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Navy preps for Notre Dame

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Sports,Campus Confidential,Kevin Dunleavy

North Stafford graduate Austin Grebe, shown in an earlier scrimmage this preseason, made all five of his kicks on Friday. He and fellow freshman Nick Sloan have emerged as the top candidates for placement duty. / Photo by Kevin Dunleavy.

The Navy scout team tried its best to replicate Notre Dame on Friday. But in a closed scrimmage at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the Midshipmen starters and top reserves rolled to a 45-0 victory. If only it could be as easy on Sept. 1 in Dublin, Ireland, when the Mids open against the Fighting Irish, who are ranked No. 24 in the preseason by USA Today.

“It’s what you hoped [for], travelling team against the scout team,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said of the Mids’ second scrimmage of the preseason.

Junior quarterback Trey Miller was unstoppable. On a day when all the scout team had to do was touch him to trigger a whistle, Miller rushed 24 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns and completed 6 of 7 passes for 101 yards.

There’s no telling how many yards Miller would have had if the scout team had been required to actually tackle him. Miller entered camp with a reputation as a strong thrower and inconsistent runner. On Friday he looked the equal of strong-running predecessors Ricky Dobbs and Kriss Proctor, repeatedly cutting upfield on option keepers.

Navy also got solid work from starting fullback Noah Copeland (6 carries, 73 yards), who scored untouched on a 38-yard sprint on his first carry. Senior backup Prentice Christian (DeMatha) added 54 yards on two carries.

Freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds also played well in his lone series, guiding the offense to a quick touchdown. He completed both of his passes for 15 yards and made two timely pitches to his slotbacks that produced 33 yards.

“It’s promising. I’m excited about him,” offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said of Reynolds. “The thing about the kid, the kid doesn’t say a word. You say one thing and he’ll come right out and try to do what you tell him. So he listens. He keeps his mouth shut.”

When Reynolds’ pitch to junior Marcus Thomas produced a 15-yard touchdown run, Niumatalolo called the scrimmage off with 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Much of the scrimmage was a dry run for the opener as the coaches monitored time spent in the huddle and simulated odd situations to see how the Mids would react on the fly.

Pick Six for Wev

Junior cornerback Jonathan Wev had the defensive play of the scrimmage, making an interception near midfield and breaking tackles on his way to a touchdown return. Wev, who has little experience from scrimmage, gained a starting job in the spring, but has had a quiet preseason until Friday. Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green sounded more enthused about his backup, however, freshman Shelley White (Archbishop Spalding).

“We have to develop some depth,” Green said. “Shelley White has stood out more than anybody. He’s had an excellent camp. Played him at corner, played him at safety.”

Shaping up

After flunking at least twice this month, sophomore linebacker Josh Tate and junior cornerback  Albrey Felder finally passed their physical readiness test on Friday morning, Niumatalolo said.

Early this month, Niumatalolo said the test was a mile and a half run, which all Midshipmen are required to complete it in 10 minutes, 30 seconds. Senior wide receiver Brandon Turner passed it early in the week, but was not in pads on Friday. He will rejoin the team for full-time duty on Monday. Niumatalolo said it is unlikely Turner will start against Notre Dame, but will play.

Green expressed less optimism that Tate and Felder would be available for the Notre Dame game. Tate was one of the most impressive Mids in the spring, but hasn’t practiced with the team in the preseason because of the failed tests.

Good Day for Kickers

Freshman Austin Grebe (North Stafford) had the best day among the kickers, making all five of his attempts, including four from 40 or more yards, beating junior Brynmor Hughes in a kicking competition. Hughes, often injured in his career, made his four attempts before hitting the crossbar from 50 yards out.

Niumatalolo sounded as though, however, that freshman Nick Sloan might have won the job. Sloan made his first three kicks before missing wide from 48 yards.

“We gotta make a decision and move forward these last two weeks,” Niumatalolo said. “The biggest thing is we’re looking for some accuracy, just a guy who can get it through the uprights. My gut feeling is Sloan has been the most consistent through camp.”

Sophomore Colin Amerau (Mount Vernon) will travel to Dublin and handle kcikoffs, Niumatalolo said.

Kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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