Navy's Turner is eager to go into overdrive

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy
Receiver should benefit from Midshipmen's increased emphasis on the pass

Playing wide receiver at run-oriented Navy is grunt work. Even if you have excellent hands and are the most physically impressive athlete at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, your primary role is to block.

Such is life in the triple-option offense for rising senior Brandon Turner, the team's most dangerous receiver, who has nearly as many starts in his career (14) as he has catches (18).

Up next
Navy spring game
When » Saturday, noon
Where » Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis

But in 2012 Turner may get much more work than he has in the past. In two scrimmages this spring, the Midshipmen have emphasized the pass more than ever since turning to the triple-option offense in 2002. Last year with Kris Proctor as starter, Navy threw 135 times, second fewest in the nation. Taking over next season is rising junior Trey Miller, who has a different skill set.

"Kris was a phenomenal runner. Trey is probably in between -- good runner, good passer," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "We'll definitely throw the ball more than we did last year but within bounds of who we are as a team."

After three years as mostly a blocker, Turner is ready for a greater role.

"If coach says it, we're definitely going to do it," Turner said. "I'm definitely looking forward to getting the ball more."

When Navy concludes spring practice with a scrimmage at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday, it will be interesting to see whether the Mids continue their sudden infatuation with the forward pass. Each year from 2004 to 2009, Navy threw fewer passes than any team in the nation.

Last year, former Navy coach Paul Johnson, now running the triple option at Georgia Tech, thrived with a big-play passing attack. The Yellow Jackets ranked 14th in the nation in pass efficiency (154.3) and first in yards per attempt (11.1).

Niumatalolo said the success of Georgia Tech had nothing to do with his change in philosophy. The Mids' adjustment is simply based on the available talent. With only one returning starter on the offensive line and inexperienced sophomore Noah Copeland listed No. 1 on the depth chart at fullback, Navy won't have as much potential to churn out consistent yardage on the ground.

In addition, Miller is better suited to throwing. At Whitefield Academy in Marietta, Ga., Miller ran a spread offense.

"I was throwing a lot, running a lot," Miller said. "Now I don't really have a preference. Whatever coach wants me to do."

Miller has shown plenty of speed and illusiveness, especially when pass plays break down. Achieving proficiency in running the option is his next mission. In the Mids' first scrimmage this spring, he made multiple mistakes. A week later, however, he was much improved in the running game and was nearly automatic in the passing attack, completing 16 of 19 passes for 190 yards.

"He hasn't been perfect, but I've been pleased with Trey," Niumatalolo said. "He has his good days and his bad days."

As the other end of Miller's passes, Niumatalolo has no concerns about his top receiver.

"As far as being complete for what we want -- running, blocking, catching -- Brandon has it all," Niumatalolo said.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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