ANNAPOLIS | Besides a few plays here and there in high school, Navy’s Travis Bridges had virtually no experience on defense.
Apparently, he learned fast —- so much so that he could provide a major answer to the Midshipmen’s questions up front as a result.
“I like it,” Navy’s newest nose guard said of his position switch. “Just eyes and ears open.”
He and the rest of the Mids’ program got a good look at his impact in Saturday’s spring game. Bridges has seven tackles and a sack to help the Blue team (mostly first-teamers) roll to a 21-0 victory over the Gold team (mostly reserves) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Starting quarterback Trey Miller rushed for two touchdowns in the first half, while reserve fullback Prentice Christian accounted for the other score with a 10-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Miller’s position was well-established even before the last of Navy’s 15 spring practices. Christian enjoyed a solid spring and rumbled for 63 yards on nine carries on Saturday.
Bridges’ emergence was less expected. The former offensive guard played in 11 games last season, mostly on special teams, and was moved to defense in the early stages of the spring.
Despite some holes on the offensive line, the change made sense. Navy needed to find an answer at nose guard. At 6 feet and 318 pounds —- large by any standard but especially so for an academy team —- he had a chance to become a valuable run-stopper.
“We saw some flashes even if the first seven snaps he took at that position, not even knowing the defense, just knowing go right and go left and do his job,” defensive coordinator Buddy Green said. “He’s got a chance we think to be really good. He can move. He’s got really good size, but he can move and he can run.”
That was evident in the third quarter Saturday. Bridges stuffed reserve quarterback Kody Akers at the line of scrimmage on a fourth-down conversion attempt, helping to set up the Blue team’s final touchdown.
Coach Ken Niumatalolo said during the latter stages of spring practice the experiment of changing Bridges’ position had worked well. Saturday only bolstered the Mids’ belief they have the junior at the right position —- and that he could be especially useful in the fall.
“Even on the offensive side of the ball, concepts come fairly easy to Travis, so we’ve been excited about the things he’s picked up,” Niumatalolo said. “Now the thing is we have to see if he can transition to conventional offenses. … I’m really excited about what I’ve seen from him, and we’re counting on him to have a great year.”
—- Patrick Stevens