Navy football could potentially have a new starting quarterback when it meets Tulane at noon Saturday at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans.
Coach Ken Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper both said this week that the staff has been evaluating the entire stable of quarterbacks since the season opener. Starter Dalen Morris looked shaky during the 55-3 loss to BYU and backup Perry Olsen is no longer part of the program.
Olsen played the entire second half of the BYU debacle, but entered the transfer portal last Friday night following a pre-practice meeting with Jasper, who also coaches the quarterbacks. Niumatalolo said during an virtual news conference Monday that he supported Jasper with regard to his evaluation of Olsen.
“Coach Jasper is a great football coach, but he’s also very honest with young men. Sometimes the truth hurts,” Niumatalolo said. “We owe it to [Olsen] to tell him the truth about where he stands. Coach Jasper just told [Olsen] how he felt. There wasn’t any beating around the bush: This is how I see you performing.”
Jasper indicated Wednesday that his issues with Olsen involved decision-making and a penchant for mental mistakes.
“In coaching, you have to trust your players to do right every single play. Me and Perry have had open discussions the entire time he’s been here. I’ve always been honest with him. I’ve never sugarcoated anything,” Jasper said.
“When you make one good decision then two bad ones after that, there’s no consistency. If you can’t trust a quarterback to do what’s best for the football team every single play, that’s a problem,” Jasper added. “As a quarterback, you have to be perfect — or as close to perfect — as you can. That’s the nature of the position.”
Jasper has not spoken with Olsen since the sophomore announced his intention to transfer. The 6-foot, 205-pound sophomore from Oklahoma was the backup behind Malcolm Perry last season and entered preseason practice atop the depth chart.
“I don’t want to get too much into Perry Olsen’s decision and why he left. Great kid, tough kid and I wish him the best of luck. I respect his decision,” Jasper said. “Perry wants to be a quarterback and he wants to play, and he can’t do that here.”
Morris overtook Olsen just over one week into August training camp and made his first career start against BYU. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound senior had a tough outing, rushing for just 2 yards on seven attempts and completing 2 of 4 passes for 16 yards.
Neither Niumatalolo nor Jasper publicly endorsed Morris as the clear-cut starter and their respective statements indicated that the Navy quarterback competition is wide-open. Jasper said Morris has been positive since the Labor Day defeat, which Jasper said is one of his strengths.
“Good thing about Dalen that I like is that he’s being positive. Football team comes first,” Jasper said. “I don’t expect him to be happy, but he’s helping out all the guys with his experience.”
If Morris does not remain the starter, the four remaining candidates are quarterbacks that have never taken a varsity snap. Navy’s latest depth chart, issued Monday, lists freshman Xavier Arline as the backup and sophomore Maasai Maynor at No. 3. Jasper said junior Tyger Goslin and freshman Tai Lavatai are also in the mix.
“Right now, we’re just repping some guys to see where we are. Hopefully, we’ll know by Thursday where things stand. They all look pretty solid out there,” Jasper said. “We’re trying our best to give these guys full-speed repetitions. There’s true competition and I’m excited about it.”
Goslin competed with Olsen and Morris for the backup spot during preseason camp a year ago. The 5-foot-11, 181-pound product of Moorpark High in California did not make the three-deep at any point last season.
Maynor was listed second on the depth chart entering the season opener but did not get into the BYU game. The 6-foot, 192-pound Maynor received the Collins/Roos 1949 Award as Most Valuable Player of the Navy junior varsity in 2019.
Niumatalolo described Maynor as a “talented young man who is still learning.”
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect is Arline, who was recruited to Navy as a two-sport athlete following a prolific career at Shoreham-Wading River High on Long Island. He has clearly shown something to the coaching staff to be listed as the backup this week.
“Xavier has a lot of shake-and-bake,” Jasper said this week.
Arline, who was ranked the No. 5 recruit in the Class of 2020 by Inside Lacrosse, initially committed to North Carolina for the stick sport as an eighth grader. He had planned to also play football for the Tar Heels, but that changed when Mack Brown was hired as head coach.
“I was recruited at a high level for lacrosse and had always talked about having the opportunity to play both sports wherever I went,” Arline told The Capital after committing to Navy last February. “I thought I was all set to do both at Carolina, but when it got down the stretch it turned out to not be that way. Coaches change and circumstances change.”
Arline opened his recruitment and made it clear he would be leaning toward schools that would promise to allow him to be a two-sport athlete. Michigan, Utah, Virginia, Yale and the three service academies — Army, Air Force and Navy — all reached out.
Playing football at Utah and Michigan never materialized, while Virginia offered Arline preferred walk-on status as a wide receiver. Only the service academies would consider letting Arline play quarterback, the position at which he excelled as a three-year starter in high school.
Arline was a four-year varsity performer for Shoreham-Wading River, starting at defensive back as a freshman before taking over as the starting quarterback as a sophomore. He recorded 8,621 all-purpose yards and 124 touchdowns during a prolific career while helping the Wildcats capture the Class IV Long Island Championship in 2016 and 2019.
Jasper said Tuesday he feels good about the Navy quarterback situation, stating “the cupboard’s not bare.”
“It’s my job is to get the next man ready. When one guy goes down, the next guy has to step up,” he said. “We have a solid room of good football players. I have to make sure they’re making great decisions, getting us into the right play, getting the ball to the right person — just executing and not getting us beat.”