Zach Abey was Navy’s starting quarterback for the bulk of the 2017 season. The junior led the Midshipmen with 293 carries for 1,413 yards (the second-highest single-season total in academy history) and 19 touchdowns while completing 31-of-72 passes for 805 yards and seven touchdowns. But the Middies went 6-6 in the regular season — the program’s worst season since 2011 — and dropped its second straight game to Army, sending Navy into its first losing streak against its archival in more than 20 years.
So head coach Ken Niumataololo announced ahead of the Military Bowl that sophomore Malcolm Perry would be the starting quarterback moving forward, and the move worked. Perry rushed 16 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns, but Abey still got his touches, rushing for five touchdowns in his 13 carries, and Navy crushed Virginia, 49-7. The expectation moving forward was that, while Perry would start, Abey would remain involved as the short-yardage quarterback.
But when Navy released its post-spring depth chart on Monday, Abey was unexpectedly listed as a co-starter at wide receiver. It’s not that Abey won’t play quarterback, it’s just that Navy won’t waste him on the sideline for every 1st-and-10.
“We’re just trying to get our best players on the field. Zach is clearly one of our best players and this is a good way to get him out there,” Niumatalolo told The Capital Gazette. “Zach is still going to play quarterback, but he is just too valuable to sit on the bench for most of the game.”
Abey is listed at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, a rugged frame that will help him excel at what Navy wideouts do most often: block.
“Zach wants to play as much as possible and I completely understand that,” Niumatalolo said. “When I mentioned the possibility of playing wide receiver, Zach was very excited about it. He is confident he can contribute at that position.”