ANNAPOLIS | Quarterback Kriss Proctor goes about his business during Navy’s spring practice sessions in a noncontact jersey. The sophomores vying to earn a job as the senior’s immediate backup are picking up a few more bruises this month.
While Proctor — the Midshipmen’s only quarterback with game experience — prepares for his first full year as a starter, one of Navy’s biggest issues is finding out who will be its No. 2 quarterback when the season begins Sept. 3 against Delaware.
The best way to do that, coach Ken Niumatalolo figured, was to simulate Saturdays as well as possible. And that meant subjecting Trey Miller and Jarvis Cummings to hits while running the Mids’ offense during spring practice.
“The only difference is the contact,” said Cummings, who ran the scout team last season. “You play a game at full contact, so you might as well practice that way.”
Miller is listed as Proctor’s backup as the Mids head into their final two practices, the last of which is Friday’s spring game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. In Saturday’s scrimmage, Miller led the second team to a touchdown and a field goal in four possessions and rushed for 44 yards on nine carries.
Like Cummings, Miller didn’t see the field as a freshman. But should he earn the No. 2 spot, chances are he’ll be thrust into a bigger role at some point. Navy hasn’t made it through a season with one quarterback starting every game since Lamar Owens did it in 2005.
Thus, a little contact could go a long way for both quarterbacks.
“I think it’s good for me because I haven’t been hit in a whole year,” Miller said. “I’m getting back in the rhythm of getting hit.”
But there’s more to handling Navy’s triple-option offense than merely taking hits on the run.
There’s the need to make the correct reads and decisions, both before and after the snap. And there’s also the necessity to be able to throw when required. Navy’s reputation as a run-first team is well-earned, but it did attempt at least 10 passes in seven games last season.
“Physically, they can do everything we’re asking them to do,” Niumatalolo said. “They can both throw the football. They’re both athletic. Trey’s probably faster than Jarvis, and Jarvis is a strong runner. They both bring some different skill sets.”
While Proctor takes snaps with the first team, he offers feedback to his backups throughout practice sessions. For Miller and Cummings, this spring is perhaps the best chance they’ll have to physically prepare for future opportunities.
“A lot of guys gave us [grief] about it, saying ‘You guys are going to get killed,’” Cummings said. “I take it as it’s giving us an opportunity to go out and show what we’ve got. When you’re in a green [noncontact] jersey and everyone’s in a green jersey, you can’t really make a move or make someone miss or break a tackle.”
It was hard for anyone on either side of the ball to accomplish much during Saturday’s soggy scrimmage at Rip Miller Field. And even with contact during practice, it’s not the same as a game.
Nonetheless, the Mids have seen progress from both of their backup candidates in the past three weeks.
“They’ve got a long ways to go, but I’m still encouraged by what they’re doing,” Niumatalolo said. “Jarvis and Trey, I think they have a chance to be good players, and they have a lot of work to do.”