Friday, June 30, 2006
Before we get into the major analysis of Navy's chances, I'd like to qualify my position regarding this question as far as the other teams that have been mentioned. Like many, I believe that Utah and TCU have the best chance at finishing in the Top 16 and having the opportunity. If what Utah did to Georgia Tech in the Emerald Bowl last year (38-10 win) is any indication of what this team is capable of, I give them a decent shot at pulling a big upset at UCLA (week 1). From there the only test the Utes will face will likely come from TCU. The Horned Frogs get Texas Tech at home, but have to face Utah and in-state rival Baylor on the road. If not for the debacle at SMU last year, TCU would have been playing in the BCS. These teams played a close one last year (TCU over Utah 23-20 in OT), and I fully expect the Oct. 5th matchup in Utah to have BCS ramifications. I admit I was surprised to see UTEP on T. Kyle King's list of possible "B.C.S Busters." UTEP is certainly one of the best none-BCS teams in the country, but I personally think it may be a little overrated (as is Boise State and to an extend Navy, which I will get to later). Jordan Palmer gets a lot of hype (and rightfully so), but still makes too many mistakes (19 ints last year). They stumbled into the end of the season (a trend), losing against a mediocre UAB and SMU team. They have to face off against Texas Tech early in the season, and aren’t likely to win two back-to-back road games against CUSA heavyweights Houston and Tulsa. Tulsa has the most favorable schedule of the group, but will have to get by at Navy and at BYU to have any chance. Yet I wouldn’t discount the Golden Hurricane. Paul Smith is one of the most underrated QBs in the game, and the team adds on Oklahoma transfer Courtney Tennial at RB. Combine that with what looks to be one of the best Non-BCS caliber defenses, and I expect Tulsa to make some national noise.
Now, for the Navy side of all this...
I thought that Block U did a fantastic job of outlining the process for a non-BCS team to "bust" the system and play in the early January games. The Utah oriented site set up 4 distinctive "needs" for a program such as Utah, Navy, Boise St. etc... to crack the BCS system. Those four "needs" were Preseason Hype, A Big Upset, Dominance during the regular season, and a Brilliant Coach who can steel national attention. These categories were based off the 2004 Utah system, and I will do my best to outline how Navy meets or does not meet the criteria.
Preseason Hype: It's completely relative if you ask me. For Navy fans, the hype has never been bigger. Phil Steele put us at 30th in the country, while Athlon placed our preseason ranking at 42nd. Now, this isn't the rank you'd see for Utah (Steele has the Utes at 23rd), but it is ahead of Fresno St, Tulsa, and UTEP (at 37, 41, and 42, according to Steele). With 18 returning starters back from a team that went 8-4, it would seem as though expectations are very high, especially considering how young last year's team was. To add to that notion, the only game many people (ie. not Navy fans) saw last year was the 51-30 shellacking of Colorado State in the Poinsettia Bowl (P-Bowl for the Navy crowd). The names Adam Ballard and Reggie Campbell and Rob Caldwell now have a certain meaning to them. Ballard, at 6'1 and 240 lbs, is a bruising back who is almost impossible to tackle man to man. Campbell, at only 5-6, is a speedster who defenders simply can't find or catch. And Caldwell, with his USMC emblem and 140 tackles, is just a friggin’ ball hawk. All of this lends to hype, both from a national and local (talking 'bout the Navy fans here) perspective. Now, is this hype warranted? Some argue it is, some argue it isn't. I personally feel that this team could just as easily go 6-6 as 11-1, and the feeling by some Navy fans is that some National media people who don't pay real close attention are discounting the strength of Navy's schedule, and putting too much pressure on the program. All that being said, Navy will not be starting in the Preseason Top 25. Starting in that 20-25 range (as TCU and Utah should) gives a Non-BCS team with an o.k./weak schedule the opportunity to slowly but surely move up in the polls and end up in that 12-18 area, which would be the place to be if one were going to "Bust" the system.
The Upset: This is going to be a critical component for Navy if it wants to achieve BCS recognition. The only team Navy will play this year that will start off in the Preseason Top 25 (and Top 10 and maybe even Top 5 for that matter) will be Notre Dame. While Rutgers, Stanford, and Tulsa have the ability to hover between that 20-40 rank range, and UCONN, ECU, and even Air Force have shots at Bowl berths, Navy would need a huge win against a highly ranked team to solidify a Top 16 position. This is a tough schedule for Navy, the toughest in the PJ era, but it’s one that is designed to allow this team to break into the Top 25, not the Top 16. Of course, if Navy beats Notre Dame (who stays in the Top 25) and manages to go undefeated or possibly even lose one along the way (provided it is to a Bowl team) then the Midshipmen have a decent case to bring to the BCS people. Unfortunately, if Navy loses to Notre Dame and to Notre Dame only (thus going 11-1), I still don’t see the Mids getting a decent shot. I think people will point out the Duke, E. Mich, and Temple games as examples of easy scheduling, and the BCS committee would be more inclined to put a TCU or Utah in the game. If any two of the combination of Rutgers, Stanford, or Tulsa (or anyone else for that matter) does end up finishing in the Top 25, and Navy loses to Notre Dame, I suppose the case could be made for the Mids, especially with our appeal. If you’re so inclined to look at the matchup between Navy and Notre Dame in 2006, I’d highly suggest reading a joint collaboration between myself and The House that Rock Built. Bottom line, I don’t think Navy beats Notre Dame this year, and will probably come up short as far as the BCS picture goes.
