GoMids' Adam Nettina recently sat down with the third year Navy coach to get his thoughts on where…
Sitting Down with Navy's Ken Niumatalolo
Adam Nettina: Can you talk about this year's recruiting efforts? On paper, the incoming high school seniors seem to constitute one of the better classes we've seen in recent memory. Is that a fair assessment?
Ken Niumatalolo:I thought our assistant coaches did a great job in recruiting. I'm very pleased with the guys we're bringing in. I've learned to try to keep even keel about recruiting…sometimes guys who have a lot of accolades maybe don't pan out as well as some guys who weren't as highly decorated coming out of high school. But we were able to beat some teams in recruiting this year that we normally don't beat in recruiting, so we feel good about that and feel like we got some good kids. We feel like they're going to be great football players and great Midshipmen here. Only time will tell, but at this point we're definitely excited with who we've recruited.
Adam Nettina: Another offseason question is who will replace Bobby Doyle as an offensive playmaker opposite Marcus Curry. Is former quarterback Mike Stukel that guy, and how important is it to find another slotback to fill that role this offseason?
Ken Niumatalolo:I think you just said it all. The thing with Mike, along with someone like Marcus, is that they can do everything. You're not afraid to throw them the ball, and you can pitch them the ball and they can block. It's not a situation where "this guy is more of a blocker," or "you can pitch this guy the ball or throw that guy the ball." We feel like Mike has the tools to do it all, and I've been very happy with Mike. To his credit he has been a great team player with [the staff] moving him back and forth between quarterback and ‘A' back. He has continued to work and has finally settled into ‘A' back, and we're going to leave him there. The sky is the limit for him, and I'm excited to see what he can do.
Adam Nettina: Moving to special teams, which players will have the opportunity to compete for time at the kick returner position this spring?
Ken Niumatalolo: Right now I think Alex [Teich] has solidified himself as our kick returner. He's a north and south guy and runs hard. We've got some younger guys who we haven't seen much of, and we'll have an opportunity to see what they can do. Whether it's Gary Myers as a punt returner or [slotback] John Howell – who did a great job with the JV team – or Trey Reed or guys like that who we really haven't seen much of.
As far as kicking goes I feel very good about where we're at. Joe Buckley had a great season and we're looking for a better year from him. Jon Teague did a great job kicking off and Kyle Delahooke is one of the most steady guys we've had on our team over the last two years. He's been a rock and has excelled at his position week in and week out.
Adam Nettina: Have you had more inquiries this offseason from other coaching staffs as far as wanting to learn about the triple option?
Ken Niumatalolo: I think it's the same every year. We've always had a lot of inquiries in the offseason, and I think just with Georgia Tech having more success, it has opened peoples' eyes to how this offense can work well. But I don't think it has increased. There might be other guys or coaches who have gone to Georgia Tech, but ever since I've been here there have always been people who've wanted to visit with us and learn about the option. If there have been new inquiries about it than they haven't necessarily come to us, and may have gone to Georgia Tech.
Adam Nettina: What are your thoughts on the new coaching moves, particularly with the promotion of Justin Davis as a full-time assistant and the hiring of Napoleon Sykes to assist coach Green in the secondary?
Ken Niumatalolo: Well, to start, I'm very happy that [Defensive line coach] Dale Pehrson stayed. He had the opportunity to go to Georgia Tech and I'm grateful that he stayed. He has been a major part of this staff for many years that not too many people know about. They always see the coordinators, but coach Pehrson has been our recruiting coordinator for many years and runs our camps. He's done a great job with the defensive line for many years and I'm grateful that he stayed. He and coach Davis have been working together for the last three years and have done a great job there. I think coach Sykes going with coach Green in the secondary will be a good addition for us. We're looking to improve our recruiting locally and I think Napoleon -- who worked at Gillman [Prep School] and went to school in Baltimore and has a lot of ties to this area -- will help us. He has risen with Wake Forest over the past few years so he knows the kinds of kids we're looking for, because he had to recruit similar kids at Wake. Coach Grobe has a similar philosophy in trying to recruit character kids and the Academy is similar to Wake Forest in that you want to recruit those kinds of kids. I'm very excited about Napoleon. He's young and energetic and is going to be a great addition to our staff.
Adam Nettina: Is there a "next level" for this team after what many believe to be among the most successful years ever at Navy?
Ken Niumatalolo: Well, we always start off with the two main goals – number one being we win the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy and win the bowl game. But then I'll wait to see what the seniors will come up with for their goals and what the players pick. We're always trying to get better. You look at last year and yea, we could have lost some games, but I feel like we didn't play well against Hawaii and had a chance to win there. We had a chance to win against Temple, and really the only game we didn't have a chance to win was against Pitt. Every time you suit up you try to win, and I think that is kind of how it is every year. Our main goals will stay intact – winning the CINC and winning the bowl game – but then we'll see where our senior's area. It doesn't really matter what we as coaches want. It's about the goals and aspirations that [the seniors] have, so it'll be interesting to see what those are.
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