A recent conversation with Navy offensive tackles coach Chris Culton:
Q: You’ve got one returning starter in Ryan Basford and we’ve seen him a bit at left tackle. What do you think of him and how poised is he to be an anchor for you guys on the line?
Culton: I think Ryan has come an extremely long way as a player and as a person. The more I get to know Ryan, the more I like him. He’s come a long from where he originally started to where he is. Ryan has not arrived and he still needs to put in work like he’s a freshman. When he does that, the sky’s the limit, because physically, he’s got every gift imaginable.
Q: When you talk about him as a person, is that just simply him getting here as an 18-year-old and maturing?
Culton: I think what this place stands for and what it does to you, it takes an immature young man —- Ryan went to the prep school and it took him time to find his way. The principles of this school and the leadership qualities have come out and he’s made mistakes and he’s made good things happen and he’s had a balance between the two and he’s gotten better. I think it’s a product of this institution.
Q: I know he played right tackle last year. Is it ideal to keep him there even with the injury situation at left?
Culton: We kind of have a philosophy here. We’re going to get our best five on the field, regardless of whether we’re playing four guards and one tackle, three centers and two tackles or whatever combination it is. If Ryan helps us the most at left, he’ll play left and there will be no questions asked. If it’s right, he’ll play right. If he has to go play guard, he’ll play guard.
That’s kind of been our philosophy. When we line up for Delaware or whoever our first opponent is, our best five linemen who give us a chance to win will be on the field. We’ll play to our strength.
Q: How’s Andrew Barker looked throughout camp?
Culton: Andrew has come a long way from a standpoint of he went away on a two-year mission and he came back better. He’s more mature. I think he’s got a lot more confidence in himself. He’s come a long, long, long way. He was, without a doubt, the last guy on the depth chart at tackle at the start of spring. We saw a couple things in individual drills, gave him a shot with the threes, he excelled there. Gave him a shot with the twos, and Dave [Sumrall] went down with a concussion and he was down with the ones.
Barker gives us a chance. He needs to keep working. It’s kind of why you coach, because you have certain guys who surprise you and certain guys who disappoint you. Barker, to this point, has stepped up to the plate.
Q: Sumrall’s a guy who had waited his turn and looked good at times in the spring before his injury. How was he doing until his latest concussion?
Culton: Dave was actually in the midst of his best practice ever. He got a concussion, which is just tough. Dave’s got all the tools, and Dave still has some things he needs to get better at. It’s a shame he got hurt because he was taking steps toward that.
The way this whole thing works, you have to play with who you have. If Dave’s not healthy, we will have someone else in that spot.
Q: Who are some of the reserves we haven’t heard much about?
Culton: Graham Vickers. Graham Vickers is a guy who’s a sophomore from California and he’s coming up, and he’s put himself in a position to get some early nods and we’ll see where he’s going to be. He brings an interesting dynamic. Graham is probably the one lineman we have who can play all three positions. Joe Ryan is a guy who has come a long way, also. We’ve got some interesting competition. They have not taken that next step yet. That’s something we have to do as a staff and we got to keep working on it. Those are a couple guys that are in the fold.
Q: What’s your philosophy on trying to mix younger guys in, even if it’s for a series or two? Is that something you at least hope to be able to do, at least?
Culton: You definitely have to think long term. If you think too long term, you mess up the present. The way we practice, I think develops long term. The way we go about practice, always in pads, double-barrel lines, going two groups at a time —- these guys are getting the same number of reps that the ones will get. It’s a unique situation, the way we practice.
We’re in pads all the way through Army. I think that helps. As far as in the flow of the game, if it happens, it happens. I’m not worried about that. There are times you’d like to let some of those young guys cut their teeth in actual game-time situations.
—- Patrick Stevens