Perry Olsen is looking to etch his name among the great Navy quarterbacks who have thrived in the triple option.
The sophomore will enter preseason practice this summer atop the depth chart, but he is not taking anything for granted.
“It means absolutely nothing until we play our first game, we kick it off,” Olsen said of being the starter. “There are some studs in the quarterback room. We all bring something different to the table. I am pretty excited to see how it comes together come fall camp.”
Last season, Olsen showed glimpses of his potential, appearing in eight games behind Malcolm Perry. He finished the season with 80 yards rushing on 34 carries with two touchdowns. Olsen also completed two of his eight passes for 45 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He threw his first career touchdown on a 43-yard strike to wide receiver Mychal Cooper against Notre Dame last November.
“It definitely puts him ahead on the depth chart because of his experience,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He was an option guy in high school. He’s a big, physical runner. He played quarterback in prep school and knows our offense. It definitely helps. He was the backup last year.
“Obviously, with Malcolm playing most of the year he didn’t get to play as much, but he got in there. He got to play against Notre Dame and I think he did some good things near the end of the game.”
Though the restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic altered the offseason, Olsen is still prepared to lead the offense.
“It’s definitely different, to say the least,” he said of the offseason. “Nonetheless, everyone is pretty much on the same page. There’s been a lot of online meetings. Overall, it’s been good. I worked on my throwing and agility. I also worked on my quickness and speed. I cut some of that baby fat off.”
The Midshipmen reported to Annapolis, Md., July 5. The players will be quarantined for two weeks before they start lifting weights and getting back into football shape. Olsen was not overly concerned about missing spring practice because every team in the nation is dealing with the same challenges.
As a result, teams will be on a level playing field when the games officially kick off in August if plans are not further altered because of the pandemic.
“They say it’s going to set everybody back a little bit,” Olsen said. “I think some good things came from it. We were able to be home and to get a little bit bigger. There were some pretty heavy restrictions when we were at the academy. It definitely hurts the people that are fighting for a starting job, like me, or just fighting to get noticed. It took the biggest toll on those people. It’s a chance to bounce back stronger.”
While Olsen’s playing time has been limited with the Midshipmen, he’s also confident he can execute the triple option. He has the size (6-foot, 205 pounds) to make an impact. Olsen ran the triple option at Yukon High School in Oklahoma and continued his development at the Naval Academy Preparatory School before reporting to Annapolis in 2019.
“I actually got introduced to the triple option my senior year at Yukon High School,” he said. “I got most of the growing pains out of the way my senior year. I went to the prep school and had more growing pains there getting used to the offense. And then, obviously last year, I was at the academy. I was very fortunate to have a solid two years of introduction to the offense before I really got things kicked off.”
Navy averaged an FBS-best 360.5 yards rushing per game last year. Niumatalolo has tried to implement a better aerial attack to keep teams off balance. Olsen is prepared to run or throw as the game dictates.
“I’m comfortable doing whatever they ask of me — whatever is going to benefit the team, whatever is going to help us win ballgames,” Olsen said. “If that’s giving the ball to guys who can run a lot better than me, then so be it. If coaches want me to step back and throw the ball all game long, I’m comfortable with that, too.”
Olsen does have some big shoes to fill this season in replacing Perry, who was selected by Miami Dolphins in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft as a wide receiver. Last season, Perry led Navy to a program-record 11 wins. Navy’s eight-game improvement from the previous year marked the second-biggest turnaround in FBS history.
Perry, who served as one of Navy’s four captains, rushed for a school-record 2,017 yards — an FBS record for a quarterback. He also rushed for 21 touchdowns while completing 48 of his 86 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns.
Olsen learned valuable lessons while playing behind Perry.
“It was awesome,” Olsen said. “It was like having an older brother. He really took me under his wing and showed me a lot of things only players can really show you from being out there on the field. There are countless things the coaches can teach you, but some things don’t really come to light until Malcolm would sit down and talk me through some things. He definitely has a lot of advice and I am forever indebted to him for that.”
“[The NFL Draft] was surreal,” he added. “I was so happy for him. I was not worried at all. I knew he would get picked up.”
Olsen spent three years at Southmoore High School in Moore, Okla., before moving on to Yukon for his senior year, when he was selected to The Oklahoman’s 105th All-State football team. Olsen also led Southmoore to the 2016 Moore city championship with a 9-2 record.
Olsen was recruited by several Division I programs, including Army. In the end, Olsen knew Navy was the best fit for him.
“I chose Navy over Army for multiple reasons,” Olsen said. “I like the location better. This might come out pretty harsh, but Navy is a much better football program. If I had to narrow it down to one reason, that’s why I chose Navy over Army.”
Olsen is a political science major. One day, he’d eventually like to own a small business that specializes in outdoor recreation and fishing. In the near term, he wants to work with younger athletes.
“With my major, I would love to become a coach and a teacher at the collegiate level,” he said. “I’d love to be an offensive coordinator. I would love to teach some political science.”
Photo Credit: Phil Hoffmann/Navy Athletics
Originally published July 8, 2020