Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Navy Gets Bowl Tie-In: "Oh, it's on!"

There is a rivalry brewing in the East as Raycom Sports reached an agreement with the NAAA to give Navy priority involvement in Meineke Tire Care Bowl over the 3rd place finisher in the Big (L)East. Basically what this means is if it comes down to the Navy or the 3rd Big East team, the Bowl will likely take Navy. Interestingly enough, the team slated to finish 3rd in the Big (L)East could be none other then our yearly opponent Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have shown they are out of the dregs of the college football universe, and look to return one of the bets backfields in the country this season. All this will of course add to the importance of the Navy-Rutgers matchup later this year, and has fueled more talk about Navy and possibly joining the Big (L)East, although mostly by Rutgers fans who don't understand how good Navy has it as an Independent.

Athletic Director Chet Gladchuck had this to say: “The recent success of our program both on the field and in the stands has created the exciting opportunity we have before us with the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The pageantry of Navy football is about a winning team, thousands of fans, embracing a community by the entire Navy family, and an overall institutional commitment second to none. A successful football team opens many doors, and everyone is hopeful in 2006 that we will realize a number of our goals, one clearly being a trip to Charlotte in December.”

Needless to say the Rutgers fans are, as the kids say these days, straight up perturbed. Constant back and forth action between Rutgers fans and Navy fans is taking place on both the Rutgers message board and the Navy message board, with no clear winner. To add to that chaos, the UCONN fans-who get this-actually think they have a chance at coming in 3rd in the Big (L)East, are rioting as well. It seems that a lot of blame is being given to Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, who failed to see the deal coming. It will be interesting to see how this plays out more so for the Big East then Navy, as the conference struggles to get its middle-of-the-road teams more exposure. Some Big East fans have even suggested government interference, which of course is absurd, I mean the Naval Academy Athletic Association isn't run by a bunch of hobos, they do have money after all...

The Meineke Car Care Bowl will likely pit Navy (if we get 6 wins) against the 4th place finisher In the ACC. I personally would love (as I know may of you would as well) to see a rematch against a Maryland team that we should of beat last year, and who I believe would could flat out destroy this year. Other teams that could be available of course are Georgia Tech, NC State, Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech. Not only will this give the Mids a chance to play against what could likely amount to a Top 25 team, it also grants the program more TV exposure as the game will be featured on ESPN. The game takes place Saturday, Dec. 30 in the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. In addition, the payout is considerably larger then previous Bowls Navy has played in, with teams playing in 2004 and 2005 pulling in around $1.3 million.

It's interesting to note that Navy is still pursuing other Bowls as well, including the Poinsettia Bowl and the Insight Bowl. The deal with Raycom would still allow Navy to play In the *gasp* BCS *gasp* if by some act of God the Mids upended Notre Dame and everyone else. There has also been talk around the message board that Navy is close to a deal with the Bowl for 2008 in Phoenix, which coincidently is my favorite city in the world.

Here are some links to various stories regarding the deal:
Charlotte Deal Improves Navy's Bowl Positioning-Annapolis Capitol
Deal Makes Navy Eligible For Meineke Car Care Bowl-Baltimore Sun
Navy Eligible For Meineke Bowl-Charlotte Observer

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Big (L)East no more?

Today we continue our modest preview of the rest of the country, as I compare the CFR list of the Top 5 teams per conference with my own.

This time last year, the Big East was in trouble perception wise(which is not to say it no longer isn't, hence the (l)east.) With Miami, Boston College, and Virginia Tech long gone, the conference was searching for an identity, and a lose by Pitt at the hands of MWC champ Utah caused some to question the BCS status of the conference. Then, something happened. Within the course of the 2005 season, the Big East experienced (at least to some extent) a revival of its programs. Suddenly Rutgers didn't suck any more, Louisville was no longer just a "good" mid-major, and West Virginia actually kicked Georgia's ass in the Sugar Bowl. While Pitt and Syracuse built incredibly disappointing seasons, South Florida suddenly rose out of obscurity. Is the Big east better then we all thought? Here are the lists...

The CFR List

  • West Virginia
  • Louisville
  • Rutgers
  • Pittsburgh
  • South Florida

The Pitch Right List

  • West Virginia
  • Louisville
  • Rutgers
  • Pittsburgh
  • Connecticut

We all know about West Virginia. Rich Rodriguz runs one of the most effective offenses in the game, and QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton are back to lead what figures to be one of the nation's top ground attacks (not as good as Navy's of course). What you may not know is WVU Brandon Barrett has his scholarship back. The former Parade All American looks to greatly improve an already dangerous passing attack. The questions here deals with the ability of the team to handle the high expectations, and to reconstruct the defensive line. Otherwise, we're looking at the clear cut favorite for the conference champion.

