Bill Wagner has a real good article today on Navy fullback Adam Ballard and his business-like approach to the offseason. While Ballard's attendance at 30 of the 36 conditioning sessions is impressive and his muscle gain is certainly noteworthy, the most interesting part of the article comes near the end, when Coach Johnson confirms that pro scouts have been at the Naval Academy to take a look at Ballard.
All of this was prompted by Monday's press briefing after practice, in which Wagner asked a number of questions ranging from how Adam compares to former fullback Kyle Eckel to whether or not he has similar pro potential. Johnson maintained that the two backs were "just different" but both could play in the professional ranks if they found the right team. The unfortunate part of that scenario is that the fullback position is a dying one in the NFL, especially for players who are more equipped to be a feature ballcarrier as opposed to a lead blocker.
I know all of this talk is premature and perhaps even unfair to Adam to speculate about, but I think that if Kyle could get a shot, Adam deserves one as well (if that is in fact what he wants.) Personally, I think that Adam is a better player than Kyle was. I know the numbers may not compare (at least at this point) but part of that is circumstantial. Kyle played in an offense that was much more centered around him, while Adam has had to split carries with playmakers like Reggie Campbell, Shun White, and a trio of very good running quarterbacks (Owens, Hampton, Enhada.) That's not to take anything away from guys like Candeto or Polanco or Eric Roberts,, but as far as carries go, Adam just hasn't gotten as many. In addition, Adam was banged up last season, and missed all or a significant part of four games (BC, Temple, Army, EMU.) When you look at the two backs physically, I think Adam comes across as the better athlete as well. He's faster than Kyle was, and stronger as well. He doesn't run with the same shiftiness that Kyle was able to, although I would consider Adam to probably be the better blocker, which in the grand scheme of things may be more important than running style. It's highly unlikely Adam would be drafted (Kyle wasn't) with a looming service commitment, but I think he stands a good chance of being picked up as a free agent and earning an invitation to an NFL camp.
As for any of this actually developing, who knows. I've been fortunate enough to be able to talk with Adam a few times over the summer, and I know that he's as focused as he's ever been on both the upcoming season and his service commitment after graduation. Still, he'll have a chance to impress scouts during the annual East West Shrine Game, which he was chosen to participate in after the Bowl season is complete. Whatever happens as far Adam's pro prospects go, I certainly wish him the best of luck, and can't wait to see him have what figures to be a monster season in 2007.
More Scouting News: Coach Johnson also mentioned that two pro scouts were recently at the Academy to watch senior linebacker Irv Spencer, who coincidentally also has a badaas beard.