For those of you who don’t know, the Navy football team had it’s first scrimmage last Saturday over at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. A decent sized crowd of hardcore fans, parents, and sponsors was on hand to see if Coach Paul Johnson’s team was on track for the 2006 season. While you can read the official release here, I’ve taken the liberty to record some of my own observations.
The offense seemed to start off slowly against was can only be described as an "aggressive" opening by the defense. Caldwell, Tidwell, and Mahoney lead the charge, doing well to stuff the option early, which revolved around handoffs to the fullback. As expected, Hampton and the other quarterbacks needed a few passes to get on target. But when Hampton got going, he really looked good. He had several nice runs, including an early scamper in which he made a great pause move to deak out a diving defender. As the scrimmage progressed, he started hitting targets with good accuracy, culminating in a 23 yard touchdown strike to Jason Tomlinson. In six series of work, Hampton lead the first team offense on three scoring drives, two of which went for touchdowns. He finished the day with 11 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown, and went 6-9 for 76 yards and a touchdown. Hampton played so well they he actually received some praise from Coach Johnson, who is usually quite critical of his starting quarterback.
"I thought Brian Hampton played well today," the fifth year coach said. "I thought he made some good decisions."
Hampton did make some good decisions, and with Saturday's scrimmage it's clear that he's the best of the group. Yet that doesn't take away from what the other quarterbacks did on Saturday, as Troy Goss, Kaipo, and Jarrod Bryant all showed flashes of excellence with the second team. To be honest, I was a tad bit disappointed in seeing Kaipo play. We've all heard about his great athletic ability, but he seemed lost in his option reads early. There were several plays were it looked like he could of cut to the outside but instead chose to follow the fullback right up the gut into the pile for a minimal gain. He did manage to complete one pass, but his arm is clearly the weakest of the QB's. I was impressed by his Michael Vick like 17 yard TD scamper, but in the end I still rate Sophomore QB Jarrod Bryant's performance higher. Maybe it's because I came into this game already liking Bryant, but the Hoover High product at of Alabama really impressed me in the scrimmage. Although he only completed one pass, (a nice 23 yard snag by Curtis Sharp down along the sideline) Bryant put the ball on the money on almost all his others passes, but was the victim of numerous drops. The guy has great athleticism and pocket presence, and made an amazing move to spin out of a sack and cut up field for a 15 yard gain on one play. When asked about using either Kaipo or Bryant at other positions, Coach Johnson didn't rule out the possibility.
"If we do move one or two of them to another position, they can still come back and play quarterback," said Johnson. " It's not like you can't line up at wide receiver and then come in and play quarterback if you have to."
Offensively, both Zerb Singleton and Reggie Campbell had good days. Singleton seems to have taken over the starting SB job opposite Campbell, raking up 53 yards and a TD on 3 carries (including a great 35 yard TD scamper.) Both slotbacks run at 100% all the time, and it's difficult not to be impressed as 5'6 Reggie Campbell fights off tackles in the same manner as 6'1 Adam Ballard. Speaking of Ballard, the Junior Fullback played o.k. in the scrimmage, having a few nice carries up the middle, although it looked like the linebackers were locked onto him early.
I was really impressed by the speed of the defense, especially the linebacker corps. MLB Anthony Piccioni, at only 5'8, absolutely flew to the ball, earning 16 tackles (1 tfl). Kieth Lisante also had a good day at the backup ILB position.
Prized recruits Nate Frazier and Andy Lark rotated at the DT position for the second team, each doing a good job at penetration and disrupting the fullback-Quarterback exchange. Frazier finished the day with 8 tackles.
I think we can judge this as a pretty good scrimmage. Considering nobody was hurt (despite a close call with Campbell) and both the offense and defense, at all levels, did some good things, we as fans should take away cautious optimism from what we saw Saturday. While it's clear there is still a lot of work to be done (especially in regards to blocking), this was a good way to start the year and to get reps in for the players.