If WVU is the favorite, Louisville can't be far behind though, and it wouldn't surprise me if they ultimately won the conference. A lot hinges on the return of Brian Brohm, but backup Junter Cantwell showed flashes of excellence in limited playing time last season. The WR corps gets help from the likes of Chris Vaughn, Corey Thompson and Patrick Carter (all transfers), with speedster Harry Douglas adding a vertical component. Returning 1100 yard back Michael Bush is also back, adding another dimension to what should be an extremely potent offense. Despite losing Elvis Dumerville, the Cardinels still possess a stout defense, and are very sound at the linebacker position. Come to think of it, maybe I do like Louisville...

Now that we got the two obvious selections out of the way, the questions becomes fairly simple. How good is Rutgers? The answer; better then you think. Their is a reason the duo of Brian Leonard and Ray Rice is already being touted as one of the best-if not the best- backfield combinations in the country. Leonard is simply put a freak who is virtually impossible to tackle mano-y-mano (or for that matter tres manos y mano) and Rice (who was a Freshman All-American) combines great speed with elusiveness. If new QB Mike Teel can overcome a "forcing" problem and not screw up too much, Rutgers should be able to run up plenty of points against opponents. The big questions come on defense, as ends Ryan Neill and Val Barnaby departed for NFL Free-agency. Can Rutgers inflict enough pressure up front to help a secondary that was last in the Big East (Yes, even behind Syracuse)? Even if it can't, the offense should be good enough to make this team hover around the Top 25 all year.

That brings us to the interesting case of Pitt, a team that was thought to be on the rise over the past couple years. Yet astute readers will probably remember the image of Pitt's defense getting flat out torn through by opposing offenses, in particular WVU In the annual Backyard Brawl. Word on the street is coach Wannstedt has invested a lot of time in upping the conditioning of the defense, and certainly the talent is there. H.B. Blades may be the best linebacker in the conference, and linebacker Tommie Campbell can flat out fly. Pitt was bitten pretty hard by the injury bug last year, and chances are the team will be relatively more healthy this go-around. On offense Tyler Palko is back for his Senior season (not to be confused with Shane Falco) and is in the running for the "Shit, he's still in college award?!?" Seriously though, while Palko is perhaps NFL caliber, the "hard nosed running" team Wannstedt envisioned is not gonna come alive anytime soon. There still is no definitive "hard nosed" running back, and the offensive line is talented but young. Palko lost a good receiver in Greg Lee, and the passing game may take a little while to come on-line. That being said, when you look at the rest of the teams in the conference, you can't imagine Pitt falling any lower. The record may not end up indicating it, but this is the 4th best team in the Big East.

The only difference between my list and the CFR list is in the 5th spot, which conventional wisdom tells us really doesn't matter a whole lot. I went with Connecticut, perhaps only because they play Navy, and seeing this is a Navy blog I thought I’d rep 'em a little. That being said Connecticut is the premier example of how to get to Div IA and begin winning almost immediately. While questions continue on who will QB the team, the options available (including the more athletically inclined D.J. Hernandez) seem to point that someone can do at least a decent job. A strong running game built around backs Terry Caulley and Lou Allen and a good defense should help this team to be at least marginally successful this season. While Connecticut may not get to another Bowl, like last year they should beat South Florida and in turn become the 5th best team in the Big East.

That's all for today, join me Friday as I begin to take a look at the 5 Best teams in the SEC, which I admittedly no pretty much nothing about.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our veterans and all those who currently serve in the United States military for their service and sacrifice to our country. Searching for the words to express the unbelievable amount of gratitude I and many in this country hold towards our veterans is as the Poet T.S. Eliot put it, "a raid on the inarticulate." Thus, let me barrow from one of the masters of language patriotism, the "Jimi Jendrix of the Spoken Word":

"There never has been, I suppose, in all the world, in all the history of war, such an opportunity for youth. The Knights of the Round Table, the Crusaders, all fall back into the past-not only distant but prosaic; these young men, going forth every morn to guard their native land and all that we stand for, holding in their hands these instruments of colossal and shattering power, of whom it may be said that

Every morn brought forth a noble chance
And every chance brought forth a noble knight,

deserve our gratitude, as do all the brave men who, in so many ways and on so many occasions, are ready, and continue ready to give life and all for their native land."

-Sir Winston Churchill
June 4th 1940

Friday, May 26, 2006

SMQ Previews Navy

Fellow Blog Sunday Morning Quarterback has released its "Absurdly Premature Assessment" of the 2006 Navy football team.

The highlights of the preview? Well, like most previews for next year's team, SMQ begins with a mention of former QB Lamar Owens. The preview then moves to cover the ground attack of PJ's Triple option, with props to Reggie Campbell, Adam Ballard, and Matt Hall. A witty comment about Reggie's 43 yard per game average overlooks his amazing 9.0 yards a rush and 26.2 yards a catch, but since it's SMQ, I'll let it slide.