Dominance: To be perfectly honest, dominance is a lot like Hype in that it varies from different perspectives. Certainly a good part of dominance is reflected on the score, but without watching each game it can sometimes become hard to judge by the score alone. When I look at dominance, I like to look at things like yards per game and turnover ratio, both of which help to provide a clearer picture of exactly how the game was played. All that being said, Navy may have a tough time being dominant this season. As I've alluded to, I think Navy is playing an underappreciated schedule. When you look at it you can see 7 teams that could very well be vying for a winning seasons and Bowl berths (ND, Rutgers, Stanford, Tulsa, UCONN, ECU, AF). Despite being bad teams (caused in no small part to incredibly difficult schedules), Duke and Temple have talented players, and Army is improving (to the point where some are talking Bowl). While the Mids will likely win the majority of these games, I don't think we're going to see the kind of blowouts we saw last year with Rice and Tulane. Then again, after the 51-30 dismantling of Colorado State's defense, maybe we will. There is no question this team can score, but the defense hasn't proven it can hold a winning team's offense to minimal points. The question then becomes what teams do you have to dominate to be considered for the BCS? Notre Dame dominated some bad teams last year and still got the BCS nod, which leads me to think that this category may be a little overrated when you’re dealing with a prestigious school with large scale appeal. If you don’t like that, get over it, I don’t know what to tell ya.
Coach: Block U saw Urban Meyer's appeal and coaching ability as a huge reason for their 2004 BCS season. Likewise, if the Mids have one secret weapon, it's Head Coach Paul Johnson. For you out of site visitors, Johnson is 26-11 over the past 3 seasons, and has orchestrated a rushing attack that was 1st in the country in 2003, 3rd in 2004, and 1st in 2005. His flexbone, spread style option attack is not only incredibly fun to watch, it's also incredibly difficult to defend. While Urban used his relative youth and intelligence to garner national attention, PJ could likewise use his hardnosed, always-wanting-more attitude to really make a national splash (not to mention that lovely Georgia accent).
Bottom Line: Navy doesn’t have much of a BCS case in terms of the preseason. This team has shown in can destroy good/decent non-BCS teams (CSU), and contend with Middle of the Road BCS teams (MD and Stanford). I fully expect Navy to be much improved this year, and be able to win those close games it couldn’t last year. However, as usual, Notre Dame remains a serious obstacle. While there is a possibility of building a good case for Navy in the BCS even with an ND loses, it would require Navy to lose no more then one other game. Yet with teams like Stanford, Tulsa, Rutgers, UCONN, and even ECU, Army, and Air Force, such a feat is easier said then done. If one thing is for sure, the Mids will be competitive in each and every game this year, largely because of the system but also because of the 100% that each player gives. With that kind of energy, I don’t think, however unlikely, that you can count the 2006 Navy Midshipmen out of anything.
Well, in the words of Forest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.” I’d like to extend my thanks to Dawg Sports (which will now be on the sidebar link) and Block U for getting this conversation going. As I said on Dawg Sports, the conversation is a good deal more interesting then making a Top 10 list, at least in my mind. Hopefully we will be able to reexamine this question at Midseason and at the end of this season, and good luck to all the teams I mentioned here.
If your interested in learning more about these recruits and discussing what this means, I would recommend heading over to the GoMids.com message board. There you will see a list of PS numbers I have posted to go along with the recruits. Hopefully my busy schedule won't keep me away from the subject too long, and I'll be able to say a few more words on this next week.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Me: Navy has posted three consecutive winning seasons, with two straight bowl wins over New Mexico and Colorado State. With 18 returning starters back and the best recruiting class of the academies, do you believe the Midshipmen have a chance to cement themselves as a Top 25 team and go on a run like Air Force did in the '80s and '90s?
Stewart: As you probably noticed earlier, I have a lot of respect for what Paul Johnson has accomplished at Navy. There's no overstating just how far down that program was in the previous decade, and the fact that the Midshipmen are now enjoying annual bowl trips is astounding. To engender the kind of respect you're hoping for, however, the academy would need to substantially upgrade the quality of its competition. The vast majority of Navy's wins the past few years have come against the likes of Rice, Tulane and Temple. In fact, the only BCS-conference foes the Midshipmen have defeated in the last three seasons are Duke, Vanderbilt and Rutgers. So I'd temper the expectations a little. I think Navy fans should be very happy right now with a program that's winning eight games a year and going to bowl games but isn't necessarily going to be regarded as a national power anytime soon.
Stewart is right on the scheduling deal, but I think he failed to use any foresight with regard to my actual question. If he would have analyzed the 2006 schedule and maybe the recruiting swing in our favor, he could have given me and answer to whether or not the team would "have a chance to cement themselves as a Top 25 team and go on a run like Air Force did in the '80s and '90s?" Did I ask him if we were going to be a "National Power?" Uh, no...
Nevertheless, still feels good to get some love for the Mids from SI.com.
Monday, June 26, 2006
As we near I-Day (June 28th), when the Service Academies release their recruiting lists for 2006, I thought it would be worthwhile and examine the relative position of past (and present) Navy recruits with regard to the rest of the nation. It all starts with The Phil Steele Positional Recruiting Rankings. These "PS numbers" are an average of several recruiting services' rating for a prospective recruit at a certain position (they are based on a complicated points system I'm not even going to try to figure out.) Phil likes to use these when talking about VHTs (very highly touted players) and HTs (highly touted players). A VHT is a player in the Top 20 of his position (generally, there are exceptions, including Top 60 for DBs and DL, Top 100 for OL, and Top 50 for LBs.) A HT usually includes players in the Top 50 at their position (Top 100 QBs, Top 150 for WR and RBs, top 200 for LBs, 250 DBs and DL, 250 OL). For my purposes, any player in the 50 slots below a HT will be referred to as NHT (Near Highly Touted, or in other words, solid). Alright, enough of the explanation, let's take a look at the player's Phil has made a note of on Navy's 2006 roster.
