- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — In the penultimate period of Navy’s Thursday morning practice, the Midshipmen’s defense was tasked with denying a first down over a series.

Instead, it surrendered a pass of more than 90 yards. Then came a run from a similar distance. Coach Ken Niumatalolo fumed, slamming his hat to the field after the second long play concluded.

Nearby, defensive coordinator Buddy Green wasn’t any happier.

“I don’t enjoy those long passes and long runs,” Green said. “It’s a hate/love relationship with this game. You love some good things that are done, but when you give up big plays, I don’t love those at all. But it’s great to be back out here.”

The last part was perhaps Green’s most important sentiment.

The 58-year-old is entering his 10th season at Navy. But he wasn’t around much in the spring thanks to mid-March gall bladder surgery and ensuing complications. He initially remained hospitalized for more than a week, then returned home to continue his recuperation.

At the time, Niumatalolo urged Green to take care of his health and not rush back, though he joked Green probably would roll a hospital bed onto the practice field if he could. It never came to that, though Green was spending a few hours a day in the office and took in some practices toward the end of spring ball.

Players took notice when he returned, as well as when he was gone. The familiar voice, and its inevitable increase in volume, gradually became a more regular presence in meeting rooms.

“He starts off talking, just like we’re talking now,” cornerback Kwesi Mitchell said. “It’s a calm talk, he’s going through film, and he just gets more excited and he gets louder and he gets louder. Next thing you know, he’s screaming at the top of his lungs - not because he’s mad, but because he’s so excited about the game. He’s really like a doctor of the game, a mastermind.”

Green’s mind and body are back in motion this month. Navy is more than week into camp as it prepares for its Sept. 3 opener against Delaware. The Mids will break in three new starters in the secondary, the unit Green specifically coaches. And Green is in midseason form, teaching and cajoling and hollering as the defense continues to grow.

“Definitely more intense,” junior cornerback David Sperry said of the difference between spring and August. “I’m glad to have him back, as rough as that is to say. There’s a lot more up-downs. He keeps practice moving with a little more intensity. He’s got us, especially us DBs, at a whole other level that you have to be prepared to work on.”

There’s a lot more to Green’s work than an affinity for doling out up-downs and calling plays on Saturday, though. Sitting out the spring meant there would be less time on the field to instruct and in the film room to dissect tape with young players.

That, as well as reduced opportunities to interact with the rest of the coaching staff, was difficult on Green.

“I miss that part,” Green said. “I love teaching guys and develop guys, and that was a big part of it.”

From the looks of practices so far, Green is making up for lost time, though the Mids don’t see a difference in their defensive coordinator several months after his health scare.

“He never changed,” Sperry said with a smile. “He took some time off, but he came back the exact same.”

And for that, Navy is especially grateful.

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