Friday, June 02, 2006

Pre-Season Positional Evalutation: The Backfield

Under Paul Johnson's Triple Option spread offense, the Mids led the country in rushing last year with a whopping 318.67 yard average on the ground. With both an experienced line and backfield, this year's ground attack looks more dangerous then ever. Today we take a closer look at the backfield positions that will lead next year's team.

QB Brain Hampton (Senior)
As it has been the past two years, Hampton will need to step and fill the void of a departed Senior QB (Owens). Brian looked impressive in relief duty several times last year, including scoring drives against Stanford and Notre Dame (albeit the second string defense), but also looked not-so-impressive in relief work against Army. While his accuracy is a question mark, he has arguably a stronger arm then Owens. As far as running the option is concerned, Hampton lack the speed Owens had, but makes up for it in size and his ability to break tackles. A talented group around him should make the transition easier.

FB Adam Ballard (Junior)
The fullback who even the big names in college football have started noticing, Ballard absolutely tore through the combined defenses of Temple, Army, and Colorado State last year. The 6-1, 240 Texas product has already drawn comparison to former Navy fullback Kyle Eckel after rumbling for 666 yards and 6 TDs last year, with the bulk of the work coming in after fellow FB Matt Fall went down. Frequently known to be chewed out by coach Johnson in the early going of the year, Adam seemed to make the necessary changes with his footwork and vision to allow the Triple Option to be so successful. If Ballard can keep good balance coming after the exchange and pick his feat up enough, he's liable to do some major damages once he gets into the second part of the defense. He's not that fast, but then again he's not slow either. Expect a 1000+ yards year, and many a fan exclaiming to another, "Shit he just messed that guy up!"

SB Reggie Campbell (Junior)
Everybody's favorite, especially those mid-major phobics over at ESPN. Everyone already knows about the Poinsettia Bowl exploits, but at 5-6 Campbell remains maybe the most elusive player on this team. No more is this apparent then in the passing game, where linebackers and safeties routinely do not pick him up. After a great 2005 season, look to see Reggie more involved in the passing game and in the running game.

SB Trey Hines (Senior)
For the past couple of seasons, we've all been hearing about how Trey Hines is ready to explode onto the scene as a major playmaker in this offense. After a string of injuries though, It hasn't materialized, but this year looks to see Hines back on track as Navy's 2nd slotback. Still regarded as perhaps the fastest player on the team, Hines should be 100% ready to go after dropping track to concentrate solely on football. His 8.6 ypc average as a freshman was impressive, and with defenses keyed in on the "reputation" of Ballard and Campbell, Hines very likely is ready for a monster season.


Fortunately for the Navy run game ( and the team's record for that matter) the squad is deep at the SB position. Georgia Tech transfer and Junior Zerb Singlton looks to get more involved with the rushing game this year with the departure of Karlos Whittaker, and So. SB Shun White brings good speed and athleticism to the unit. Sr. Byron McCoy is also in the mix, and could see some action outside of special teams. Backup fullback Matt Hall was on his way to a very productive season last year until a knee injury against Notre Dame forced Adam Ballard into service. With Ballard in the starter's role, look for Hall to provide quality runs in reserve. If he knee is healed, the Sr. could make for an interesting 1-2 punch of power and well, power, against opposing defenses. With that being said, they’re numerous other players who could step up and contribute to the run game. Uber-athelete Kaipo-Noakaheaku-Enhada brings 4.4 speed and great play-making ability, and could be used in a variety of ways. Backup QB Jarrod Bryant could be another player who could see spot action, and of course their is always the chance someone comes out of nowhere (ala Whittaker) to impress the coaching staff. With a new breed of talent converging on the Academy, suddenly such a notion isn't so far fetched.


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