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    Saturday, October 01, 2022

    Coast Guard football will have a new look on offense

    Senior running back Spencer McMillion turns and runs down field after catching a pass as Coast Guard Academy held its first preseason football practice on Thursday at Cadet Memorial Field in New London. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    Sophomore quarterback Joey Armentrout throws to wideouts during passing drills on Thursday at Cadet Memorial Field in New London during the first practice of the season for the Coast Guard Academy football team. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    Offensive lineman Jake Monson, a senior captain works on a pass-blocking technique as the Coast Guard Academy football team began its preseason camp on Thursday at Cadet Memorial Field in New London. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    Coast Guard Academy head coach C.C. Grant blows his whistle during linebacker drills as the team participates in their first football practice of the season on Thursdayat Cadet Memorial Field in New London. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    Senior defensive lineman and captain Conner McGuire, right, along with other members of the D-line, participate in gap drills during Coast Guard Academy’s first football practice of the season on Thursday at Cadet Memorial Field in New London. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)

    New London — Coast Guard Academy head football coach C.C. Grant had plenty of time to get to know his new offensive coordinator, JB Wells, when the two were traveling this summer to camps and on recruiting trips.

    On one occasion, Wells boarded a plane from Dallas only be stuck in Charlotte while Grant remained stranded in Dallas.

    “One thing that’ll show you how you’re in the back nine of your athletic ability is when you have to run through an airport,” Wells said with a laugh.

    Wells also got to know the members of his new team during spring practice, in which he first began implementing the offense the Bears will use this season.

    Thursday marked Coast Guard’s opening day of practice, with Grant’s team forging its way toward back-to-back home games to open the season on Sept. 3 (University of New England) and Sept. 10 (Curry).

    The Bears were 2-8 a year ago after playing just one game — against rival Merchant Marine — in 2020 due to COVID-19.

    “I feel similar to the way I did last year. I think we’re going to be really young again. You’re starting a sophomore quarterback (Joey Armentrout), you’ve got some moving parts,” Grant said Thursday. “But I think I feel better that I think we have a better feel of who we are.

    “I think adding JB to the offense is a huge plus. So from that aspect I think I feel a little bit better. ... I think that he has an idea of how to utilize our guys the best. I think he’s going to tailor his offense to what we can do well.”

    Grant called Wells’ offense “totally different” but said the Bears will continue to run the spread and from their traditional shotgun formation — “I think one of the things we knew from interviewing JB is that he wanted to run the ball a little bit more than in the past; I think that helps us overall,” Grant said of the changes.

    The Bears are led by Armentrout, who started the last three games at quarterback last year, finishing 59-for-114 for 666 yards passing with four touchdowns and five interceptions. Sophomore Dennis O’Shea will serve as Armentrout’s backup.

    Senior Spencer McMillion (46 carries, 305 yards, 3 TDs) will start at running back, backed up by a pair of freshmen in Jacob Hardy and Glenn Patrick. Matt Ross (38 catches, 336 yards), Tafari Wall (4 catches, 39 yards, 2 TDs) and Jacob Wagner (14 catches 209 yards, 1 TD) are all back to anchor the receiving corps.

    Offensive lineman Jake Monson (right guard) and defensive lineman Conner McGuire will serve as co-captains.

    The defensive line is led by four seniors: McGuire (56 tackles), Connor Healy (59 tackles), Andrew Rizzo (25 tackles) and Andrew Shad (25 tackles).

    Wells, originally from Niantic and a St. Bernard School graduate, was the head coach at Endicott from 2003-14 and head coach at Bowdoin from 2015-18, making two NCAA Division III tournament appearances during his tenure at Endicott.

    Wells said the offense will feature two backs, going “downhill with the run,” while keeping additional changes close to the vest.

    “I had an idea in my head of what I’d like to do because I think it’s fairly adaptable to most offensive groups,” Wells said. “I said we’re going to go with that and see how it goes and it just seemed to really fit the types of guys that we have here. I think we have the components that are going to allow us to do what we’re going to do.”

    “It’s been really enjoyable,” Armentrout said. “Coach Wells has been super flexible with the whole offense. If he has to slow down every now and then he’ll slow down, but sometimes when he picks up on our chemistry, he’s not afraid to keep it going. He feeds off our energy. ... We’re just super excited to see what we can do with it and move forward with it.”

    Monson said Wells is an exceptional teacher of the new playbook.

    “I would say it’s been a very smooth transition,” Monson said. “It’s a simple playbook. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. I believe in it. Honestly, I really do.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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