However, a sly comment about a still easy schedule irked me a bit, so I felt compelled to comment:

Notre Dame is well, Notre Dame. Tulsa and Rutgers are Top 30 caliber, and Stanford (which already is decent-good)may very well have a breakout season (Trent Edwards is getting a lot of offseason praise, apparently his progression has really picked up). East Carolina is much improved, and some analysts are already predicating a Bowl and challenging for the C-USA title. Air Force, UCONN, and Army are all not great to decent, but UCONN could be in position to have a winning season. Duke, Temple, and E. Michigan all suck, but I wouldn't rate them In the bottom 10, that's reserved for the entire Sun Belt.

SMQ also highlights the defensive concerns of the team, which are real, and rightly points out the top players in Tidwell and Caldwell. A barrowed line about Adam Ballard from Pitch Right was perfectly acceptable, and I can assure SMQ (who did not see Ballard play) that the Junior Fullback packs a significant punch. At 6-1 and roughly 240, he's both bigger and stronger AND faster then former pro prospect Kyle Eckel, and as stated numerous times on this very site, could develop into a very special player (yes, I'm talking NFL caliber special). After being compared to a Mom and Pop hardware store, SMQ puts Navy's win total at 8.

I was generally impressed with the preview. SMQ actually did some homework, and didn't rip us (playfully) as much as some of the other teams that have been previewed thus far.

In other news, CFN previewed E. Michigan today, so for all of you advanced scouts, I’d get on that…

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What are the best teams by Conference? ACC

College Football Resource has recently published a list of the Top 5 teams In the BCS conferences. Obviously whenever something of this nature is writen so far before the season their is bound to be some controvery involved, but on the whole I'd have to say CFN got it right. Nevertheless, a further look is in order, to hopefully generate more discussion on the topic. Today we take a look at the ACC:

CFR List

  • Miami
  • Florida State
  • Clemson
  • Virginia Tech
  • Georgia Tech

Pitch Right List

  • Florida State
  • Clemson
  • Miami
  • Virignia Tech
  • Boston College

Florida State came a field goal away from upsetting Penn State last year, and without having to play either Virginia Tech or Boston College in the regular season, have the best shot at winning the ACC. After a good, but sometimes inconsistent freshman year, Drew Weatherford looks poised to become the ACC's top QB. As much as it pains me to give praise to a program that through the years has had more then its fair share of convicts, FSU returns leading wideout Chris Davis and RB Lorenzo Booker to what should be a high powered offense. The real story here may be the Defense, which despite losing 7 starters remains very stout. Clemson, despite losing 40 start veteran Charlie Whitehurst, still has a potent running game and top notch defense, and should really make s splash onto the National scene again this year. After last year's Bowl loss to LSU, Miami looks like it may be on the dowswing, especially with a new offense being put into place. While Miami still has a good shot at winning the ACC, it may very well need this year to rebuild instead of as they say, reload. Boston College is my darkhorse for this league, as another good developing QB In Matt Ryan returns with an offensive line that has logged 74 combined starts. The defense was at times freakish last year, but a weakened defensive line and questions regarding the ability of a new set of recievers will likely keep the team from winning the conference. That 5th spot could be open to a number of teams, and the real quesiton is can any of the Middle ACC teams (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, NCST...) make a push for the championship? The answer could surprise you, as teams are constantly knocking each other off the top positon in this league.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Omar, Bob, and John get more Listeners (hopefully)

The Naval Academy has announced that it has signed a deal with Bonneville Radio to broadcast Football, basketball, and Lacrosse games. Basically, what this means is that Navy games can now be listened to by more audiences in DC and Northern Virginia. Washington Post Radio (1500 AM, 107.7 FM) will carry 10 Navy football games in addition to any postseason action, while Federal news Radio (1050 AM) will carry all 12 regular season games, plus at least 10 basketball games and four lacrosse games. Navy football games can still be heard on WNAV (1430 AM) and my personal favorite WBAL (1090 AM) for those in the Baltimore/DC metro area.

