The group of veteran slotbacks who handled most of the work at the position have departed Navy's football program.
A former starting quarterback heads into his senior season without much chance of unseating an incumbent who was electric as a freshman last fall.
Those two issues could tie together into an intriguing subplot as the Midshipmen prepare to open spring practice Monday.
Trey Miller, who started the first five games of 2012, is listed as Keenan Reynolds' backup at quarterback. But that could change over the next month.
"With Trey right now, a big part of it is to see how [third-stringer] John Hendrick comes along," coach Ken Niumatalolo said Tuesday. "Trey's still our second-best quarterback. With the emergence of John, we'll see what kind of spring he has. We'd like to get Trey on the field because he's a really good athlete. … If we get to a point where we feel good about John, we'll definitely make that move."
Miller's destination would probably be slotback, a spot that would allow Navy (8-5 last season) to take advantage of his athleticism and his experience running the ball. Miller produced two 100-yard rushing days before suffering an ankle injury Oct. 6 at Air Force that created an opening for Reynolds to seize the starting job.
Both slotback positions are vacant after the graduation of Gee Gee Greene, John Howell and Bo Snelson. No one remaining in the program has started a game at slotback or has more than seven carries in a game.
The most tested of that bunch are junior Geoffrey Whiteside, who emerged as a capable reserve late last season, and senior Darius Staten, who averaged 8.8 yards on 21 rushes last season.
Marcus Thomas, who will miss the spring to concentrate on academics, is also a contender for playing time. Niumatalolo said Thomas is off to a good start this semester and expressed optimism the senior will be available in the fall.
Sophomores Demond Brown (Old Mill) and Colin Osborne (Glenelg) and junior Ryan Williams-Jenkins are also possibilities at slotback, a position Navy had few questions about last year because of the group's collective ability to run, block and catch.
"We feel like physically, we have those kind of guys," Niumatalolo said. "Will they be as smart as these guys? Time will tell. The football smarts of Gee Gee and Bo and John Howell and Aaron Santiago, the guys over the last couple years, have allowed us to do things because their football IQ was very high."
Adding a former quarterback to the mix couldn't hurt. It would have the added bonus of finding a productive use for Miller, the soft-spoken erstwhile starter who appeared briefly in three of Navy's final eight games after Reynolds took over.
"He definitely wants to get on the field," Niumatalolo said. "I have such great respect for Trey. What happened to him last year was hard. But he's taken it all in stride and great class. He hasn't been a deterrent on our team. In fact, he's continued to be who he is. But it's hard for him."
Notes: Right tackle Graham Vickers and right guard Jake Zuzek, both projected starters, will miss spring practice after offseason shoulder surgeries. Junior linebacker Jordan Drake (right ankle surgery) is also out for the spring. … Navy bolstered its inside linebacker depth, switching defensive end Will Anthony, safety James Britton and fullback Maika Polamalu and to the position.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun