Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ultimate Navy Preview 2007: Fullbacks

Today we continue our preview of the 2007 Navy football team, taking a look at one of the positions that makes Navy's offense unique among Division I college teams. While the fullback position has been reduced to a lead blocking role if not altogether abandoned for an extra wide receiver, in Paul Johnson's triple option the fullback still thrives as the main ball carrier. Here's the rundown on this year's three-deep:

Adam Ballard: The heir apparent to Kyle Eckel, when Ballard has been healthy he's been an unstoppable force up the middle for Navy over the last two seasons. After rushing for 668 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2005, Ballard figured to be a sure 1000 yard rusher last season and probably would have been had he not missed the majority of several games with various injuries. He nevertheless managed to rush for 792 yards and three touchdown on 5.1 yards a carry. At 6'1, 223 he has the size and strength to break arm tackles and flat out bulldoze the occasional defensive back, while he sports good speed and vision which have paved the way for several long runs in the past. More than anything else, he's a reliable back who takes care of the football and advances the ball, rarely losing yardage and always keeping opposing defenses honest. I talked to him three weeks ago and he says that he's recovered and ready to go from a broken right fibula he suffered against Army, so expect him to be 100% going into the opener. An interesting statistic to note is that Navy has never lost a game when Ballard has rumbled for over 100 yards. His unique combination of strength and athleticism make him an ideal fullback in Paul Johnson's offense I look for him to have a big year in 2007 and finally eclipse the 1000 yard rushing mark in a single season.

Eric Kettani: Navy fans have been ecstatic about the ascent of junior from Kirkland, Ohio, and with good reason. While he only ran 229 yards and a touchdown last season, it's been the nature of his yards which have really attracted attention. He's one of the most physically gifted Navy players on the roster, running a sub 4.6/40 while owning a bench press max close to 400 power. But even with these workout warrior type numbers, it's his ability to see the field and find the hole that really makes him a good runner. Eric also possesses good hips and great balance, traits which make him all the more difficult to tackle. He had an awesome spring and while he doesn't have the experience or numbers of Ballard, his athleticism may force the coaching staff to utilize him on a more frequent basis in 207.

Kevin Campbell: Talented player who looks to continue the recent tradition of Navy fullbacks. He won't see much, if any time behind the likes of Ballard and Kettani this season, but could be a key figure going into 2008.

Overall: This looks like the best group of fullbacks under Coach Johnson, and certainly one of the better groups in the modern era at Navy. Ballard is a flat out beast who has the experience, talent, and battering ram mindset you want in a starting fullback, while Eric Kettani may be the closest thing to a pro style tailback on the roster. A young but promising group of sophomores round out this bunch, making it not only very good, but very deep.

Grade: 9.5


Gary said...

While we are looking good at FB as always and pray for no injuries-do you think we will open the offense up to include some more passing?
We really need to have some of the larger D`s like ND-Rutgers-Wake-Pitt back off with that threat.
This year it looks like we finally have some WR size and with Jarrod Bryants arm we may be able to showcase a more balanced offense.
We need it to finally beat ND as our FB`s dont seem to do that well against them.
They seem to play too close to the QB and get swallowed uo almost at hand off time against the better teams.
Isnt it better to have them back a bit more to gain some momentum?

Adam said...

Thanks for the comment.

I'm sure that if ND is firing the corners then Coach Johnson will take that into account and exploit that if practical.

I'm as big of a JB fan as anyone but Kaipo is the clear number one. Last year when I made the case for Jarod to start against ND I did so believing he gave the team the best shot to win at that time. Kaipo's performance down the stretch however is a clear indicator that he has the talent, understanding, and experience necessary to lead this team to where it wants to go. A better passing game (which Jarod may or may not bring to the team)is no sure fix to beating ND. Overall, the offensive execution needs to be better, and the defense needs to play the bets game of the PJ era.

The fullbacks should do better against ND this year as they move to a variable 3-4 and have a new DO with an NFL background.