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AAC: Navy coach sides with Johnson

Military Bowl Virginia Navy Football

Navy's running back John Brown III is upended by Virginia's Brenton Nelson in the first half of the Military Bowl NCAA college football game, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, April 20, 2018

Ken Niumatalolo is on Paul Johnson’s side when it comes to the new NCAA rule in football that bans blocking below the waist that occurs five yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Niumatalolo is the veteran coach at Navy, which runs the triple-option rushing scheme maybe better than any other team in the country. That attack can involve running backs being lead blockers in space and down the field.

The Navy head man’s comments Wednesday during the American Athletic Conference spring teleconference were similar to Georgia Tech’s Johnson, who was at Navy before going to Georgia Tech in 2008 and continuing to run the triple option. Both coaches think their is inconsistency in the rules for when blocking is dangerous and that tackling below the waist is similar to blocking below the waist.

“Either cutting below the waist is dangerous or it’s not,” Niumatalolo said. “And I can only image that there has been a ton of people over the years who have blown their knees out and breaking ankles and stuff by getting tackled below the waist.”

The Midshipmen have been one of the most consistent teams in the American since joining the league in 2015. They were second in the nation last year at 351.4 rushing yards per game.

“I get these types of questions asked all the time and how it is going to affect us and we just adjust, because this isn’t the first cut-blocking rule that has changed over the last 10 years,” Niumatalolo said. “There’s one every year and we just adjust.”

Looking up

East Carolina, Connecticut and Cincinnati have all been through coaching transitions the last few years and they tied for last place in the AAC East division in 2016 and ‘17.

It was ECU that allowed the most points among league teams a season ago and Cincinnati that scored the least. Both squads are looking to improve on those statistics in order to move up in the AAC East ranks.

“With how we practiced and during scrimmages (this spring), we challenged the guys to treat it like a game and when there’s breaks you come to your coach like you do on the sideline and be able to articulate certain types of things,” said Cincy coach Luke Fickell, a former Ohio State defensive coordinator. “With the communication and understanding of what and why and the development of those things, I think we have come a long way. It showed in flashes during the spring, but I think it’s going to really carry over into the summer and our work in the fall.”

Pirate third-year head coach Scottie Montgomery has expressed optimism in a defensive turnaround under new coordinator David Blackwell. He was confident in that again Wednesday.

“Now knowing a lot of the people we have in the building, his scheme fits our kids really well,” Montgomery said. “This was probably the most difficult spring, from an offensive standpoint, that they have had to go through against our defense because we play great base defense now. We’ve learned how to generate pressure without always having to do it with people from the second and third levels.”

Down in Dallas

The AAC has two new coaches in Josh Heupel at Central Florida and veteran Sonny Dykes taking over at SMU.

Heupel and the Knights are coming off an undefeated season and will likely have great expectations again for this season. Dykes, a former head coach at Louisiana Tech and California who was an offensive analyst at TCU a year ago, said part of the satisfaction he has had so far with the Mustangs comes from a new lifestyle in Dallas.

“My family and myself have settled about two-tenths of a mile from our practice field, so from a personal standpoint, I can walk my kids to school and they can walk over and watch practice and be around our players and other coaches’ kids,” Dykes said. “It’s a great situation and I can’t imagine anything any better.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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Humans of Greenville

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Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

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