Saturday, July 07, 2007

Ultimate Navy Preview 2007 Slotbacks

Today we continue with our Ultimate Navy Preview 2007, taking a look at the slotbacks in Paul Johnson's triple option offense. Navy returns both starting slotbacks from 2006, including their top reserve in Shun White. While their are technically only two starters at the position, head coach Paul Johnson routinely rotates up to three or four players in at the position during a game. We say this every year, but it rings true again this year. This is the best group of Navy slotbacks during Johnson's tenure. Let's go ahead and take a look at the three deep...

Reggie Campbell: What more can you say about Reggie? He's the most dynamic and explosive player on this Navy team, and has the ability to take the ball to the house whenever he touches the football. Campbell had a breakthrough sophomore campaign where he rushed for 514 yards and seven touchdown, while catching 12 balls for more than 300 yards and two scores. He is of course best remembered for his five touchdown performance against Colorado St. in the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl, in which he scored five touchdowns and had his face plastered all over ESPN (a good thing in this case.) Last season he only continued in his on-field brilliance, rushing for over 700 yards while catching 13 balls for 244 yards. Because of his diminutive 5'6 size, it's often said that Campbell couldn't play anywhere else but Navy. That may be more may not be true, but don't make the mistake of overlooking his pure athletic ability. He's one of the top sprinters in the Patriot League, and has insane strength for his size (460 yard squat.) Die-hard Navy fans saw the extent of Campbell's athletic ability during the spring game, where the 5'6 slotback (probably closer to 5'5) out jumped the 5'11 Jeff Deliz to make an incredible catch downfield. Because of his size, he's also incredibly difficult to tackle and unbelievably elusive out of the backfield, often able to slip the outside linebacker or safety who "runs the ally." I think Steve Kragthorpe said it best when he said a number of Navy players, including Campbell, could play for him any day.

"Reggie Campbell is a great football player. He can play any place in the country, there's no question. You can ask 117 teams that would love to have Campbell on their team."

I know part of that is just being respectful of the opponent, but Coach Kragthorpe's point is simple, and that is that Reggie Campbell is just a damn good football player in every aspect of the game. Not only is he a fantastic rusher and pass receiver, but the guy has been solid on kickoff (and the occasional punt) returns and even does an amazing job covering punts as a gunner. He is also an unheralded blocker who seems to come out of nowhere to cut guys down on the open field. Heck, the only think I think I haven't seen Reggie do is throw a pass, and you never know what Coach Johnson has up his sleeve. I don't know if I've ever enjoyed watching a football player on the collegiate level any more than Reggie, and 2007 should be his biggest year yet.

Zerbin Singleton: Often described as a "tenacious blocker," Zerb is hands down the most underrated player on this Navy football team (at least as far as this blogger is concerned.) He has the uncanny ability to stick of defenders and to cut them down with precisions cut blocks, and often paves the way for long runs down field by the other slot-backs. He had a huge game in the Mieneke Car Care Bowl last year, running for 71 yards and a touchdown on only six carries. Although he doesn't often get the chance to show it, he's also a solid receiver out of the slot, and could be utilized more in this respect next season. Despite his 5'8 frame Zerb is incredibly strong and has a reputation as being one of the strongest Navy players in recent memory. He's not as fast as Reggie or Shun, but he's a shifty runner in the open field and difficult to get a grasp of. He's also incredibly bright, which I guess you have to be when you're carrying a 3.29 GPA in Aerospace Engineering.

Shun White: A very talented player who burst onto the scene as a sophomore last season, White looks primed for an even bigger 2007. He's arguably one of the fastest player on the team and it shows, as he averaged an unreal 12.0 yards a carry last season en route to 578 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. He has excellent vision and the ability to make defenders miss in the open field, and could even be utilized as a kickoff returner in 2007. One thing White does need to improve upon is his blocking. If he can be more consistent in that aspect of his game then he goes from being a good player to a very special one.

Greg Shinego: A rising junior who has yet to see meaningful action with the first team, Shinego nevertheless runs with a full head of steam and is more than capable of breaking long runs. He's going to need to show that he can be a consistent blocker to receive significant playing time in 2007, but he should find his way onto the field from time to time. Last season Shun White came seemingly out of nowhere and although it's unlikely Shinego will gallop for 500+ yards this year, he's one of my picks as a surprise performer of 2007.

Bobby Doyle: Like Shinego, Bobby Doyle has a chance to develop into a very good player for the Midshipmen. He was a do-it-all athlete at Chardon high school in Ohio, playing both running back and quarterback. He has plenty of speed and good vision, and is more than capable of making people miss in the open field. He should have a chance to see some limited work at the position in 2007, but expect him to see regular playing time in 2008.
Scott Oswald- Excellent speed and good size.
Cory Finnerty- Needs to show better ability as a blocker.
Frank Rizzo- No relation to the famed Muppets character.
Overall: This is a very solid group which has earned even some well deserved national acclaim. Campbell is, quite literally, superman out of the field while Shun has big play ability written all over him. Everyone knows how good of a blocker Zerb is, but don't overlook his running ability in 2007. By the same token, watch out for Doyle and Shinego in fall camp, as either one of them could work their way into the rotation. This group is clearly the biggest streagth on the entire Navy team.
Grade: 9.5

Photo of Reggie Campbell from Photo of Zerbin Singleton courtesy of Photos of Shun White, Bobby Doyle, and Greg Shinego from my collection.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Reggie Campbell is scary good. I've seen him play good games before and I saw him in the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl where he went insane. I'd bet there are a lot of schools that would like to have his explosiveness on their team.