ANNAPOLIS — Quincy Adams learned before Navy's season opener against Notre Dame he was the Midshipmen's top backup cornerback.
He learned during the game how much preparation really means at the college level.
In defensive back video sessions since Navy returned from its 50-10 loss to the Fighting Irish, Adams is taking more particular note of alignments and formations, details that mean so much more now.
Yes, the speed of the game was different, though that can be adjusted to over time. For Navy to thrive in the secondary, it will need its young cornerbacks to become much savvier in a hurry.
"I also learned I need to prepare more," Adams said. "I have to do a better job of preparing myself to be able to play better."
Adams will play a prominent role when he starts as the Mids (0-1) visit Penn State (0-2) on Saturday. Junior Jonathan Wev, whose concussion in the second quarter of the Notre Dame game created playing time for Adams, will not play.
Without Wev, Navy will be forced in some way or another to rely on freshmen at cornerback. When Adams' helmet popped off and he was forced by rule to leave the field for a play, it was fellow freshman Shelley White who took his place.
The other reserve cornerbacks on Navy's three deep are freshmen Kwazel Bertrand and Myer Krah. Both, like Adams and White, played at the academy's prep school last year.
"We as a staff have to find a way to manufacture some experience for them, some game experience quickly without playing games," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "We can't just wait for a game."
That's what happened last year when safety Chris Ferguson and cornerback Parrish Gaines took over starting positions in the middle of the season. They were on-field upgrades, but at times also made the sort of mistakes anticipated from a freshman.
Adams and (briefly) White found themselves in the spotlight a bit earlier. White impressed coaches during preseason practices, while Adams turned in a strong week before the opener to move ahead of White.
"I thought Quincy went in and did a good job," defensive coordinator Buddy Green said. You never know when it's going to be your time to be called, so we had to accelerate all of those plebes. They're the next guys going in."
With two weeks between games, the Mids have had extra practice time to acclimate the young defensive backs. Aside from senior safety Tra'ves Bush, Navy easily could find most of its secondary contributors this week in similar roles in another year or two.
Attractive though the prospect of such continuity might be, it doesn't fix the issues facing Navy if extended work from freshmen is required again Saturday.
"The immediate future is now," Green said.
That lesson already is ingrained in Adams and White, who needed less than a game to become acutely aware how much their presence might be required this season. For his part, White's ability to rush in for a single snap illustrated the mantra of the Mids' backups in the secondary this season.
"It's just all about being ready," White said.
NOTES: Niumatalolo said quarterback Trey Miller (left ankle) will be fine to start Saturday. "He’s been practicing much better the last couple days," Niumatalolo said. "His ankle might look a little stiff. [They’ve] got some type of contraption on there. I’m encouraged by what I saw the last couple days much more than what I did on Monday."
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Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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