Spring practices at Navy were a bit different this year. Specifically, there were more of them.

The Midshipmen conducted all 15 practice sessions allowed under NCAA rules, something they had rarely done in recent years due to either the timing of exams, depth issues caused by injuries or COVID-19 protocols.

“We needed to use all of them,” head coach Brian Newberry said. “We had to grind them pretty good.”

It’s a new era of Navy football, and Newberry, a bearded Oklahoman, is the face of it. Ken Niumatalolo, the winningest coach in school history with a 109-83 record over 15 years, was fired in December after a loss to Army sealed the program’s third consecutive losing season. Newberry, who had been the defensive coordinator since 2019, was promoted to head coach. His first directive: Get more physical.

“We went live probably twice as much as we have in any other spring I’ve been here,” Newberry said.

More than 2,500 miles away, Niumatalolo has begun the next phase of his career, as UCLA’s new director of leadership under Chip Kelly. He hopes to become a head coach again, but he doesn’t want to talk too much about Navy and distract from their transition.