ANNAPOLIS —- Navy kicker Jon Teague had an inkling punter Justin Haan could potentially leave for a semester to pursue missionary work overseas.
He didn’t actually know until late July —- and it left him atop the depth chart at all three specialist positions.
“It was definitely a last-minute thing,” Teague said Friday. “Haan, he left for good reasons, but it was unfortunate for him to leave. I just saw it as another opportunity. I didn’t look at it as a setback. I looked at it as ‘You could take this the wrong way or you could take this a good way.”
Yet it might not turn out to have a major effect on Teague’s workload, anyway.
Navy’s coaching staff, wary of overextending a player already expected to handle kickoff and placekicking chores, is giving freshman Pablo Beltran an extended look early in preseason camp.
Beltran, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound native of Humble, Texas, has made a solid impression three days into practice and could quickly emerge as a starter this season.
“Ideally, I wouldn’t want him to do all of them,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said of Teague. “Right now, I’m excited about Pablo. Beltran’s done a nice job. I think he has a chance to punt for us.”
A player handling both punting and kicking on a regular basis isn’t a frequent occurrence in major college football, though it’s not entirely rare.
Last year, 13 specialists took care of the majority of both duties, including Maryland’s Travis Baltz, Boise State’s Kyle Brotzman, Miami’s Matt Bosher, Utah State’s Peter Caldwell, Nebraska’s Alex Henery, Florida’s Chas Henry, Pittsburgh’s Dan Hutchins, South Carolina’s Spencer Lanning, Louisville’s Chris Philpott, Southern Methodist’s Matt Szymanski, Texas’ Justin Tucker, San Jose State’s Harrison Waid and Bowling Green’s Bryan Wright.
Of that group, only Bosher, Philpott, Tucker, Waid and Wright also handled the bulk of their respective teams’ kickoffs.
Teague was Navy’s kickoff specialist the last three seasons, managing 17 touchbacks in 209 attempts. He also filled in for injured placekicker Joe Buckley for three games last year, and effectively secured that position in the spring.
Yet while he’s ready to add an extra job, he agrees with his coaches’ decision to try to avoid that situation if possible.
“I’ve talked to the coaches about it a lot,” Teague said. “They had me on the depth chart at punter first. What their mindset is, and mine too, if someone can do the job equally as well as me, it would be obvious to go with them to punt because it would be much easier and much more efficient if we could have a guy who could punt and I could worry about kickoffs and field goals.”
Though Teague is a new starter, he’s produced when given the opportunity as a placekicker. He’s 21-for-21 on extra points (including a modern school-record 10 PATs against East Carolina last season) and 3-for-4 on field goal attempts in his career.
Navy isn’t inclined to push for a 3-in-1 specialist —- especially if Beltran can claim the job while thrives in the two gigs he’s worked to earn time at throughout his career at Navy.
“He’s proven at kickoffs,” Niumatalolo said. “He’s kicked for us for three years and he’s actually kicked for us in some games. He’s done a nice job in kicking in some games and did a nice job in the Notre Dame game. I’m encouraged by him. I know he can do it.”
—- Patrick Stevens