Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Breaking Down PJ's Media Day Comments

Phelix has a similar article up on the Bird Dog. I tried to run down some different points for the sake of the readership, but I'm sure we have some overlap. Oh well, read them both I guess. For a full transcript of Coach Johnson's comments you can head on over to Any and all emphasis is my addition. Let's do this thing...

It's always a challenge here. We have to get ready to play no matter who we are playing or we are going to be in trouble. As far as the schedule goes right now I'm worried about Temple and that's it...The schedule will be challenging, there is no question about that. We just have to take care of our business. I usually don't worry about who we are playing. If we can execute what we are doing we will have a chance against anybody we play.

This is one of the most telling quotes from the entire transcript if you ask me. Paul Johnson has a reputation of playing the pessimist in talking about his team to members of the media, but every once and awhile he'll drop one of those quotes out there that really excites you. It's like the time when he said something along the lines of "I expect our offense to score on every play if we execute properly." There has been a lot of talk recently amongst various circles of fans about concepts like "ceilings" and "expectations," and to tell you the truth I can accept the points made by both sides. But forget about concepts like "strength of schedule" for a moment and just think of what Coach Johnson is saying. He is saying that if this team does what they're suppose to do, and by the same token what they are capable of doing, then there is no reason Navy doesn't have a shot to win any given game. For a coach who is capable of making a winless team sound like Texas or USC, this is almost unprecedented optimism which, in my opinion, is a really good sign.

We lost a lot of key players off the defense. We lost a lot of guys that started for three or four years and they made a lot of plays for us. We are going to have some new faces out there, but I really think we have a chance to be better athletically than we have been on defense. There will be some growing pains. This team reminds me a little bit of where we were a couple of years ago when we lost nine or 10 starters on offense and we had eight or nine guys back on defense and we ended up having a great year. I think we have the players to be good on defense. We are short on experience, but I think they have some athletic ability.

This is basically what I was saying last week when I compared the situation going into the 2005 season with the situation going into this season. There is naturally going to be a drop-off in the defense to begin the year because of the loss of so many starters, but the consensus is that this is "sleeper" group of guys who could end up having a real big year if they can learn their place in the scheme and adapt to game situations. Once again, it's interesting to note how positive Coach Johnson is. While he's more or less saying "we have ability but we haven't done anything yet," he has switched the emphasis from "we haven't done anything" to "we have ability." Maybe it's just because it was media day, but I for one am starting to get excited.

It's always been one of the main goals of the team. Later on tonight the captains will get the team together and they will come up with the goals for this year's team. I'm big on letting the players come up with their own goals. I'm sure that will be one of them. Winning that trophy is one of the most important things we do here. It's a rallying point for the alumni and former players. Navy went way too long without winning that thing and our guys kind of like having it. We are going to try and defend it the best we can.

It will be interesting to see the goals the team comes up with. I'm suspecting something along the lines of 1) Win the CINC 2) Go to a Bowl Game and 3) Win 10 games. The first two definitely figure to be in reach, and despite the lofty nature of the third I've got a feeling this class is going to try to one-up the class of 2006, which just missed 10 wins last season.

We have the big P word. We have potential. The question is can we translate that into being a good football team. We still aren't going to intimidate anybody. When we get off the bus the other team isn't going to run for cover. I guarantee you that everybody that plays us has us circled as a win. They all think that they should beat us and that's not going to change no matter who we play.

Ah, no preseason comment transcript can be complete without mention of the big P word. I don't know if every team that plays us has us already circled as a win (that's bad ju ju for them) but the point is when you look at the schedules of teams like Duke or Pitt this game certainly stands out as winnable from their perspective. And for teams like Temple or Delaware, this game is their big shot at making a splash in their own little corner of the college football world and to upend a "name team." The point is simple, and that is that the way other teams look at you is relative to the rest of their schedule. I would however make the case that this is not as unique to Navy as maybe these comments hint at, and that any self-respected coach of a program not consistently ranked in the top 25 can and should make the same point to his players.