Bryant: Not rated as QB, listed as 239 DB (HT)
Ballard: Not rated as RB, listed as 376 DL (!).
Kettani: Not rated as RB, listed at 272 LB.
McCoy: 178 (NHT)
Campbell: 160 (NHT)
Martin: Not rated as RB, listed as 233 QB.
Washington: No WR rating, listed as 414 RB.
Coffey: Not WR rating, listed as 214 QB
Gabbard: 162 (HT)
McGinn: Not rated as OL, listed as 340 LB
Griffith: 264 (NHT)
Cycl, Larry: 142 (HT, scholorship offer to BC)
Lisante: Listed as 173 DE (Highly ass touted, offer to Louisville)
Spencer: 144 (HT)
Cylc, Joe: 467
Alvarado: 198 (HT)
Little: 169 (HT, offers to ACC schools, Wake, etc..)
McGown: No DB rating, listed as 460 QB)
Sudderth: No Db rating, lised as 88 LB (what the hell, give him a almost very highly touted)
Note that a lot of the people rated are backups (actually a fair amount are 3rd team). If anyone has a copy of Phil Steele 2005 or 2004 Preview, I'd love to be able to see the Navy PS's for Newcomers and backups (who are the starters now). A scanned copy (or written) will earn you major points on your Pitch Right I Owe You Card.
Anyways, what does all this mean? Well if nothing else it should give you an idea at the depth that Navy has. For God's sake, the team has 3 HT Linebackers behind a talented group in Mahoney, Caldwell, Sovie, and Tidwell. At first glance, you can see that there are 8 HT players on the roster, one of those being Greg Sudderth, who at #88, fits between that VHT and HT class. Remember, this isn't even accounting for our starters! Reggie Campbell was at 160, ten slots from a HT classification, which probably has something to do with his 5'6 height. Don't overlook the HT Larry Clyc, who was offered a scholarship to BC, or the HT Keenan Little, who had several offers prior to coming to Navy.
Part 2 and 3 of this preview/review will come out later this week. I hope to evaluate the players Navy is bringing in as part of the 2006 High School class, and for Part 3 intend to take a roster from a comparable team and size it up against Navy's.
I was able to (briefly) say "'Sup" and shake the hands of Rob Caldwell, Brian Hampton, and Zach Gallion on Saturday during the Orioles game against the Nationals at Camden Yards. They all seemed like fine young men (I heard a lot of people comment about Rob's USMC insignia) and seemed interested that I brought my 2005 Army-Navy program for them to sign. It seemed like mostly younger kids were digging the autograph part (which is perfectly fine in my book), but it did disappoint me when the two assholes behind me said they could take Zach, who they referred to as a "Fat F***." The two idiots also said something along the lines of why can't they get Maryland players to do a booth. Mr. A reminds the citizens of Baltimore that most of Maryland’s player's flunked basket weaving last year and have to take summer school, which most likely lead to their absence. Anyways, just to see if Rob knew how good he really was, I said something along the lines of "so you were what, 10th or 11th in tackles last year." He smiled and simply said "tenth." Damn this team is going to kick East Carolina's ass.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
The first is Burnt Orange Nation, the premier Texas Football blog on the 'net. While I'm really not a fan of Texas, I like the daily YouTube finds and I like the fact that they get interviews with some of the big whigs (for instance, ESPN.com’s Ivan Miesel.)
I've also decided to link the MgoBlog, which is the biggest Michigan blog around. Surprisingly, a view of the blog doesn't display much about Michigan at the present, consisting mostly of NHL and World Cup News. These guys really are into the World Cup thing (me? not so much...), and got my attention when, after the USA's tie to Italy, proclaimed that we should "bomb them [Uruguay] into the stone age." (The referee who screwed the US over was from Uruguay). These guys also run the Blog Poll, which I hope to be apart of next season. That’s right, Notre Dame at #1 every week and Navy starting at #25 and moving up with every win. Oh yea...
The third blog I'm going to be adding is the brand spanking new Block U. Because Pitch Right didn't carry any links to MWC blogs I thought I should add these Orson Swindle Wannabe's (aren’t we all) to the list.
I have also added a link to PhatPhelix's Navy Football videos (on Youtube) to the linkbar under "Navy Sites."
If you have a college football blog you think should be my links go ahead and send me the link and I'll put it right on. I only ask that you do the same and link Pitch Right on your own blog. And don't forget that there is a standing call to arms for anyone interested in helping out Pitch Right in any capacity, be it writing, researching, or analyzing any aspect of the college game. You don't even have to be a Navy fan.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
The Irish will start the 5-10 Jr. Darius Walker at running back again this year after coming off a stellar (but overlooked) season in which he ran for 1196 yards(4.7 avg). Walker has deceptive speed and excellent vision, and is probably best known for his patience and ability to make cuts. He's a competent receiver out of the backfield with the ability to break tackles and make people miss. He is listed on many a preseason preview's Top 15 list for Running Backs (PS 11). In addition to Walker, the Irish running game will receive a huge boost with the addition of the very highly touted James Aldridge this fall. The Chicago native was enrolled in the spring, and is thought to be one of the best RBs out of High School. The powerful Travis Thomas rounds out the group, who rushed for 266 yards and 5 TDs last season. So. fullback Asaph Schwapp (6'0, 250, PS Fullback 15) is a quality blocker, and the extent of the Notre Dame passing attack should allow the Irish to rush fairly easily on Navy's (improved) rush defense. This is a group with a lot of talent and decent experience, and together with an experienced offensive line ranks near the top of the NCAA.
