Navy football has contingency plan if offensive coordinator misses opener

U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen Head Football Coach Ken Niumatalolo enters the stadium with his team prior to the start of a Dec. 3 2016 game.


By BILL WAGNER | The Capital, Annapolis, Md. | Published: August 25, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, MD. (Tribune News Service) — Navy football has developed a contingency plan in case offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper must miss the season opener at Florida Atlantic.

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo said running game coordinator Ashley Ingram would handle the play-calling in the event Jasper is absent next Friday at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton.

“Ashley would go up and call the game,” Niumatalolo told The Baltimore Sun Media Group following practice on Thursday afternoon. “We’ll put Ashley there and see how it goes. I think he’ll do a great job.”

Jasper continues to deal with the situation surrounding his teenage son, who has been diagnosed with a rare heart condition. Doctors have determined that Jarren Jasper needs a heart transplant and he is currently near the top of the waiting list.

Niumatalolo understands this is a fluid situation and has told Jasper to work whenever he feels up to it. Jasper attended every Navy practice this week, but has not been in the office as much as usual.

Jarren Jasper remains hospitalized at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. On August 15, he underwent surgery to implant a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) – a mechanical pump that works with the heart to help deliver blood throughout the body.

Jarren has been improving daily since then and was extubated on Wednesday, allowing him to sip water, eat a popsicle and whisper to his parents.

Niumatalolo said Ivin Jasper is planning to travel to Boca Raton for the season opener, but knows that could change at a moment’s notice.

“We’ve been preparing for that possibility. We’re hoping that situation happens because that would mean Jarrren got his transplant,” Niumatalolo said. “Football-wise, we want Coach Jasper here. He’s the best play-caller in the country. For life situations, we hope he’s with his family.”

The Midshipmen conducted a scrimmage that mimicked game conditions last Friday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and practiced two different scenarios in terms of offensive play-calling.

Initially, Niumatalolo tried calling the plays from the sideline with input from the coaching box upstairs.

“We tried last week where I called the game, and I overestimated my abilities to see things. I can’t see crap from the sideline,” Niumatalolo said. “I realized I’m good when I’ve got the JumboTron. When I don’t have the JumboTron, I can’t see anything.”

Paul Johnson, who created this version of the triple-option offense, called plays from the sideline when he was head coach at Navy and has continued to do so since taking the same position at Georgia Tech.

Jasper replaced Johnson as Navy’s offensive coordinator in 2008 and has always called the game from the press box. That has allowed Niumatalolo to focus on big-picture issues during games, a luxury that might have been compromised had the head coach attempted to assume the play-calling duties.

“Plus, I felt like I was short-changing us from a game management standpoint. I don’t do many things good, but I feel that’s one thing I’m decent at – managing the game,” Niumatalolo said. “It’s always something I think about. Being a former quarterback, point guard and pitcher – I always think scenarios.”

Niumatalolo admitted Navy would miss the institutional knowledge and instincts Jasper brings to the table, but felt the remaining offensive staff could get the job done during a game.

“Our staff has been together for a long time. They’ve game-planned together for a long time,” Niumatalolo said. “Ivin’s done a great job of getting input from the coaches. Ivin calls a great game, but there is input from Coach O’Rourke, Coach Ingram, Coach Judge and Coach Yokitis. It’s been a group effort.”

Navy will conduct another dress rehearsal at the stadium on Friday and Ingram will call plays from the press box in order to get additional practice.

©2017 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.)
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