Aaron Polanco, Lamar Owens, Kriss Proctor and Will Worth.
During the current triple-option era, those players all found success as seniors in their lone season as the Navy football starting quarterback.
Can Dalen Morris join that exclusive list? Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper certainly hopes so.
“In all my years here, a one-year starter as a senior has always played well. I hope that trend continues,” Jasper said Monday during a virtual news conference.
Jasper revealed Monday that Morris has ascended to the top of the depth chart just one week into preseason training camp. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound senior opened practice as the No. 3 signal caller but has quickly overtaken sophomores Perry Olsen and Massai Maynor.
“He’s come to camp and been a man on a mission,” Jasper said of Morris. “Dalen came in with purpose and took the position. He’s been really, really good at every single practice.”
Morris has yet to play a meaningful snap for the Midshipmen and was third on the depth chart throughout last season. He saw mop-up duty in five games as a sophomore and junior.
Last August, Olsen beat out Morris for the backup spot behind Malcolm Perry, who started all 13 games and enjoyed a record-breaking senior season. Perry is now in training camp with the Miami Dolphins after being drafted in the seventh round of the NFL Draft and Jasper called the Navy quarterback competition “wide-open” just over a week ago.
Olsen seemingly had a leg up on the rest of the field since he ran the second offensive huddle in practice throughout last season. However, Jasper was disappointed Olsen did not “separate himself from the pack” after receiving far more repetitions.
However, it was Morris who came back to Annapolis intent on earning the starting job. Three seasons of standing along the sidelines wearing a headset and sending signals has made the Alabama native hungry.
“Dalen has been very, very patient. He’s handled things very, very well,” said Jasper, who has personally coached the quarterbacks since returning for a second stint at Navy in 2002. “Last season, with Malcolm beating him out, Dalen never once complained. He just went to work and focused on what his issues were.”
Jasper said decision-making has been his greatest concern when evaluating Morris, who operated primarily as a drop-back quarterback as a senior at Madison County High. Learning how to execute Navy’s patented triple-option is a challenge for every incoming quarterback and something suddenly clicked for Morris this past offseason.
“So far, [Morris] has made great decisions. His footwork has been superb, he’s taking care of the football and not making any bad decisions in the passing game,” Jasper said.
Jasper has proven capable of molding quarterbacks of all shapes, sizes and styles into successful starters over the past 18 seasons. He finds it especially rewarding to see a senior emerge as the starter after sitting the bench for three seasons.
“It’s been pretty obvious that Dalen has looked the best. He’s been a real pleasure to watch,” Jasper said. “For a senior to come in and take the position … I’m happy for the young man.”
With Morris having seized the moment and Olsen looking solid as the backup, the Midshipmen now have the luxury of moving Chance Warren to slotback. Warren, one of the team’s most dynamic athletes and dangerous runners, was given a look at quarterback with the understanding he would switch positions if not named the starter.
Jasper said Warren performed well during the brief quarterback audition, but his skill set is needed more at slotback. That’s because the Midshipmen are a bit depleted at the position due to injury and attrition.
Senior C.J. Williams, who started eight games last season, has been sidelined with an injury. Classmate Keoni-Kordell Makekau, the projected starter entering preseason, recently decided to forego playing football.
Tyreek King-El, another senior who was listed as the backup behind Williams going into the spring camp that never happened, also voluntarily left the team. Jasper said during Monday’s media session the team “respects” and “supports” those decisions.
“With the way the world is now, they did what they felt what was best for them and their families and not participate,” he said. “They’re still part of the Navy football family and we love them.”
Senior Myles Fells is now listed as the starter at one slotback spot, while Warren is now working with the first unit in the absence of Williams. Junior Carlinos Acie, who saw action in four games (mostly on special teams) last season, is listed as the backup behind Fells. Senior Garrett Winn had been listed as the backup behind Williams before Warren joined the unit.
Junior Chike Otaluka has moved from safety to slotback to provide depth there. He entered training camp third on the depth chart along with senior Justin Smith.
Warren was recruited as a slotback but moved to wide receiver as a sophomore and enjoyed a breakout season. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound speedster averaged almost 15 yards every time he touched the ball.
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“That position did suffer, but it’s next man up. As a football team we need to move forward,” Jasper said. “We feel much better about our depth at [slotback] by moving Chance there.”