Hard work only thing that matters for Mids
Touchy-feely player-coach meetings are seen regularly on the HBO documentary "Hard Knocks," which chronicles the daily drama surrounding the Miami Dolphins' preseason.
Navy offensive line coaches Chris Culton and Ashley Ingram don't necessarily subscribe to the same tactics when dealing with personnel decisions.
|Navy vs. Notre Dame|
|When » Saturday, 9 a.m.|
|Where » Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland|
|TV » CBS|
Asked recently how Navy sophomore center Bradyn Heap took his preseason demotion from starting center to backup tackle, Culton started laughing before the question was fully posed.
"I don't know. I didn't ask him," Culton said. "If you're not getting it done, it's a dog-eat-dog world. These guys are big boys."
While worrying about the feelings of players selected and trained to defend the nation is perhaps a waste of time, what Navy did to motivate two underperforming offensive linemen this preseason undoubtedly worked.
Two weeks ago, Heap and junior Graham Vickers, starters at center and tackle, respectively, entering the preseason, flipped positions and were demoted to the second team. But both players rose quickly to the challenge. When Navy faces Notre Dame on Saturday, the two will be in the starting lineup at their new positions.
This is how Heap described his reaction to being shifted to tackle after owning the center position throughout spring workouts.
"I just try to take every day the same, work hard," Heap said. "Wherever I am, I just try to help out the team and do my best. Anywhere I could get on the field and help the team I was happy with it."
No wonder Culton doesn't engage in sensitivity sessions.
In returning Heap and Vickers to the starting lineup, Navy is getting two of its more talented offensive linemen on the field. Heap (6-foot-3, 280 pounds), a backup tackle as a freshman, won the center job early in the spring. Vickers (6-1, 280) started the final three games last year at tackle.
"I've been really excited about Graham," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "The thing I love about Bradyn is he doesn't say anything. He just keeps working every day. He'll get better."
With senior guard Josh Cabral (6-3, 297) back as the lone returning starter, much depends on how quickly the unit -- which also includes senior tackle Ryan Paulson (6-4, 266) and sophomore guard Jake Zuzek (6-0, 318) -- develops cohesion, especially with an opener as challenging as Notre Dame.
"We use a quote in the O-line room: We are what we repeatedly do, and excellence is therefore not an act but a habit," Culton said. "You have to have the habit of excellence. You have to come out every single day and put the time in. You can't hide out here."
With Heap and Vickers as examples, the Navy linemen can see the value of habit building.