Brian Leonard and Raymell Rice combine to form what is one of the best one-two punches in the country. Simply put, Brian Leonard (PS Fullback 1)is something of an athletic freak (Go 45 seconds in and try not to gawk). He's big (6'2, 235), fast (4.6 40 time), and just plain hard to tackle. Leonard is arguably one of the premier all-purpose backs in the game. He rushed for 768 yards and 11 TDs last year, and added 55 receptions for over 500 yards and 6 TDs. While defenders will certainly have problems bringing the bruising fullback down, they will also have to contend with So. speedster Ray Rice (PS 47). Rice became only the second RB in Rutgers history to top 1000 yards with his 1120 yard (5.7 avg) performance in '05. Together these two give new meaning to the old phrase, "One-Two punch."
The Huskies top two backs return from last year, including Sr. Terry Caulley. Caulley was well on his way towards possibly becoming one the NCAA All-Time leading rushers before he tore his ACL In '03. Don't believe me? In 2002 as a freshman, Caulley ran for 1,247 yards and 16 TDs, and as a Sophomore ran for 601 yards after 4 games before the injury occurred. A true speedster (4.3 40 before ACL tear). Caullye redshirted in '04, and rushed for 710 yards last season. Although he still struggled with the effects of his injury last year, the Connecticut RB looked back to original form this past Spring. Behind him sits power back and Sophomore Lou Allen (381 yards, 4.4 avg) and converted DB Donald Brown. Keep in mind QB D.J. Hernandez is also a prolific athlete who is not afraid to run with the ball. I'm going out on a limb by ranking the Huskies so high, but if Caulley can't return to form as expected, the threat of the Huskie rushing attack severely diminishes and makes Navy's defensive gameplan a bit easier.
Although the Golden Hurricane lose their top rusher in Uri Parrish, they look to return one of the best backfields in Conference-USA. Courtney Tennial was very highly touted coming out of High School, and good enough to receive a scholarship from Oklahoma. Unfortunately, so was this dude named Adrain Peterson. The rest may be history, but for Tennial it meant a transfer to Tulsa and the opportunity to start this year. While completely untested, Tennial will be joined by an experienced group featuring So. Tarrion Adams, who rushed for 606 yards with a whopping 6.4. avg last year. Behind him stands Sr. Brandon Diles, who in 3 years of work has amassed over 100 yards, and Cauvey Jackson (252 yards LY). This one was tough to call, and could probably be placed below Air Force, but with the VHT Tennial and the experience behind him, Tulsa should be able to provide the Navy defense with a challenge.
Because of the nature of Air Force's option offense, the Falcons find themselves 5th in my rankings. Last year's unit was very inexperienced and suffered several key injuries, thereby limiting the team’s effectiveness. Like at Navy, the FB will get the majority of the carries at AF, while the QB likewise figures to be near the team lead in rushing. I Have already discussed Shaun Carney's rushing ability in my QB preview, and while it's nothing special (As Phat pointed out) it nevertheless is competent (Carney ran for 832 yards last year with 11 TDs). Air Force's FB figures to be the Senior Jason Kendrick. He's slightly smaller then Adam Ballard but nevertheless is a good runner who put up 537 yards and 6 TDs before injuries slowed him down. Ryan Williams is a reliable backup at FB. Speedy Justin Handley and Chad Hall will be your Slotbacks, yet seemed to be all but forgotten at the end of last year. While none of the players in Air Force's backfield will particularly scare anyone, the loss of the teams 2 top receivers should spur Coach DeBerry to commit more to the run in '06. Fortunately, Navy practices against the same option on a weekly basis, and should be able to limit Air Force's ability to score.
No love for the pirates you say? While I might think their fans a bit annoying, East Carolina is ranked at 6th because their offense leans much more towards the pass then the run. That being said they have a number of very talented players at the RB position, and should not be taken for granted. Jr. Chris Johnson is the starting RB, and compiled 761 yards a 6 TDs for the pirates last year. Behind him is speedster (4.3 40) Brandon Fractious and Dominique Lindsay (210 yards LY). Added to the mix is highly touted Freshman Norman Whitley, and converted QB Kort Shankwieler. It's a good mix of experience and talent that should keep the Navy defense honest if it leans towards the pass. (If you think east Carolina is all talk , check out this little animation...I swear it's the dumbest thing I've ever seen)
Yes, Duke. Jr. Justin Boyle (490 yards LY) will get the call as the starter. With decent speed and decent size, he's nothing special, but the unit as a whole is a combination of experience and athleticism. Watch out for backup Re'quan Boyette, who put up 123 yards against Florida St. last season, and speedy Ronnis Drummer (10.2 avg). The Bue Devils get a present with Army transfer Tielor Robinson, who put up 457 yards for the Black Knight in '04. This is a very deep unit that is able to interchange and compliment a lot of it's own people, and for that reason I’m naming the Duke rushing attack the 7th best Navy will face.
If you've memorized Navy's schedule by now, you may be scratching your head wondering why Stanford hasn't been featured yet. Quite simply, it's because Stanford doesn't have much of a run game. The Cardinal returns their top two rushers in Jr. Jason Evans (248 yards, very highly touted out of High School) and Anthony Kimble (264 yards, 2 TDs). Very highly touted Freshman Toby Gerhart comes in, and Fullback Emeka Nnoli (PS Fullback 5) may be the best blocking back Navy faces. The talent is certainly there, but a lack of commitment to the run (partially because of a prolific passing game) hurts the unit, reducing them to 8th on my board .
