NCAA

Navy standout Malcolm Perry hoping for a shot on Day 3 of NFL Draft

Navy standout Malcolm Perry hoping for a shot on Day 3 of NFL Draft

Update: Perry was drafted by the Dolphins in the seventh round.

Navy wrapped up a historic football season on New Year's Eve with a thrilling 20-17 win over Kansas St. in the Liberty Bowl. 

The Midshipmen tied a school-record with 11 wins, finished in the Associated Press Top 20 for just the second time in 56 years and -- most importantly -- swept Army and Air Force to regain the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. 

After going 3-10 in 2018, how did Navy have an FBS best eight-game turnaround in 2019? Quarterback Malcolm Perry had a lot to do with it. 

Following a 35-7 loss to Air Force on Oct. 6, 2018, Coach Ken Niumatololo made a change at quarterback. Perry was moved from quarterback to slotback. After the season concluded, Niumatololo and his staff evaluated themselves.

Talking to NBC Sports Washington, Niumatololo recalled asking “did we give this kid a chance?” when thinking about Perry at quarterback. Ultimately, the Navy coaching staff went to Perry and told him he was going to lead the offense in 2019. There was no need to look over his shoulder anymore. Niumatololo told Perry they were going to work together to accentuate his talents and ride him all season. 

The results validated their approach. Perry eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing his sophomore and junior seasons at the Naval Academy, but 2019 was different. Any moment free, he was working to get better.

“There was never a time after practice I wasn’t getting extra work with the guys,” Perry told NBC Sports Washington.

Additionally, Perry spent ample time in the film room to fully understand the offense. 

“I felt really, really good when I saw [Malcolm] in the offseason,” Niumatalolo said. 

The hard work paid off. Perry rushed for 2,017 yards, an FBS record for rushing yards in a season for a quarterback. Only Oklahoma St. running back Chuba Hubbard rushed for more yards than Perry in 2019. His 155.2 rushing yards per game also set an FBS record for quarterbacks. In the Army-Navy game, Perry rushed for 304 yards in the 31-7 rout, becoming just the fourth quarterback in FBS history to rush for over 300 yards in a game. With all of the accolades from a remarkable senior campaign, did the NFL creep into Perry’s mind?

“During the season it wasn’t even a focal point,” Perry said. “After the season, everything kind of hit me at once. Change of position, training, [East-West Shrine] all-star game, [NFL Scouting] Combine.”

Perry was invited to East-West Shrine Bowl, one of the highest profile college football postseason all-star games. The Navy quarterback practiced at wide receiver all week, but in the fourth quarter Perry scored on a 52-yard option keeper. Lining up at quarterback in the shotgun formation, he faked a pitch to his right, found a lane, and was gone. That type of vision and breakaway speed was why - in just his sophomore year - Niumatalolo thought Perry could play after his time at Navy. 

“All of the coaches would look down the sideline and say ‘This kid is doing some special things,’” Niumatalolo said. 

Like New England Patriots star slot receiver Julian Edelman or former Redskins and Steelers receiver Antwaan Randle El or former Navy star Keenan Reynolds, Perry will be expected to move from quarterback to wide receiver when entering the NFL. Fortunately for Perry, he does have experience playing another position. He appeared in 17 games at slot back his sophomore and junior years. 

“Slot back is as close as it gets at Navy to the slot receiver position in the NFL,” Perry said. “It helped to get that experience in a game so it’s not foreign to me when it comes to training and playing at the next level.”

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Niumatalolo has no worries about his former quarterback changing positions. 

“I think the transition back to play slot receiver is going to be seamless for him,” Niumatalolo said.

The expectations for Perry vary from team to team but most anticipate slot receiver and a role in the return game to be a big part of his future. 

“Punt return and kickoff return is a big thing for me to get comfortable with and be good at in order to get on the field at the next level,” Perry said. 

Route running and catching punts have been Perry’s biggest focus entering the NFL Draft. Like every other prospect, he is dealing with the unique challenges of working out during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Perry is currently back at his parents’ house in Clarksville, Tenn. It isn’t easy.  

“Trying to find ways to stay in shape,” Perry said. “Trying to be creative in how you do that.” 

The difference between Perry and most other draft prospects is that he is still taking a full class load. From 8:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. every weekday, Perry, a Quantitative Economics major, has classes remotely. 

“School is a little tougher at home than in the classroom,” Perry said. 

Switching positions and dealing with a strenuous class schedule is not something many players can relate to entering the NFL Draft. Perry does, however, have someone to call that can. After four years as the starting quarterback of the Midshipmen and an FBS-record 88 career rushing touchdowns, Keenan Reynolds was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. 

The two record-setting quarterbacks had a lot of interaction before Perry went to the NFL Combine. Reynolds sent Perry around 20 videos showing various techniques that have helped him. When NFL scouts came to Annapolis this fall to see Perry, as expected, Niumatalolo was frequently asked to compare Perry to Reynolds. 

