at Hawaii in the early 1990s, and Cummings was far from the first player he's told will be on the move.

It's probably not the last time Jasper will have such a talk. But he said something that helps is players are apprised of the possibility of changing positions during the recruitment process and again after each season. After all, only one quarterback can play at a time.

"It's something I have personal experience with and I was fine with," Jasper said. "The main thing is always be up front with kids and let them know. Then you should be OK. I know it's tough. At the same time, if the guy in front of you is better than you, what are you going to do?"

Cummings, like many before him, opted to embrace the change. He played some defense in high school, usually as a safety who could roll down and play outside linebacker. At 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, he looks physical enough to handle himself on defense.

"We're really excited about him," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "He's done some good things at outside linebacker. He's made a smooth transition, but I've been excited just by his attitude. He's not sulking. He doesn't have his head down. He's been a team player."

Cummings is third on the depth chart at one of the outside linebacker slots, behind a pair of sophomores. And while he acknowledges he still has a long way to go, he intends to use the spring as a chance to pick up as much as possible and learn how to recognize offensive tendencies from a much different angle.

There is, after all, life after quarterback.

"As a quarterback, you're a leader," Cummings said. "I'm coming to outside linebacker, and I'm going to try to be a leader there. I know the Sam linebacker and the safeties are the guys making the calls, but you can use leadership anywhere on the field."

© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.