This was a tough pick because Army loses their top 3 rushers from last year, including Carlton Jones. 8 different RBs fought for position this spring, but right now I'm going with Sr. Ricky Lay as the starter. Lay has good size (6-4, 215), but has yet to register a carry. Although this unit is woefully inexperienced, it nevertheless consists of a number of Juniors and Seniors. Combined with what should be a greater emphasis on the running game by Coach Ross, Army has to rank 9th on the board in front of Temple and Eastern Michigan. Don't get me wrong though, this Black Knight attack isn’t going to scare anyone.
Again we see a incredibly inexperienced unit that shouldn't give the Navy defense many problems. The teams best runner is probably the Quarterback Tyler Jones, who rushed for 107 against Miami (Oh) last season. Dwayne Harrison gets the start at running back after rushing for 253 yards (4.1 avg) last season. Phil Steele predicts an increase in production but admits the talent "may be down." Those are bold words for Phil, who really doesn't say anything negative about anyone.
The Owls look to be going with JUCO transfer Tim Brown, who looked good in the spring. Behind him sit Josh Bundy and Mike Neal, who put up only 75 yards combined last year. This is a team with an abundance of inexperience, and will likely be plugging in different people throughout the year. Even though I rate this unit last, don't discount Brown automatically. He may end up being a better runner then the starters on some others teams, but In Al Golden's first year I can't possibly see Temple doing much of anything on offense.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Not much to say of the Army preview, other then that I think the Black Knights should be able to pull off 6 wins this year and achieve boll eligibility. There are 5 games against horrible teams (Arkansas State, Rice, VMI, Kent State, Tulane) and then 3 games Army has a shot at an upset (Air Force, at Connecticut, at Bylor).
Switching gears, Navy football returns to Camden yards this weekend, with David Mahoney, Joe Cylc, and Matt Hall signing autographs Friday night, and Rob Caldwell, Brian Hmpton, and James Rossi signing autographs Saturday. As the kids say, "So there."
Switching gears again, CSTV has lined up a program block called "Midshipmen Mondays" which will feature past Navy football games and coverage of Navy athletics and history. Just another reason to get CSTV.
Lastly, Navy has been ranked 42nd by Athlons, 48th by The Sporting News, and 64th by Lindy's in Preseason polls.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Which preseason college football magazine is your favorite?
Obviously, it's Phil Steele's. The 328 pages of nonstop college football action tops anything out there, including Athlon's, Lindy's, and The Sporting News. This isn't to say the other magazines are useless, or that they "suck." Yet anyone who has read Phil Steele's preview knows that the sheer amount of information contained in it, including 2 full pages on every team from the Ohio State University to Florida International University beats everyone else. Athlon comes in second for me, mostly because I like the way they set up the magazine, and the cheerleader section does alright by me too.
What team is being supremely overrated in the preseason rankings?
I'm not going to say Notre Dame because 1) I think Coach Weis is going to have that defense ready 2) I like Notre Dame, and 3) frankly I don't want Tommy Z to knock me out. If you read Steele, you know he has Oklahoma as his number 1 team. Like many, I think that call is just a bit too high. While I see Oklahoma as a Top 15 caliber team, I'm not sure if QB Rhett Bomar can lead the Sooners to a National Title as a Sophomore (and I'm not sure after 3 offseason misdemeanors’ if he's as mature as he needs to be). It's really hard to say who exactly is "overated" considering the disparity between different preseason polls thus fall, but I'm not sold on Florida St. making it back to the BCS. Certainly the talent is there, but the defense loses a number of starters and the offense has somehow become completely one-dimensional. My overrated teams by conferences are LSU (SEC), Michigan (Big 10), Colorado (Big 12), Georgia Tech AND FSU (ACC), West Virginia (Big East), nobody in the MWC, Boise St. (WAC), East Carolina (Con-USA), Bowling Green (MAC), and the whole Sun Belt just sucks.
Turn the tables. Who is underrated?
The short answer? A whole lot of teams. It used to be chic to say Texas Tech was underrated, but I don't think anyone overlooks Coach Leach (arggghh) and the boys in Lubbock anymore. I do however like Utah with it's two superb QBs in Brian Johnson and Brett Ratliff, and I think it's schedule tailors to 10 or even 11 wins, including a win over TCU (who they lost to in overtime last year) and the MWC. I may be one of the only people in America (along with Phil Steele mind you) who thinks Purdue is going to bounce back and finish within the Top 3 of the Big 10. Anyone who saw Curtis Painter finish out the season can attest to his athletic ability, and with All-American candidate Dorian Bryant at WR and big target Kyle Ingram (6'9) finally squared away in his personal affairs, Painter will get a chance to improve upon his biggest crutch last year, his accuracy. I also like Iowa State in the Big 12 North. Jr. QB Bret Meyer leads what is perhaps the most underrated passing offenses' in the country, and Todd Blythe is the best player in college football nobody has ever heard of. The defense will be weak, but the offense alone can easily get this team to another Bowl. By conference by underrated teams are Arkansas (SEC), Purdue (Big 10), Iowa State OR Nebraska (Big 12), Boston College (ACC), Arizona St. (Pac-10), Rutgers (Big East), Utah (MWC), Houston (Con-USA), Nevada (WAC), Ohio (MAC), Louisiana Lafayette (Sun Belt).
Which conference will be the best in 2006?
States go to war over questions like this, so I’m going to choose not to answer this. I do however reject the notion of Pac-10 dominance.
Which "non-BCS" conference will be the best in 2006?
Is there really any question? Alright, so after Orson said it was the WAC, i guess there is, but the MWC still looks the best to me. Utah and Texas Christian both have the ability to win 9 games (at least) this year, and BYU is making a quiet comeback with Bronco Mendenhall at the controls. San Diego State, Colorado State, New Mexico, and even Air Force all should hover around .500, and I'd be surprised if UNLV or Wyoming won less then 4 games. Overall, this is a Conference that really doesn't have any teams that "suck", which can't exactly be said for any of the other Non-BCS conferences.