Obviously more radio exposure certainly helps Navy athletics, especially a basketball program that is trying to get on its feat and a lacrosse program which continually ranks up in the Top 10. That being said, I'm not sure that this translates into that many more listeners, as I personally know the choice programs for Northern VA on Saturday afternoon's in the fall are the Virginia and Virginia Tech games. The real plus for us hardcore fans are a weekly "Navy Magazine" show (what exactly does that mean?) and a 60 minute pregame and 30 minute postgame show. Do not fret however, as the Boneville deal includes the extension of the Navy Football Radio network. That's right everybody, it's Bob Soci, Omar Nelson, and John Feinstein once again. Of course, how could we forget so soon after last year's Air Force win the famous pronouncement by the former Navy player Nelson; "If Navy wins the games it favored to win, they have a chance to finish over .500 and quite possibly have a chance at a winning season."
Brad's got nothing on Omar Nelson

I have also been reminded that Navy's CSTV games will be carried online for free again this season, so if your out of town (ala me and Stanford last year) be sure to visit and use that WI-Fi you've been paying for. Additionally, after Orson Swindle's recent interview with Paul Finebaum on his radio show, I'm putting my services out their for any sports show to give me a call.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ballard on Heisman Watch? has released its first group of 100 Heisman Candidates, taking a look at players ranked 81-100 in their likelihood to win college footballs most prestigious award. Navy FB Adam Ballard, who flat out destroyed people last year, was caught at number 95. Here is the writeup:

FB Adam Ballard, Navy: A monster season awaits Ballard, who was a godsend at the end of 2005, steamrolling three bad defenses for 488 yards on just 62 carries in the Middies' three final games. He'll be the first option in an offense that led the nation in rushing last year.

Dude, the man is a friggin' Truck

My thoughts? Well I certainly think Ballard is primed for a big year, maybe in the neighborhood of 1200 yards. His size is unique, and as we saw last year he can absolutely run over people (cue P-Bowl highlights.) He's not terribly fast, although he is faster then Kyle Eckel, adn we all know how revered he has become. Yea, I'd have to say it's ma pretty good pick by CFN. If another Navy player is to appear on the list, it would most likely by LB Rob Caldwell, although I wouldn't hold my breath. CFN has already shown a special liking towards Ballard, naming him the "Best player" on Navy's team in their spring preview. That being said, I'll alert you fine people if another Navy player is to appear. Either way, is basically the best college football site out their right now. With a daily preview (Today was Texas Tech) of all Div-IA teams, you'll be sure to expand your knowledge on teams from the MAC and Sunbelt who you will never see on TV. And from where I'm from, that's a damn good thing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Future Victim: Temple

Part 1 of Our Preseason Opponents Rundown
It’s hard to say something nice about Temple’s Football program, because, well…it sucks (Nothing against the school mind you). That may be the reason I decided to make it the first part of the Season Preview. That being said, The Midshipmen will take the field against the Owls Nov. 18, a year after handing them a 38-17 loss.
Coach: Al Golden (1st year)
Record Last Year: 0-11
Best Player: Sr. S Chris Page
Reason to be scared: God, why don’t I just make something up. Even though the Owls were the worst team In Div-I football last year, they managed to actually be winning at halftime against Navy. The problem? If I remember correctly, it was short out routs to the WR with “the hair,” and an inability of Navy to establish the fullback early, which may be one of Temple’s only strengths. 325 pound NT Terrance Knighton gives new meaning to the old Sir-Mix-A lot Hit with his enormous size upfront and well endowed posterior. Offensivly, Temple returns a fairly experienced line including Elliott Seifert, and the talent of the team is not autrociouse. The development of new skill players could be a risk, and if the Owls can manage to get a QB they have two wideouts in Bruce Francis and Domerio Hamilton who could cause Navy some problems. Then there is always the new staff, lead by 1st year coach Al Golden, as well as the certain fact that Navy will have something to play for when this game roles around, and Temple won’t. Last year's schedule record may be deceiving, as this team played the 11th toughest schedule. Thsi year, as part of the MAC, they are bound to pick up a few wins. Hey that wasn't so hard, now let's remind oursleves that Temple was 0-11 last year.
I like Big Butts and I cannot lie

Reason to Be Happy: Temple sucks. I wish their was some other way I could put that, perhaps more eloquently, but hey it’s the internet. This was a team that had a top point total of 17 for the year. A new 3-4 defense of the Owls should be fun for Navy to run the option against, especially because Temple gave up an average of 45.3 points a game last year. The offense is still extremely unproductive, averaging under 10 points last year, and without a definite QB. Colin Clancy looks like he could get the nod, but has few skill players to work with. Temple may manage to score some points on the Mids defense, but Temple's own defense is in no position to stop the option. A secondary which was last in Division I could help Brian Hampton have a big day in the air, and with this game being platyed so late in the season, the Navy offense should be firing on all 4. Bottom line: How bad is Temple? A Google search manages to bring up more of Aztecs playing soccer then of the actual team. The Aztecs played soccer? My point exactly.
What In God's name are these women cheering for? P=Not bad
Wildcard: Aside from health and how these teams actually perform this year, Temple has a history of having players flunk out of classes (aka academic issues). Expect one of their skill players to be sitting by the time this one roles around.
Do Your Own Scouting Report: If your In the Mid-Atlantic, check out CN 8 on Sunday's.
Honestly, it’s May but Give us a Prediction: My infant godson could have called this one, and he can’t even say “football.” Navy destroyed Temple 45-17.

