They are often homesick, missing their friends, family and former teammates. They are usually overmatched on the field.
Adams spent last year at the Naval Academy Preparatory School with two former teammates from San Antonio's Louis D. Brandeis High, and joined another former teammate once he and the others arrived as plebes in Annapolis this summer.
"It was awesome having Roddy [Reyna] and Devin [Crayton] — they were like my best friends, my brothers; to go to school with them, I don't know what I'd do without them," Adams said of the two other plebes, who have yet to play for the Midshipmen.
But it is his talent that might explain why Adams has rapidly climbed the depth chart and received significant playing time in Navy's first three games. Adams is expected to start at cornerback for the second time Saturday when the 1-2 Midshipmen play San Jose State (3-1) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Sophomore fullback Noah Copeland, who came from Brandeis High the year before Adams and the other two, knew that his former teammates had been recruited by then-Navy assistant Tony Grantham and encouraged them to take a similar path.
"I was at NAPS and I was talking to them, saying, 'They pay you some good money [as a stipend after sophomore year] and you're playing D-I football,' " recalled Copeland, who is now starting after being one of the top special teams players a year ago.
Adams had his first interception for Navy in last week's 41-3 win over Virginia Military Institute a week after nearly getting one in a 34-7 loss at Penn State. Adams replaced junior Jonathan Wev, who suffered his third and likely career-ending concussion against the Keydets.
"I wasn't expecting to play, but I was preparing to be able to play; I was preparing mentally and physically to be able to go in if they needed me as a backup," Adams said after practice in Annapolis this week.
Initially, Adams got his chance when Wev suffered his first concussion in the second quarter of the season opener against Notre Dame in Dublin. Adams made three tackles against the Fighting Irish and five more as a starter at Penn State.
It marks the second straight year in which at least one freshman has moved into Navy's secondary as a starter, following Chris Ferguson at safety and Parrish Gaines at corner. As a result, defensive coordinator Buddy Green, who coaches the secondary, had no qualms about moving Adams back there.
"We knew coming into the fall that our plebes were going to be a big part of the two-deep in our secondary," Green said. "That was going to be a key spot for us to deal with. We now have three freshmen in the two-deep."
But getting an early jump on things — literally — is not new to Adams.
When he was not quite 2 years old, Adams' parents used to put the side rails high up on his crib, but Adams "jumped out and slid down the stairs and found his way into our bed," Adams' father, Roosevelt Adams, recalled this week.
Despite playing little organized football at a private school before he arrived at brand-new Brandeis High, which played at the highest level of Texas football (5A), Quincy Adams started at cornerback as a sophomore before succeeding Copeland at tailback as a senior.
"It's pretty much the same situation as in high school — I got to play because we didn't have any experience in the secondary," Adams said. "By the time I was a junior or a senior, I knew what was going on."
Roosevelt Adams said his only son — the elder Adams and his wife, Patricia, also have two daughters — took tap dancing lessons for 10 years. Roosevelt Adams, who played safety at Lamar University in the early 1980s, said: "I think it helped his footwork. He's got quick feet."
Copeland said he isn't surprised that Adams has made an immediate impact.
Neither is Adams' father.
"When I saw the other guys play last year, I told him, 'Quincy, you're just as fast, you're just as strong, you're just as big,' " Roosevelt Adams said. "I told him, 'You have the physical skills — just make sure you know what to do."
SAN JOSE STATE (3-1) @ NAVY (1-2)
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: 1090 AM, 1430 AM
Series: San Jose State leads 1-0.
Last meeting: San Jose State won, 27-24, on Nov. 19, 2011.
Navy offense vs. San Jose State defense: After struggling against Notre Dame and Penn State, then getting off to a sloppy start against Virginia Military Institute last week, the Midshipmen finally got their triple-option moving in the right direction. Junior quarterback Trey Miller overcame three fumbles against the Keydets (giving him eight turnovers for the season) to rush for a career-high 116 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore fullback Noah Copeland rushed for 126 yards on 20 carries. The Spartans rank toward the middle of the pack in rushing defense (55th, 143.3 yards a game) while surrendering 207 yards a game passing (41st). Defensive end Travis Davis had four sacks (for 24 career sacks, first among active Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks) and six tackles for loss in San Jose State's 38-34 win over San Diego State last week. The defense held Stanford to 280 yards total offense in a 20-17 win for the highly ranked Cardinal in this season's opener.
Navy defense vs. San Jose State offense: The Midshipmen rank 31st in pass defense but a lowly 81st in pass-efficiency defense. Given the relative inexperience of its secondary, Navy could be in for a long afternoon against Spartans quarterback David Fales. A junior-college transfer who started his career at Nevada, Fales has completed 95 of 132 passes for 1,123 yards and nine touchdowns (seven in the past two games) with only two interceptions. But the Spartans have shown they can also run the ball, with tailback De'Leon Eskridge picking up 5.1 yards a carry. Special teams could also present issues for Navy, with Tyler Ervin scoring on a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against San Diego State and freshman kicker Austin Lopez making his five field-goal attempts against the Aztecs. An interesting matchup could occur if Navy sophomore reserve defensive end Paul Quessenberry (6 feet 2, 230 pounds) matches up with his big brother David (6-6, 295), a senior starts at offensive tackle.