Which non-BCS conference team will have the best season?
I'm bias, but I think Navy wins 10 games, which is pretty good. I think Utah has the best chance at getting to a BCS bowl, and for the record I think Boise State is overated when were talking about them on a national scale. For God sakes, look at their schedule man!
Let's get your first read on this one...who will win the H*i*m*n? Oh, by the way, players whose last names begin with the letter "Q" are ineligible.
Brady...oh wait, he doesn't count. Adrian Peterson is of course the other favorite, but I'd keep an eye out for Drew Stanton. Had Michigan St. pulled off a few of their close loses last year, the QB may have found himself in the Finalist pool. He was the best QB on a non-winning team last season.
Little or no posting this weekend. As the Enlgish say, "I will be on Holiday"
Monday, June 12, 2006
Brady Quinn: The Notre Dame Senior has earned some lofty praise this off season, and why not? He is the preseason Heisman favorite for many after having completed 64.9% of his passes last year for 3919 yards and an amazing 32:7 TD-INT ratio. His superior field vision, accuracy, and pass rush elusion ability makes him the best QB in America and a future Top 5 draft choice. With WR duo supreme Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight back (not to mention Head Coach Charlie Weis) Quinn looks ready to lead one of the nation's premier pass attacks in the county.
Trent Edwards: The Senior Quarterback out of Stanford leads the high powered Cardinal attack which looks to mature into one of the best the Pac-10 will field this year. While Edwards went 168-268 (63.1%) last season with 1934 yards and a 17:7 TD-INT ratio, he was nevertheless bothered by several nagging injuries and without his premier target Evan Moore (who suffered a hip injury in the opener with Navy). Traditionally Walt Harris QB's have a boatload of success in their senior year, and an excellent Spring Game (203 yards, 3 TDs, 85% completion) could be the most improved QB in the country. With a fully healthy cast including Mark Badford (2 games out last year) Edwards could cause havoc for the Navy secondary.
Paul Smith: In a league with Houston's Kevin Kolb and UTEP's Jordon Palmer, Tulsa's Junior Quarterback Paul Smith is usually overlooked. That's not to take away what he accomplished last year however, as he lead the Golden Hurricane to the Conference-USA Title and a victory in the Liberty Bowl over Fresno State. A 62.4 completion percentage for 2847 yards and a 20:6 TD-INT ratio was all that Smith put up as a sophomore, and looks ready further improve his play. There is one big problem however, as the talent of WR's Garret Mills (1235 yards) and Ashlan Davis (35 rec, 5 TDs) depart, which could slow down Tulsa's air attack and give Navy a good shot at winning this game.
Shuan Carney: Some readers may question this pick, but to be honest I nearly considered ranking Carney ahead of Paul Smith. Why? Because when it's all said and done Carney may be the best QB the Air Force Academy has ever scene. While he has been inconsistent over his first two seasons, the junior out Cleveland, Ohio still managed to put up some 1300 pass yards last year (64.2 %, 7:7 ratio) along with 832 rushing yards (11 TDs). At 5-10 he's not a big guy but has (at least for an option oriented offense) a surprisingly big arm. While he's thrown some fairly crappy passes (Keenan Little's end zone pick) he's still fairly young, and Air Force's rushing attack often allows him to spot one-on-one matchups on the outside. With a decent arm and great athleticism, Carney gives an inferior Air Force team the chance to win any day, including Oct. 7th against Navy.
Matt "Bones" Bonislawski/DJ Hernandez: These two QBs split time last year at Connecticut after the departure of Dan Orlovsky. Both of these QBs have talent, and "Bones" showed amazing toughness last year playing with a broken clavicle behind a rather poor offensive line. He has a big arm (50.6 %, 836 yards, 6:7 ratio) and good mobility (239 yards, 3 TDs) but could be challenged by the sophomore Hernandez. In relief of "Bones" last year, the athletic Sophomore dropped 3 TDs and 255 yards against Louisville (51.1%, 515 yards, 6:1 ratio for the year). He lacks the arm of Bonislawski, but is an excellent runner and could give the Navy defense plenty to worry about.
James Pinkney: All right, the ECU fans can calm back down, I didn't forget Skip Holtz's Senior QB. Pinkney was something of a welcomed surprise last year, going 222-366 (60.7%) for 2773 yards and a 14:8 ratio. ECU runs a spread offense which was among the leader's In NCAA passing last year but was plagued by turnovers and inefficient red zone operation. Pinkey is fairly mobile, but not an overly intimidating passer. He's a product of the system, which most ECU fans think will upend Navy on Sep. 2nd. Yea, right, not a chance...
Mike Teel: If the Sophomore out of Rutgers can learn on the fly and fix an interception problem, (2-10 ratio last year) Rutgers might just become the surprise team of the country for the second consecutive year. The 6-4 220 ponder worked with former NFL great Phil Simms over the summer, and saw a good deal of action last year in relief work for the departed Ryan Hart. He hit 50.5% of his passes for 683 yards, and brings a live arm and decent mobility to a potent Rutgers offense. He has plenty of targets, including AA candidate TE Clark Harris, but because of his inexperience and INT problems, finds himself in the middle of our list.
Tyler Jones: The E. Michigan Sophomore shined in his only performance last year, going 19-26 for 245 yards (2:1 ratio) and rushing for 107 yards in a narrow loss against Miami of Ohio. He's an athletic quarterback with an accurate arm, but to judge one performance against a shaky MAC defense as an accurate indication of his abilities might be stretch. In other words Jones may do well and improve the Eagles this year, but his play shouldn't dazzle the Navy defense.