Blast From the Past: Eric Crouch

My offseason boredom has lead me introduce a new segment to the Blog. Thanks to YouTube and Google Video, watching great college football plays can once again be enjoyed for those of us who only get Cubs coverage on WGN during the day.

Today we look at Eric Crouch, who won the Heisman but never made it past Training Camp in the NFL. After watching this highlight, all we have to do is shake our head and mubble "It was a damn shame, the kid had such...POTENTIAL"

The secret life of Orson Swindle

Orson Swindle of EDSBS has just written perhaps the funnies things I've ever read on the internet. A tale of intrigue, Cold-War espionage, and the secret life of one of College Football's premier personalities, Swindle details his time working in the shadows of the government, tracking down an elusive and dangerous enemy. Check it out.

Seal envy? Screw that dude, We got Orson Envy

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Karlos off the Team?

There is a report on the Message Board that last years Freshmen sensation Karlos Whittaker "was dismissed from team on Monday for unspecified violation of team rules."

Obviously this situation has yet to be reported by the Naval Academy Athletic Department, but the news came as Coach Johnson was speaking to the Greater Washington Chapter of USNA Alumni Association.

Last year, Whittaker ran for a Freshman record 5 TDs before tearing his ACL against Notre Dame. More information pending...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Pitch Right Wants Your Help!

Lately I haven't been able to write as much commentary on the upcoming season as I would like too, and it's come to my attention that I could use a little help around here. That's why I'm putting this out...

Are you a Navy football fan? Are you a college football fan? Want to write for one of the CF blogspheres most up-and-coming Blogs on a weekly or monthly basis? If so, please send me and email or leave a comment with your own Email address.

I'm looking for anyone really, a casual fan, a serious fan, an Insider (yea I wish)...Hell I don't even care if your really a Navy fan. It would be cool if you had at least some writing experience, but a basic understanding of English is all that's required. Anyways, if someone is really interested let me know...

That being said, here is a tentative schedule for the coming weeks...
21-27: Same old show, whatever comes up will be reported, starting to collect scouting reports on other teams.
28-3: Begin with a team by team breakdown of the bad guy (opposing teams)
4-10: Same old same old
11-17: Start Game by Game Pre-Season Preview

In addition, as the only Navy blogger online, I will be lending my services to other Blogs as a scouting report, including our friend at The House That Rock Built. If your team is playing Navy next year and you own a blog for said team, I'd be happy to provide whatever info you may want to gather.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Navy Football at Camden Yards has announced that a special Navy Football booth will be set up at Orioles Park at Camden Yards, sponsored by the Naval Academy Athletic Association. The booth will be set up In front of the warehouse on Eutaw Street during the following games: May 17 vs. Boston, June 23-25 vs. Washington and August 19 vs. Toronto.

In addition Co-Captain James Rossi and fellow Senior offensive Linemen Joe Person will be at the booth on May 17th to sign autographs. The site also says players will be at the booth on future dates to sign autographs and talk with the fans.

Let us hope that what will be 8 consecutive losing season for the Orioles has no effect whatsoever on this year's Navy team.

James Rossi: Orioles fan extrodinare?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Caldwell, Rossie Named Captains

A belated Congradulations to Senior Linebacker Rob Caldwell and Senior Center James Rossi on being named Captains for the 2006 Football Season.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006 Preview, the world's leader in overhyped big name schools, has released its Spring Preview of the I-A Independent Programs for Football. Navy, of course, is on there, and ESPN actually had some nice things to say without mentioning our "horrible schedule." Here is what the "experts" felt so inclined to tell the greater public:

Spring answers: QB Brian Hampton was anointed the starter before the spring and only strengthened his hold on the job during the spring. While not as quick as his predecessor, Lamar Owens, the senior is strong and hard to bring down. Keep in mind, this isn't completely new stuff to Hampton. He's been groomed for this moment for the last three years. In 2005 he threw a TD pass at Notre Dame, came in during a key situation against Maryland and led a fourth-quarter scoring drive in a tight contest with Stanford. The Middies aren't worried about the quarterback position. … The injury bug bit throughout the four-week camp. Although nearly all were non-major injuries, there were still a whopping 22 players knocked out of the spring game alone. So it was tough to gather many answers on the competitive front, but there was depth-chart movement on the defensive side. At nose guard, senior David Wright grabbed the position away from Larry Cylc. At left end, senior Tye Adams survived an early injury and then made a late push to topple Andrew Tattersall. And at inside linebacker, sophomore Clint Sovie beat out senior Joe Cylc with his speed and aggressiveness. Sovie will occupy the spot vacated by Jake Biles, in what should continue to be a tremendous linebacking corps. … Under the guidance of continually underrated coach Paul Johnson, Navy lost 17 starters last year and still went to -- and won -- a bowl game. The team loses just six starters this time around. We're not into predictions, but this one doesn't seem too hard to figure out.

