Chances are, most Navy fans can’t remember seeing any of the team’s current fullbacks carry the ball last year.
Sophomore Noah Copeland had two rushes, a pair of blink-and-you-missed it attempts against Southern Mississippi and Troy.
Now, he’s the top guy and the first player fullbacks coach Mike Judge discussed in a recent conversation …
1. Noah Copeland came back with 10 extra pounds of muscle. He looks the part now …
MJ: He sure does.
1b. What sort of camp has he had and do you feel like he’s ready to step in as a starter?
MJ: He’s had a solid camp. He’s had a really good camp. He’s still got things to get better at, obviously. He’s a young kid that hasn’t played a lot of football for us on offense. I’m very pleased with the way he’s come to work every day. He’s preparing himself to get better every day. He’s trying to improve each day. The things I’m impressed with is his workmanlike attitude, his demeanor, the way he comes to practice. He wants to get better. I think that’s a big thing, not only for our position, but any position.
He desires to get better. Because of that, he’s going to continue improving. I’m really impressed that every day, he’s made sure he’s gotten better at something. If he can continue to do that, he’ll be ready to play come Sept. 1. Is he there yet? No. None of us are. But that’s what we’re out here trying toward.
2. Prentice Christian, we saw a little bit of him in the spring game and had a nice run in your first scrimmage. How’s he stepped up?
MJ: Ashby has done as nice of a job as —- this is the best he’s ever played. This is the best he’s played in the four years I’ve known him. I think a lot of it comes from the realization that this is it for him. This is his last go. He’s got six months of football left. After that, it’s time to hang ‘em up. It’s now or never for him.
3. In the past it’s been a mix. Some years, it’s a couple guys, some years it’s one guy dominating carries. At this stage, is it too early to figure that out?
MJ: It is, but we’re going to travel four guys and I would expect all four of them are going to be ready to play. That’s my job as a coach is to make sure all four of the guys on the bus are ready to play. They’re all going to be ready to play. How much they all play, I don’t know yet. But a lot of it will depend on the flow of the game and who’s playing well and go with the hot hand. I would expect to see two, if not three guys, play every Saturday.
4. I saw a new name pop up at the No. 3 spot, Chris Swain. What exactly has impressed you about him?
MJ: He’s a quiet kid, but he’s a smart kid. He can absorb all the stuff we’re talking about in the meeting room and apply it to the field. Now, it’s just a matter of getting him up to speed as far as how fast we need to play, the tempo we’re going to practice. We’re going to have to practice habits with him. He’s a prep school guy, so he has a general idea about the offense, but there are a lot of nuances we do here that we don’t do at the prep school.
But he’s impressed me from his knowledge standpoint, and he’s a physical tool. He’s 235 pounds, almost 6 feet and he can run. We’re very excited about Chris. He has a lot of upside. He’s a kid that, maybe not the first game of the year, but down the road he’s definitely going to be playing.
5a. Maika Polamalu is guy who missed a lot of the spring. How’s he come back from that?
MJ: I’ve been impressed with Maika. I’ve always been impressed with Maika’s off-the-field approach. Then he always got banged up and it was hard for him to continue to improve on the field. This fall camp has been his best stretch of football that I’ve seen him play. He’s taken that approach in the classroom out to the field, striving to get better every day. Maika has begun to develop into a complete player for us.
He’s got some skills and the body type that we’ve had here in the past, the Eckel, Ballard, Kettani type. Same thing with Swain. Those guys are bigger, natural 225-pound-plus kids. They can both move. Maika has done a nice job. It’s nice to see him stay healthy so far. We have to keep him that way. We can’t afford to let him get dinged up and have a setback.
5b. Any of the younger guys besides Swain that have stood out?
MJ: I think Quinton Singleton last spring had a great spring ball. He had the beginning of a good fall, had a couple bad days, kind of set him back, but he’s come back on. He’s definitely in the mix. I’d say there’s three guys fighting for two travel spots. Swain, Polamalu and Singleton right now are fighting for two spots.
I think Quentin Ezell is a young kid who’s got a lot of tools. He’s probably a year, year-and-a-half away. I’d say he’s probably a year away from being able to help us, and Will Huntsman‘s going to be a hard-working kid who’s going to have to develop over the next few years in order to have a shot to help us.
—- Patrick Stevens