“The one thing that stands out is their competitive drive and detail in preparation,” Niumatalolo said. “You never see them slacking.” 

And their differences? 

“Keenan was a better thrower,” Niumatalolo said. “Malcolm was a better overall runner.” 

On 295 rushing attempts in 2019, Perry averaged an astonishing 6.8 yards per carry. The start to Malcolm Perry’s football career at the Naval Academy was about as unusual as it gets. In the stands and in a Navy dress uniform, Perry watched starting quarterback Tago Smith go down with an ACL injury against Fordham in the season opener of the 2016 season.

“A couple plays later, one of the managers came sprinting up the stands like something crazy was going on,” Perry recalled. “Then he starts yelling my name.” 

Perry was pulled from the stands, walked to the locker room, and put in uniform for the second half of the game. He entered in the fourth quarter and rushed for 30 yards on seven attempts.

From being pulled from the stands to start his collegiate career to setting NCAA records and leading the Mids to a top-20 finish in his senior season and now, a chance to become just the sixth Midshipmen in the last three decades to be selected in the NFL Draft, Perry’s time at the Naval Academy has been unique. While Perry says he has no expectations for the draft, where he could go late on Day 3 on Saturday, he is hoping to make a dream become reality. It’s close. Drafted or not, he will get a chance with some team.   

“All throughout my life, just like every other kid that plays football, I dreamed of going to the NFL,” Perry said. 

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A poll of 250 college basketball coaches reveals 74% want a semi-normal schedule this year

A poll of 250 college basketball coaches reveals 74% want a semi-normal schedule this year

Several college conferences across the country are preparing for the fall sports season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Big Ten announced on Thursday that it will go to a “conference-only” model for all fall sports. The Pac-12 followed announcing football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball will play only conference games. Earlier in the week, the Ivy League announced no sports would be played until January 1.

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More conferences are likely to follow shortly. But after fall sports, what will happen with winter sports and, specifically, with college basketball? Stadium basketball analyst Jeff Goodman conducted an interesting poll.

Of the 250 Division I head men’s basketball coaches (of a 353 total), 74% want a season with non-conference and conference play. Only 24% of coaches want to push the start of the season to January and play exclusively conference games.

One of the unique aspects of early-season college basketball is the non-conference matchups, sometimes in exotic locations. One of the most notable, the Maui Invitational, is planning to move forward as scheduled.

A handful of local teams are scheduled to travel to tournaments this November. Virginia and Georgetown will both head to Anaheim, Calif. for the Wooden Legacy. VCU is part of an eight-team field at the Charleston Classic and George Mason is reportedly traveling to the Bahamas for the Junkanoo Jam.

There is plenty to be sorted out before the start of the college basketball season but for now, we will take some optimism from the men on the sidelines. 

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How Lamelo Ball playing in Australia factored into 5-star recruit Makur Maker’s decision to choose Howard

How Lamelo Ball playing in Australia factored into 5-star recruit Makur Maker’s decision to choose Howard

When 2020 five-star recruit Makur Maker committed to Howard University in D.C., he sent shockwaves through the entire landscape of the basketball world, becoming the first top recruit to announce his intent to play at a historically Black college or university (HBCU) since Earl Jones played for the University of the District of Columbia in 1980.

While the decision was intricate and monumental on a multitude of levels, Maker revealed an interesting layer of his decision-making process:

He thought of future NBA lottery pick LaMelo Ball.

"I figured if LaMelo Ball could go to Australia, play in facilities like that, and still be considered a top NBA prospect, why not Howard?" Maker said.

Ball's path to the draft very well may be one of the most remarkable in sports history. Fast-forwarding to his final season at SPIRE, Ball was not eligible to attend college, therefore he agreed to a deal with the Illawarra Hawks in Australia to play in the NBL. 

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The decision was heavily scrutinized nationally with many believing it would drastically decrease his draft stock -- one disclosed scout told USA Today “the untraditional route (NBL) will almost certainly cost him (LaMelo) once draft night approaches."

After averaging 17.0 points, 6.8 assists, and 7.4 rebounds in the NBL and having his season cut short due to a bone bruise in his left foot, Ball is in the conversation to go the number one overall in the upcoming draft.

Point made. 

"People also sleep on the competitive nature of the MEAC [Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference]," Maker said. "The pace and open flow style of play of the MEAC is more similar to the NBA, in my opinion. It’s a read-and-react league, so it will definitely help me get ready for the NBA."

Former head coach and NBC Sports Washington basketball analyst Jimmy Patsos, believes in Makers' decision and thinks it could spark a huge movement within college basketball. 

"If one person can lead a revolution, one person can lead a movement, this could be the guy," Patsos said on Friday. "Why not him changing the landscape of college basketball?"

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