Fall questions: Not a lot of starters are missing, so there aren't a lot of overriding questions. There is, however, a tight -- and important -- competition going on for the No. 2 spot at QB. Johnson doesn't mind throwing in the backup to occasionally mix things up. Right now, it's a spirited duel between junior Troy Goss and freshman Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, an intriguing prospect with 4.4 speed. It's been whispered the Hawaiian might be utilized some at wide receiver. … Another competition to watch is the one at right tackle, where sophomore Andrew McGinn emerged from camp as the starter over senior Joe Person, who sat out the spring recovering from surgery. Once healthy, Person will be back on equal footing. … While neither took part in spring drills, everything seems to be progressing well with the recoveries of slot back Karlos Whittaker and FB Matt Hall. But you just never know how a player responds to an ACL tear until you see him in game action. No doubt, Navy is eagerly awaiting that day. If those two are back in the fold and showing no ill effects, there's no reason the Midshipmen can't finish in the nation's top 3 in rushing for the fifth straight year. Remember Adam Ballard in Hall's absence? All he did was rush for a school-record 488 yards in a three-game span. Remember Whittaker before he went down late in the season? He was the freshman sensation who was an honest-to-goodness threat to score just about every time he touched the ball, including on kickoffs. It's been many, many years since the Middies boasted a player like that. … One of the few places that isn't set is punter, where Eric Shuey left a vacancy. Greg Veteto might be a slight favorite, but it's fairly wide open.

Overall, a fairly favorable assessment by the big guys up at ESPN. While one has to question if these assessments come off actually watching film, or if say from, they nevertheless show the general picture we have seen all off-season. One thing this preview does is silence the idea that Navy players are somehow below the athletic level of other mid major programs. Kaipo has obviously gotten a lot of attention because of his speed and ability, and frankly I think ESPN was wowed when it saw Ballard carry CSU defenders on his back. It has been interesting, for a while now has been full of chatter between Navy and ECU fans, with ECU fans contending that they are going to take down Navy and establish themselves as what one would assume as the Conf.-USA champs. At least from a national perspective, I think Navy is expected to go 9-2 or 10-2, and really assert themselves as a power against the weaker conferences. It'll be interesting to see, and I think overall the program is being viewed more and more favorably by the Big Names in sports.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Does the Window Even Exist?

Note: This Is part 1 of our preseason preview...

42 Years...


Where does one start? How can one even begin to comprehend 42 straight loses? Considering my life span is roughly only half that number, I sure can't. Although considering I watched my beloved NFL team, The Bills, lose 4 straight Super Bowls (granted I only understood the situation for one of those times) maybe I can. Either way, the advent of yet another football season is around the corner, and for our beloved Navy Midshipmen that means another year of losing to Notre Dame.

Or does it?

In the movie Little Giants, Coach Danny O'Shea (Rick Maranis) tells his group of awkwardly-placed pee wee football players that every day when he was a kid, he and his older brother (Ed O'Neil) would race their bikes down Cherry Hill Lane. And every day his big brother would beat him, I mean just flat-out leave poor little old Danny O'Shea in the dust. Until one time. Just one time, little danny boy beat big Kevin. .. I suspect that this is how the streak will be broken. The laws of Any Given Sunday/Saturday are universal and fundamental, but how long can they be stretched? Does Navy have a realistic or even a semi-realistic chance at defeating Notre Dame anytime soon? Or is every year just another shot in the dark, a vain hope that the planets align or the entire Notre Dame team comes down with an extremely bad case of Gastro-Esophogeal Reflux Disease.

Let's consider the disposition of the two teams in question...

2005 Record: 8-4
Wins Over Final AP Top 25: 0
2006 Returning Starters: 18
Final AP/Coaches Rank: 30/30 Final Rank: 58

Last season Navy wasn't suppose to go 8-4 and win a Bowl. It was thought that Paul Johnsons program would need a year or two to rebuild after two winning seasons. However, Navy showed that it's Triple Option attack could function just fine with a group of young, often inexperienced players. This year, Navy returns 18 starters and the nucleus of what was the leading rushing team in the country. Defensively, Navy has been working to correct what at times was a very poor defense, and a veteran group of Linebackers should lead a defense which is fundamentally sound.

Notre Dame
2005 Record: 9-3
Wins Over Final AP Top 25: 0
2006 Returning Starters: 17 (3 All Americans)
Final AP/Coaches Rank: 9/11 Final Rank: 18

Under first year Head coach Charlie Weis, the Irish asserted themselves on the National Level last year and garnered an trip to the Fiesta Bowl. This year the Big Offensive three are back, as Quinn, Samardzija, and Walker will lead what may be one of the best offenses in college football. Defensively the team is rebuilding, but a new and explosive talent level is finding it's way into South Bend.