It depends on what we are doing. Nate could end up being a defensive end, he could be the nose guard, he could slide and be over the guard, he's probably going to be an inside guy, but I don't think there's any more pressure on Nate than there is Jordan Stephens or Andrew Lark or Kyle Bookhout or Chris Kuhar-Pitters. Nate is listed as a starter heading into fall camp, but he hasn't played a down yet. I don't want everybody building him up like he's the second coming of Deacon Jones. Let's watch him play first. He may get beat out before the season starts. There will be a lot of guys competing in there.

This seems to me like an attempt by Johnson to try to get members of the media to pull back the reigns a little on lauding Big Nate before the fire begins so to speak. While the coaching staff may not be putting any more pressure on Nate than those guys mentioned above (interesting Herbert isn't mentioned) the reality is that the fans and the media have been talking about Nate being a dominant two-gap guy DT since day one last year. I'm not sure if those kinds of expectations might be a little unfair at this point, especially because Nate played only a handful of mop-up snaps last year and really didn't show anything in the actual game. I'll be the first to admit he got better in the spring and that his battles upfront with Antron were as epic as any I've seen between a center and a defensive tackle, but I'm a little wary of already calling him a rising star on this defense. I think the point Coach Johnson wants to make and wants all of us fans to realize is that the best three defensive linemen will fill those starting spots, and despite certain man-crushes we may hold, things are far from set in stone at this point. All that being said I hope Big Nate becomes a wrecking crew for the defense this year.

That will be fun for the fans, but we probably won't know who is flipping the coin or any of that. We will be getting ready to play. I'm sure Temple thinks it's a chance for them to win a game. We talked to a couple of recruits this summer that came down who had also visited Temple and they told us that everything on their campus was Beat Navy. It is all geared to that first game and they are trying to build the program. I'm sure if you are them it's a great opportunity to open the season against a team that you think you can beat.

Interesting about the whole "Beat Navy" mentality. This game worries me not because I think Temple is a better team than Navy or because their recruiting class last season was allegedly "first in the conference" (let me know in three or four years) but because I think Golden and his staff are going to pull out all the stops. It's going to be important for the team to remained focused going into this game (usually not a problem) and for the defense to stay disciplined. If either one of those facets break down, this could be a long game. But, for the record, I don't think they will.

We have a couple of guys that have a mild case of mono, it seems to be going around the Academy, but as far as injuries we have a few guys coming off post-op, but I think if we had to play tomorrow we would have everybody but Rashawn King. I don't know if he will be able to play in the first game, he's coming off surgery. He's worked really hard this summer and he looks good so I wouldn't count him out.

Tyree Barnes is good to go? Sweet.

As long as I beat Army this year they will let me stay one more year. A lot of that stuff you guys drum up in the press and I get a chuckle out of it. I jokingly told somebody that it's better to be talked about for other jobs than people talking about who is going to take your job. That's not much fun. That just comes with having a successful program. It's a credit to the players and the assistant coaches. I wouldn't read too much into that stuff.

We're concerned fans. It's our jobs to read too much into that stuff.

This group has things to accomplish that nobody else has been able to do. Nobody in this group has ever lost an Academy game; this group can be the senior class that beats Army six years in a row. Nobody else has done that in the history of the series. If they can put together an outstanding season they can have the most wins of any class in a four-year history. That's what we hope for. The younger classes who are supporting that will then have their turn to break that record when they are seniors because they are all part of it. When you build a program that's kind of the way it works. Year after year the next class has a chance to get where the previous one was or surpass them. I would agree with you that the last class was probably unparalleled in the long history of Navy football.

This is what we talk about when we throw around cliches like the "bar has been raised." I love Coach Johnson's attitude. This is a year where a lot of people are expecting the team to be down a few notches, and you know Coach Johnson is going to use that to really get these guys ready for the season. After the bowl loss last year and all the fuss made about losing almost the entire defense to graduation, I think this team is going to be playing with some purpose and certainly a lot of emotion. Man am I excited for football season.


phelix said...

My guess on the team goals are:
1. CIC Trophy
2. Go undefeated at home
3. Win the P-Bowl
4. Setting the all-time win record for a Navy class (need 8 wins to tie)
5. Beat Notre Dame

Gary said...

Not that this has to do with on field performance but it would also be nice to see every home game a sellout-another first.
It looks possible as the only seats left are the GA hill.