Zach Asack: Last year was a trying experience for the Duke Sophomore, who completed 50% of his passes for 966 yards and 5:8 ratio. Considering this came against a tough slat of ACC teams, I'm not going to sit here and say he's completely inept as a QB, but he certainly has a good deal of learning to do. He wasn't abysmal in his first start against the Midshipmen (16-27, 152 yards), but isn't exactly surrounded by a talented group of players. Still, Duke is not as bad as a lot of people think (mostly because of their schedule), and while the Mids should hold the Blue Devil attack at bay, look for improved play out of Mr. Asack.
David Pevoto: This will be the first year starting for Army's Junior QB, and at 6-5 229 he sure looks to have the size up a big-time QB. Because of his lack of experience, it's hard to put an exact ranking on Pevoto, who in his only action last year went 6-12 for 68. If he can't deliver, it could be a very trying year for the Black Knights.
Shane Kelly/Colin Clancy: One of these Temple Sophomores will take over for the departed Mike McGann, who somehow managed to pass for 3:13 TD-INT ratio with a 48.8 completion percentage. It's tough to automatically put Temple QB's at the bottom, since the team plays one of the most difficult schedules in the country and is so inept offensively, but this group is so inexperienced that little should be expected of them. Clancy went 10-19 last year for 121 yards and a TD, but Kelly has the biggest arm. If neither Kelly nor Clancy can pull out a win (and against Buffalo and Kent State there will be an opportunity) then look out for Freshmen Jarrett Dunston. The Hargrave product is mobile and has a good arm, and could start against navy if Temple has (and will have) nothing to lose.
You may have noticed that there was no assessment of the QB situation over at UMASS, Navy's only I-AA opponent this year. For ranking purposes, i felt it was best to leave the I-AA QB's out of the equation, but check back later this month for a preseason preview of UMAAS.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Top Players by Position:
- Amazingly, Adam Ballard is not listed as one of the Top 25 fullbacks. Rutgers FB Brian leonard gets the nod as the Numero Uno FB in the land.
- Rob Caldwell was named the 41st Best Outside Linebacker in the country. There was no mention of him or any other Navy player on the All-American lists.
- Overall, Army had more players named to Top Positions then Navy, who only had 1 (Caldwell) on any of the lists.
- Navy’s Running Back unit was named the 13th best in the country by Phil, who said that it was “the finest set of Navy RB’s I had ever seen. Interestingly enough, Navy finished ahead of Rutgers (16th), Notre Dame (18th), Maryland (20th), and West Virginia (22nd) in this category.
- Navy’s Linebacker Core was named the 27th best in the country, just ahead of Auburn and Alabama.
Navy Named 30th in Preseason Top 40!
- What Phil had to say: “Paul Johnson is doing a tremendous job here and this looks like his best tea yet. Last year they had just 5 returning starters and still blew out Colorado State in a bowl. This year they have 16 returning starters.” Navy was ranked higher then the following (in descending order): Penn State, TCU, Houston, Arizona, Michigan State, Alabama, Fresno State, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Hawaii. Our only opponent higher then us is Notre dame (7).
- Navy is ranked 40th in Phil's Power Poll. This poll measurs "only the streagth of the team and does not worry about who they play." Our opponents are as followed: Notre dame (5), Tulsa (45), Rutgers (58), Stanford (63), Connecticut (67), Air Force (72), East Carolina (84), Army (93), East. Michigan (97), Duke (107), Temple (118).
- It's interesting to note that the highest Sun Belt team is Louisiana Lft. (95), making the Sun belt clearly the worst conference.
- Navy had the 103rd toughest schedule in '05. Navy's opponents for '06 had a combined record of 60-76(%44.1) in '05, and Navy will play the 91st toughest schedule of 119 teams this year.
- Phil projects Navy to lead the country in rushing AGAIN with 325 ypg. Navy is projected at having the dead last pass offense in I-A with105 ypg (c'mon, somebody has to be worse then that, Temple anyone?).
- Notre Dame is projected as having the 3rd best pass offense, 4th best scoring offense, and 3rd best total offense.
- Air Force is projected to have the 5th best rush offense. Duke is said to have the 3rd worst scoring offense, and Temple the worst scoring offense.
- East Carolina has the 2nd worst rush defense (in front of the lowly Buffalo Bulls) and Stanford has the 5th worst pass defense.
- Navy was named one of five non-BCS teams that "could surprise" next year. The others were Boise St., Utah, Houtson, and UTEP. Phil seems to like Houston for some reason.
- Navy named to play San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl. This of course came before news of Meineke-Gate, in which Phil has Boston College and West Virginia going at it.
- Independents were named the Second Easiest Conference ahead of only the lowly Sun belt. You can thank 0-11 Temple for that.
Notes on the Independents
- Phil ranks them (in order) Notre Dame, Navy, Army, Temple, as 99% of the country does.
- Navy players on 1st team Offense: RB Adam Ballard, G Zach Gallion.
- Navy players on 1st team Defense: LB Rob Caldwell, CB Keenan Little, KR Karlos Whittaker (no longer on the team)
- Navy players on 2nd team Offense: QB Brian Hampton, RB Reggie Campbell, WR Jason Tomlinson, G Antron Harper, T Matt Pritchett.
- Navy players on 2nd Ream Defense: DL John Chan, DL Larry Cylc, LB David Mahoney, LB Tyler Tidwell, FS DuJuan Price, K Joey Bullen, PR Jason Tomlinson.