This Year's Preseaon Outlook: Last year Brady Quinn and the Irish air assault were able to accumulate 284 yards and 4 TDs against a Navy secondary which struggled for a good part of the year. The Irish return both Quinn and leading WR Jeff "the Shark" Samardzija, but lose WR Maurice Stovall (3 TDs in last years game) to the NFL. If WR Rhema McKnight becomes a viable secondary target for Quinn (and preseason indications are that he will) then the Navy secondary, while improved, will have its hands full against what may be one of the top offenses in the country. More bad news for the Mids defense as Notre Dame returns Jr. tailback Darius Walker. For those who watched the game last year, one of the most striking problems was the inability of Navy's defense to stop Walker and get penetration on the Irish O-Line. The Navy D-Line should be improved over last years, but not yet up to the task of taking on a nationally acclaimed Irish O-Line (even though reletivly untested). Offensives, Navy was able to move the ball last year against the Irish but fell short with turnovers. Speed and Size were also a problem, as the Navy line was unable to finish their blocks at times to stop the Irish Linebackers. A more experienced Navy Offensive line and a faster backfield may actually swing the running game in Navy's favor, but to do so the Midshipmen would have to play a flawless game. Overall, if Navy is to have any shot at taking down the Giant next year, they will have to play a near perfect game and the Irish will have to be off. Both teams are built around a solid core of Juniors and Seniors, but the talent level and ability of Notre Dame to literally send cruisers missiles through our secondary should lead to a Notre dame win. It's far to early to guess a score, but just for yucks the Irish take this one 45-28.

Navy fans should not despair though. We all know the Irish have a legit shot at making a run at the National Championship next season, and hanging around with them-even for a half-should be considered a strong indicator of what our team is capable of. Things however, really start to get interesting in 2007...

Consider that Quinn will be gone, so will Samardzija, and so will Defensive nightmare Tom Zibokowski. What if by chance, Walker were to leave early for the NFL? What if the new group of Irish superstars (Yes you Jimmy Clausen and friends) need a year to adjust to the big time? Would Navy have a shot at Notre Dame? To try to decipher this question, I enlisted the help of the Brian from The House that Rock Built. My question was simple: Does the window exist in 2007, and how long will it last? This is what he had to say...

"To answer your question, then, I think 2007 is Navy's best shot at an upset, because it certainly won't get any easier after that. The inexperience on defense bodes well for Navy, since it takes a lot of discipline and awareness to defend the triple option. With the young group out there, a bad decision or missed tackle can prove very costly against that scheme. ND will be breaking in new offensive and defensive lines, so the inexperience could be exploited. The game will be played right after the USC game, which should be a physically and emotionally draining ordeal. However, ND does have a bye week before the Navy game, which should give them some time to recuperate. [However], the advantage that Navy has enjoyed in terms of coaching,preparation, and motivation during the previous two coaching staffs at Notre Dame has been greatly reduced with the addition of a, you know,competent coaching staff."

Brain was gracious enough to lend even more analysis to Notre Dame's positional needs in relation to the 2007 and 2008 seasons. While Notre Dame should get good play out of now backup QBs Evan Sharpley and Zach Fraiser in the coming years (and of course, Jimmy Clausen) and get superb play from the RB position (I have been assured Walker is committed for a 4th year, and Freshman James Aldridge is of incredibly talent), The Irish face an impending O-Line crisis. "These positions are going to be ravaged by graduation and lackluster recruiting under Willingham. C John Sullivan(5th year) and whoever wins the battle this offseason for the RT position will be the only starters returning on the line. The other three spots will be filled by one of the six recruits we landed this year (so, guys that won't even step on campus until this fall), in what thankfully was one of the greatest OL recruiting classes in a longtime. Suffice to say, there are some very talented and physically imposing players, but they will all be sophomores with very little experience."

As far as defense goes, the Irish are starting Fresh with a new Linebacker core this year, and a "lackluster" D-Line. The impression I got from Brian was that Whillingham failed to recruit at the non-skill player positions, and the Irish are really going to feel that failure this and next year.

