- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

It takes only a few minutes at practice to see both the future potential and the present problem with Navy’s backup quarterback.

Sophomore Jarod Bryant slings several perfect spirals in a row during 7-on-7 drills, connecting with receivers on out patterns and slant routes with precision rarely seen on Navy’s practice field during coach Paul Johnson’s tenure.

About 20 minutes later Bryant flips an errant option pitch well behind a slotback, forcing him to hustle after the fumble while drawing various displeased reactions from the coaching staff.

“I think he is like everybody else — he has some good days and he has his bad days,” Johnson said of the 5-foot-10, 187-pound Bryant. “I think Jarod has a lot of ability and I would like to see him max out his ability. I think if he did that he could be a pretty good player for us.”

Bryant, who prepped at the now nationally recognized Hoover High School in Birmingham, Ala., was named Mr. Football in the state his senior year. He came to Annapolis as one of Johnson’s more decorated recruits after choosing the Midshipmen over Air Force and Auburn, who recruited him as a defensive back.

After quarterbacking the junior varsity team last season, Bryant entered this season with a chance to move to No. 2 on the depth chart behind senior Brian Hampton. He lost out on that distinction to Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. And when Hampton was lost with a severe knee injury, it was the sophomore from Hawaii who took control of the Navy option attack.

Bryant has received more repetitions in practice since Hampton’s injury. He saw his most significant action against Rutgers and has picked up some mop-up duty in a handful of other games.

“We’re the same age and I do think about that but my job right now is to be [Kaheaku-Enhada’s] backup and just be ready for whatever happens,” Bryant said.

While Bryant’s arm might offer more potential in the passing game than any quarterback in the Johnson era besides Aaron Polanco, he remains behind Kaheaku-Enhada with his grasp of the option. Kaheaku-Enhada ran the same offense in high school, while Bryant piloted the shotgun-heavy spread passing attack that was on display in “Two-A-Days,” the MTV show that documented a season at Hoover one year after Bryant graduated.

Bryant, who quickly earned the nickname ‘Bama because of his thick southern accent, has spent the past two years trying to master the offense. Despite Kaheaku-Enhada’s current grasp on the No. 1 spot, Johnson has said he expects the competition between the two to continue into next season.

“We haven’t sat down and talked about it or anything, but I don’t feel like they’ve shut me out or anything like that,” Bryant said. “I think I’ll be competing in the spring.”

Every student at the academy has to sign a post-graduate commitment agreement after their sophomore year, locking them into two more years in Annapolis and five more in either the Navy or Marine Corps. Johnson has only lost a few players who didn’t want to sign the agreement and didn’t show up for their junior year.

Bryant, who wanted to be a fighter pilot when he committed to Navy, said he has no plans of leaving.

“I am here for the long haul,” Bryant said. “I haven’t thought about leaving at all.”

So the kid who helped Hoover win three consecutive state titles will continue to fine-tune his ability to navigate Johnson’s option offense and close the gap between he and Kaheaku-Enhada. He also will be looking forward to the second season of “Two-A-Days,” which is set to air on MTV next fall.

He and some of his friends at the academy were faithful viewers this past season of the show that chronicled his former teammates and demonstrative coach Rush Probst.

“I laughed a lot. I get made fun of and everybody asks me questions about all of those guys,” Bryant said. “I’m kinda glad it didn’t happen my senior year. It’s pretty fun to watch them, but I don’t know about [going through it].

“It is kind of funny. Hoover has expanded from Birmingham, Alabama. Reggie [Campbell] told me one of his buddies at USC watched the show every week. It is pretty crazy.”

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