Interesting that they sent such a letter on a Friday…
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Reason to be Afraid: Duke can't possibly get any worse in terms of production, as the Blue Devils averaged just 16.1 points a game (110th), with a measly five of those coming through the air. The defense, which gave up more then 30 points in seven of it's games, should get a boost with the return of tackle Vince Oghobaase and Defensive End Ayanga Okpokowuruk, both of whom went down with knee injuries last year. Oghobaase stands a hefty 6'6 325, and turned down offers from Miami and Oklahoma to play for Duke (well I don't know, maybe he value's the education?), and could become a factor against Navy's fullback. MLB Micahel Tauliili, believe it or not, could be an All-ACC performer, and looks to anchor Duke's hybrid 3-4, 4-3ish defensive combo. Then there is always the matter of the whole recruiting season. Are you sitting down for this? According to Athlon Magazine, Duke brought in the 36th Best Recruiting Class in the country, ahead of league rivals Boston College and Georgia Tech. As I said, things could not possibly be any worse.
Reason to Breath a Sigh of Relief: Guess what? Their worse...Well, maybe not, but notice how the only reason for Navy fans to be afraid comes from Duke's defensive perspective? Well, that's because Duke's Offense flat out sucks. While QB Zach Asack certainly learned from his freshman season (50%, 966 yds, 5TDs 8INTs), it would seem unthinkable for the Massachuseets product to have some kind of breakout. Behind Asack stands one scholarship QB, so if the young man goes down, Duke can forget even moving the ball in front of the line of scrimmage. While the running game isn't anything to mourn, the offensive line may once again be completely patchwork, with numerous freshmen and sophomores being plugged in for a game of "don't sack our quarterback." Duke's starting Left Tackle and Right Guard both transferred after last year, and considering Duke finished 116th on offense last year, Navy should have a big day defensively. For Navy, this game comes the week after the proverbial Notre Dame "nice try, but please try again next year" loss. The triple option attack should be clicking in full order, and the defense should be fully up to speed. With Duke's O-line issues and lack of any serious skill player threats, I would expect the Mids to have their best defensive game of the year. Even though Duke's defense should be better, Navy won't have to throw up 50 points on the scoreboard, and won't have to deal with a 4 week layover and exams like last year's nail biting win. I'm willing to bet Duke will also be fairly banged up, I don't know if Coach Roof is adverse to stretching or something, but Duke seems to sustain a number of injuries.
Ok Seriously, Give us a Pick: The triple option struggles to get started, as Duke's big interior linemen shut down Ballard early. Yet Duke can't move the ball at all, and QB Zach Asack is picked off by David Mahoney. The Mids come alive in the second half, as the passing game and outside running game come in line. Reggie Campbell scores twice on long passes from QB Brian Hampton, as four touchdowns and a field goal is all Navy needs to down Duke 31-10.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
- 15 returning starters? Is it just me or hasn't it been an established fact that their are to be 18 returning starters? Ok, so maybe they considered KW as a starter, which makes 17, but all they had to do was look at the Prospectus...
- Karlos Whittaker is featured as the "Rising Star". Should be the "Sitting Star" but I suppose that's not Athlon's fault.
- In the "Scouting the Midshipmen" section, a random "opposing coach" says 'There's a reason they are 4-0 in Bowl games". I'm assuming this means under Coach Johnson, which in that case, we are only 2-1. Nice job, "Coach."
- Jarrod Bryant is listed as the second QB, but I thought he was 3rd or 4th coming out of Spring Practice. Just because a guy gets one carry (and damnit it was a good carry, just ask Phat) doesn't mean he is slated as the Numero Dos next season.
- Joe Cylc is listed as one of the starting ISB, although Clint Sovie apparently won the job this spring.
I've taken the liberty of scanning the two pages that deal with Navy. They arn't the best quality, and I will try to get some better prints later, but for now they should suffice. Enjoy, and let me know if you catch any other mistakes the Athlon people made.
Monday, June 05, 2006
- The Pensacola News Journal has released an article about the rise of Navy athletics (in particular football) over the past 4 years. Standard stuff pretty much, although some may find it interesting that "Florida State tried to arrange a game with Navy in Jacksonville. Coach Bobby Bowden placed a call." I remember hearing something along those lines, but it caught me a little off guard. Personally, I hate the FSU program, hate the coach, and aside from this fine piece of Slovakian Beauty, don't really care for the place. Aside from that, FSU, as it stands, would beat us, and that would be bad. Another interesting note to make about the article is that of Navy's fan base. While large, one has to admit the Institution has a rather small active fan base online. 1 Official Site (Navysports.com), 1 Unofficial Sight with message Board (GoMids.com), and 1 Semi-acclaimed Blog (Yours Truly here at Pitch Right) make up the extent of updated Navy Sports internet content.
Even Jenn Sterger isn't incentive enough to destroy those FSU convicts
- CFN.com continues slugging through its previews of all 117 Div 1A teams. Today featured Connecticut, which I feel may be this year's biggest trap game. I don't like going up their to play a team that features such a good running game and strong defense. Let's hope that the O-line problems persist and the QB situation remains in swing all year long.
- Notre dame continues the annexation of New Jersey, with yet another major NJ recruit from the class of 2007 signing with the Irish. This time DE Justin Trattou, who from here on out is to be known as Tratteaux. The good news? Yet another NJ recruit Rutgers and Coach Schiano fail to get. Bad news? Coach Weis and Notre Dame aren’t just reloading, they’re on full blown auto with an infinite clip.
- Rivals.com lists its 100 Top High School Seniors-to-Be. Why you should care, I have no idea, unless your interested in learning the extent of talent that Navy will have to overcome to beat Notre Dame in the coming years.
More fun later this week
Friday, June 02, 2006
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.