So, how will Navy respond? Even with great Senior leadership this year, we have a number of players in the making who could become key contributors for the 2007 season. Fullback Adam ballard could, (and I think will) develop into an Eckel or better type fullback by his Senior ('07) season. Reggie Campbell and Karlos Whittaker would most likely be the starting SB, both of whom have brought a new wave of athletic ability to the Academy. Looking ahead, either Jarrod Byant (aka Mr. Football), Troy Goss, or Kaipo would take over at QB. All of these young men have terrific athletic ability and are only getting better with more time under their belts. Defensively a good group of Linebackers (Sovie, Lisante in the lead) could step up to leave the void left by the '06 class. A talented group of receivers and corners also looks to develop, and this isn't even mentioning the NAPS and recruit were expected to be getting. Consider the 2006 Recruiting class for this Navy team. Across the board their was a general increase in speed, streagth, and perhaps most dangerously to other teams, size. Consider individuals like OL Dave Brown (6-3, 275 originally, commit to NM) or C Ryan Burke (6-3, 280, #4 center in the country). On defense a group that could include DT Andy Lark (480 bench as a Jr. In High School), Ian Meredith (6-3, 225) and Bayard Roberts could usher in a new wave of Navy players who combine a higher degree of speed and size then the current team. In analyzing the future Navy teams, especially of 2007, one must consider that this team is constantly getting better.

So. SB Karlos Whittaker could be a key contributer In 2007

Conclusion: Notre Dame, while a BCS contender, could be severely weakened in 2007 if the incoming Freshmen classes of this and next year do not pan out positively. Their are serious questions about the ability of the Irish to put together a good Defensive and Offensive Line, and the graduation of the current All Americans could leave the Irish open for an upset. However, the Irish are building what may become the best talent pool in the nation, and the opportunity to beat the Irish may only come in the developmental stage of that talent. Navy, on the other hand, is steadily improving but still yearning to prove it can play with College Football elite. Perhaps after this year, we will know where this team really stands, and can venture a more perfect guess at 2007, which may be the last window of opportunity this team gets at taking down Notre Dame in a long time.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Let the Prediciton's Begin! has posted an incredibly early look into each game next year, predicting that the 2006 Navy Football team will end up with a 9-3 record. Pitch Right's own incredibly early game by game prediction won't come until another week, but In the meantime a closer inspection of the GoMids selections is in order...

  • GoMids has Navy beating East Carolina 28-17 In the first game of the year. No problem with the pick, I think Navy's experience and execution should trump ECU's defense, but I question the ability of our own defense to hold ECU to 17 points. ECU could very well be one of the top air-attack teams next year (granted against weak conference-USA defenses'), and our own defense still looks to be vulnerable in the secondary. Hopefully, ECU will continue their inability to to translate offensive success into points. Look for ECU to make a Bowl this year, and for Navy to squeak this one out.
  • Navy will absolutely destroy UMASS.
  • Stanford, Rutgers, and Tulsa. If Navy can pull out 2 of these games, we've really proved our place in the 30-50 range of NCAA teams. Rutgers may very well be this groups best team, but I see Navy turning up the intensity to win one at Home over the Scarlet Knights. I can't see Navy upending a VERY underrated Tulsa squad, but I think the team has a good shot to spoil Stanford's Home Opener.
  • Navy will get pounded by Notre dame as usual, but look towards 2007 as a window of (slight) opportunity.
  • UCONN, Air Force, WMU, Temple-Navy will drop one of these games, don't hold me to that, but both UCONN and Air Force look to be resurgent Mid-Major programs next year.

That's all for now, once again a greater preview next week so be sure to check back!

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Tim Dwight Effect

Disclaimer: Because of PC, don't blame the Navy for any of the following.

Every once and a while, there comes a player out of NCAA football who just makes you say "Holy Shit did he just do that."

Back in the Mid 90s, Iowa WR/RS Tim Dwight wowed fans across the country with his ability to make superhuman on the field moves and seemingly imitate Sonic the Hedgehog as he flashed passed defenders.

Tim Dwight wowed us. So did alot of other people. What made him so special? Well, quite simply, Dwight had sick-mad white guy speed. Here was a guy coming out of a college program that (to outsiders) represented a state in which cows outnumbered people. And although it wasn't PC to say it, Tim Dwight was the fastest white mutha we had ever seen step onto a football field.

Dwight did alright in the NFL, where he still plays today and is considered a dangerous return man. Another dangerous return man along the same lines as Dwight may just have been drafted the other day. Jeremy Bloom, the former skier and abercrombie and fitch (filth) went in the 5th round to the Eagles. Bloom, as you recall, was an outstanding RS for Colorado until the NCAA booted him out for his skiing endorsements. Already, Eagles fans are proclaiming Bloom the "Key" to their remarkably successfully draft. Bloom, who is 5-9, 173, runs the 40 in 4.39 (interestingly enough, the time is about the same as the much larger AJ Hawk) made some amazing kick returns during his time at Colorado.

While he has much to prove, Jeremy Bloom looks like he could use his amazingly sick-mad white guy speed to become a playmaker in the NFL. If nothing else, he reminded me of a player who could do some pretty amazing things on the field.

Admit it, You wish you could be Tim Dwight too