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Navy's freshman kicker will be on his biggest stage Saturday

Sloan beats out five others for chance to start vs. Notre Dame

By Don Markus

The Baltimore Sun

6:52 PM EDT, August 27, 2012

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The biggest crowd Nick Sloan said he has kicked in front of was about 1,000 fans during his high school years in San Diego. The biggest kick Sloan ever made came last year, when he made a 39-yard field goal with three seconds left to help the Naval Academy Prep School (NAPS) team beat the Navy junior varsity in Annapolis.

It will be a lot different if Sloan gets a chance to kick Saturday when Navy opens the 2012 season against Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland.

"Being in that same situation before is nice, but every situation is different," Sloan said after practice Monday. "Each kick is the same, though, you have to realize that. A 39-yard field goal is a 39-yard field goal whether there's two million people watching or one person watching. It's a little nerve-wracking, but it's the same kick."

Sloan beat out five other kickers, including fellow plebes Austin Grebe and David Reisner, and was named the starter last Thursday by Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. Though not possessing a huge leg, Sloan had been the most consistent throughout the preseason.

Despite the number of kickers in the mix, Sloan said he was always confident he had a chance to start the opening game.

"You kind of come in and say, 'Hey, I want to be that guy', but sometimes you've got to think reality," Sloan said. "If those guys are good, that's the way it is. Everyone gets their chance, and you've just got to come out and make good. I want to make a difference in the program and see where it takes me."

It will mark the first time that Navy starts a freshman kicker since the 1996 season when Tim Shubza won the job. That was also the last time the Midshipmen played Notre Dame in Dublin.

Special teams coach Steve Johns said Monday that Sloan "has good technique, good fundamentals, kicks the ball straight." Johns said that Sloan reminds him of Joe Buckley, who was the team's kicker in 2009 and 2010.

"Not the strongest leg, but a straight leg," Johns said.

Playing them young

Sloan might be the only freshman starting for the Midshipmen in the opener, but the team's latest three-deep includes 13 first-year players.

Among those listed as second-string are Grebe, quarterback Keenan Reynolds, offensive guard E.K. Binns as well as cornerbacks Kwazel Bertrand and Shelley White (Archbishop Spalding).

"It might be a little higher (number of freshmen) than normal," Niumatalolo said Monday. "We've just to do the best we can in our preparation in camp and get them ready. It will be interesting to see how they react once we line up. Hopefully they play well."

Irish suspensions

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who announced early in preseason practice that starting quarterback Tommy Rees would miss the season opener for an off-field incident last spring, said over the weekend that starting tailback Cierre Wood, the team's leading returning rusher, would also be out against Navy after being suspended for two games.

Sophomore Everett Golson will start in place of Rees and senior Theo Riddick, who has been used more as a receiver out of the backfield his first three years, will take over for Wood. The suspensions are not going to affect Navy's preparation, Niumatalolo said Monday.

"They're still a very, very good football team," said Niumatalolo, whose Midshipmen lost to Navy, 56-14, last year in South Bend after beating the Fighting Irish the previous two years and three of the past four. "They have other guys behind them that we don't know about who are just as good. Golson is a heckuva quarterback. We still have our work cut out for us."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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