Brian Newberry smiled as he was asked who his starting quarterback would be during a virtual press conference earlier this week.
“You’ll know when you see the first snap,” Navy’s head coach replied.
Newberry wanted to have a starting quarterback finalized two weeks before Navy opened the season Saturday against Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland. But he hasn’t publicly said who that quarterback will be. In fact, he said multiple players might see time behind center against the Fighting Irish.
And no matter who that starter is, Navy coaches and players have continuously spoken about how the Midshipmen’s triple-option scheme will have added wrinkles under new offensive coordinator Grant Chesnut. So expect Navy’s offense, which was last in the AAC for yards gained and points scored a year ago, to look different.
Navy Quarterback Depth Chart
Blake Horvath and Tai Lavatai are listed as co-starters on Navy’s depth chart.
Navy’s coaches have spoken highly about both Lavatai, a 6-foot-2, 221-pound senior from St. Johns, Florida, and Horvath, a 6-2, 195-pound sophomore out of Hilliard, Ohio.
Xavier Arline, a 5-9, 183-pound senior from Wading River, New York, who started games in 2022 including Army-Navy, is listed as the third-stringer. Tedros Gleaton, a 6-1, 214-pound sophomore from Waldorf, Maryland, was listed as the starter after the spring but missed some early fall camp practices due to summer school.
“We’ve got three players we can roll out at quarterback and feel pretty comfortable with,” Newberry said. “I think Tai’s separated himself as of late. Certainly excited about Blake and some of the things he’s done and the element that he adds at quarterback.
“In this system, you’ve got to have depth at quarterback. You need to be able to play two, maybe three of them. … And really, Xavier Arline’s played a lot of good snaps for us and does some really good things. He’s certainly going to have a role on Saturday whether that’s at quarterback or at slot. He’s had a good camp as well so I’m excited about some of the things he’s doing also.”
Will Tai Lavatai Be Navy’s Starting QB?
Lavatai would be a clear candidate to be Navy’s starting quarterback if it weren’t for his ACL injury last year.
Lavatai beat Arline in a competition to be the starter last offseason. In 2022, Lavatai completed 42 of 91 passes for 787 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions in eight games in 2022. He also ran for 309 yards and five touchdowns on 115 carries.
He’s totaled 1,236 yards, 10 touchdowns, and five interceptions through the air and 680 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground in the past two seasons.
“Basically everything I know about this position here, he’s taught me,” Horvath said in a team interview about Lavatai. “He’s a great role model. He’s a great dude. I’m always talking to him about what I can do better, what I think about the offense. We just bounce ideas off each other.”
A torn ACL kept Lavatai from finishing the season and participating in spring practices. But Newberry has been impressed with how well Lavatai has moved around in the last few weeks.
“Tai’s one of those calm, cool, collected quarterbacks,” Newberry said. “He understands the system. He operates really well, and he’s had a really, really good fall camp. He’s a guy that I trust and a guy that’s going to make great decisions, and I’m just really fired up about where he’s at and the progress he’s made.”
Will Blake Horvath Be Navy’s Starting QB?
Horvath has certainly put himself in a position to vie for the starting quarterback role.
Horvath was on the scout team last year and didn’t see any varsity playing time. At Hilliard Darby High School in Ohio, he ran the triple option, so he was able to adapt to Navy’s offensive scheme more easily. He set his school’s records with 49 career rushing touchdowns and 57 career total touchdowns.
“We bounce ideas off each other, especially in the passing game. I see what he sees. … Just some ideas with what I do versus what he does,” Horvath said of his relationship with Lavatai. “Sometimes he adapts some things, and I adapt some things from him. It’s sort of a give-and-take relationship.”
Newberry has noted how Horvath brings another dimension to Navy’s offense compared to what the Midshipmen’s other quarterbacks can do.
That’s why fans should expect to see multiple Navy quarterbacks on Saturday.
“In the triple-option game, both of us are pretty comfortable and pretty confident,” Lavatai said. “He hasn’t taken snaps in a game yet, but I think his experience with the triple option and how he holds himself is something that will allow him to do really well in the triple-option offense.”