ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Longtime Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo is back in his comfort zone this August after the pandemic season of 2020.
"I just feel much better. Much better that we’ve practiced, we’ve tackled, we’ve hit," he said. "We’ve done the things that we normally do."
Last year saw Niumatalolo’s team struggle with success after dealing with COVID restrictions in training camp. The Midshipmen went 3-7, ending the season with five straight losses.
The 2021 team is projected to finish eighth in the 11-team American Athletic Conference.
Three weeks into camp, the quarterback competition is still the most fierce.
"I feel really good about where they are at," said Niumatalolo about the QB competition.
In the running are sophomores Xavier Arline and Tai Lavatai.
"Tai has got a combination of Will Worth and maybe Ricky Dobbs. Really good arm, quick release, but he’s got the size of Will Worth. He’s 215 lbs.-plus," said Niumatalolo. "Xavier, probably more along the lines of Malcolm (Perry). Elusive, really elite runner with the ball, quick."
Arline started three games last year.
"It was just good to get live looks, game speed, game clock, just the whole game scenario. Because, it definitely does hit different in the game than it does in practice. It’s really hard to simulate it," he said.
While Lavatai is trying to win the starting job, he’s also trying to soak up as much knowledge as he can.
"For me it’s been good," he said. "It’s been a big learning experience. It’s been the first time I’ve actually got to participate on the offensive side of fall."
The Mids open their season at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium when they host Marshall on Saturday, September 4. Niumatalolo is intent on keeping his chosen starting quarterback under wraps until that very first offensive series against the Thundering Herd.
"I think the competition has been good," said the head coach. "It allows guys to - don’t settle, don’t get complacent."
Next Saturday’s game is set to kickoff, in front of fans, at 3:30 p.m.