Saturday, March 31, 2007

Navy Football Spring Practice: The Week that Was 3/31

Quote of the Week:
"They are freaking awful" - Navy HC Paul Johnson, on his entire team, but specifically his defense.

The Skinny:
It's been about what you would expect from the first week of spring practices at the Naval Academy. Paul Johnson has been critical of his entire team as usual (which he should be) while the local papers have been setting the scene for a 2007 season which figures to see an explosive offense but a rather "green" defense. Much of the talk in the papers seems to be about incoming defensive back Corey Johnson, who traded in three years on the hardwood with the Mids for a final chance to play football. Johnson, a 6'2 192-lb defender from Indiana, received several partial scholarships to play football out of High School, and according to Coach Johnson "has a chance" to see playing time in 2007. You can read more about Corey here and here.

Speaking of Coach Johnson, it seems as though he is really high on Antron Harper at center. Careful observers of his media transcripts will note he seems to indicate Antron is the only bright spot on his roster on daily basis. Just take a look at the latest presser, where Johnson indicates the only player he saw doing well was Antron. This could mean one of three things in my estimation. 1) Someone might just as well hand Antron the Remington trophy right now, 2) The defense must really suck, or 3) Coach Johnson spends 98% of practices watching Antron. Take your pick based on your own preference, but I'll take the optimistic route and say we are set at center for 2007.

Overall, Johnson seems to be content with where the first team offense stands. That makes sense considering the Mids are returning basically all their skill players from the Nation's top-ranked rushing team, and are fairly solid up front on the O-Line. However, he does seem very displeased with the defense, which he described as playing "with their pads too high" and playing with "not much intensity." Considering the Mids have to replace their entire defensive line from last year and half their linebacker corps, this is not exactly unexpected. I'll have more on this next week, after I speak with a High school coach I know who went to observe practice this past week.

Hey, is anyone else as excited as I am to watch the fullback position this spring? Incumbent Adam Ballard (792 rush yards last year) returns after a season ending injury late last year, while challenger Eric Kettani seems poised to push for even more playing time. Johnson was very high on Kettani, who he declared a "physical specimen" in his presser last weekend. Kettani, who at 231-lbs runs a sub 4.6/40 and benches 400-lbs, came on strong in limited time last year due to Ballard's injury, showcasing good cutting ability and great hips. Coach Johnson has indicated both of these fullbacks could see playing time in 2007, although I'll go on record of saying I think Ballard is going to have a HUGE year next season, and not just because he enjoyed all the publicity I threw his way last season on the Fan House.

Oh yea, speaking of 40 times. I think we are all learning a valuable lesson in that football players are never as fast as they say they are. Coach Johnson indicated he has three guys who ran sub 4.6/40's, although pointed often to the discrepancy of times based on running conditions and human subjectivity. Apparently, in the "magic gym" we have a plethora of people who runs in the 4.5 range. Those of you who have been following the combine know that even some of the best college football stars run in the 4.6's, including former USC receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who ran a 4.67/40 and still is considering a late first round/low second round pick. I'm not losing any sleep over these kinds of things though. This is a fast team at what it does, and as long as the offense is executing efficiently I could care less if they ran 4.8's.

Kaipo-Noa is still ahead of Jarod Bryant as far as QB is concerned. He did some good things this week according to Johnson, but when you consider the cats of players around him compared to what the first string defense is looking like, this shouldn't come as a huge shock.

Lastly, this blog is still alive, despite being relatively inactive for periods of up to a week. I'm really very sorry, but I happen to be in the middle of an athletic season and its tough for me to update happenings on a nightly basis. So for the remainder of the spring I'll shoot for a mid-week update and a big Saturday recap like I did today. (Photo from

Newspaper Coverage:
Last Year's Starters Not Safe At Navy (Washington Times)
At Navy, Johnson Issues Call to Action To Young Defense (Baltimore Sun)
Offense Starting Quickley for Mids (Washington Times)
Navy Like to Take Fresh Spring Tack (Annapolis Capital)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Three Defensive Players to Watch This Spring

DL Nate Frazier : For as valiant of a job that John Chan, Tye Adams, and David Wright did last year in Navy's 3-4 scheme, the reality was that they just didn't fit the mold of the the kind of linemen you need in that kind of defense. While their grit and determination helped give Navy a respectable rush defense, it was apparent against teams like Notre Dame that stopping the run and getting pressure on the quarterback were increasingly difficult. At 6'3, 285 Frazier is, physically at least, a grown man. But he's more then just a really big dude down on the line, as he combines great speed for his side with excellent strength. Consider for a second that while at prep school at Wyoming Seminary Frazier actually played lacrosse. No, that's not a typo, the guy played LAX! If that's not athleticism for his size, I don't know what is. Frazier goes into the spring as the starter at nose guard, and if he can show two-gap potential in practices, this could end up being much better Navy defensive line then people expect.

CB Blake Carter- We've been hearing a lot about Blake Carter ever since the freshmen from Stillwater, Oklahoma impressed the coaching staff last year during fall practices. As a freshmen he cracked the three deep, which is very difficult to do at a Service Academy. This year he'll be asked to step in and compete for a starting job at cornerback after the departure of two year starter Keenan Little, and if the buzz around fan circles in accurate, he should be able to do so. Yet even for all the hype building around the 5-11, 184-lb corner, he's still relatively untested on the field, seeing only mop-up duty and special teams work. He doesn't need to be a lights out, shut-down corner, but he does need to prove he can be a regular player with the potential to improve. He should be pushed by senior Greg Thrasher, who himself needs to prove he's fully returned to form after a year off from football.

OLB Matt Humiston- I was actually going to include OLB Matt Wimsatt here, but since Wimsatt will be sitting out this spring due to injury, I thought it apt to go with the other main contender at OLB. Humistan's a good athlete who played defensive back in High School, and has the versatility you like to see from a Navy outside linebacker. While he isn't likely to make anyone forget about Dave Mahoney (and who can, really?) he should be able to step into the defense and come out of spring as the starter. He will however be challenged by several young and very talented players, including Ian Meredith, Ross Pospisil, and perhaps Bayard Roberts.

Other to Watch: CB Greg Thrasher, OLB Matt Humistan, LB Ross Pospisil, LB Ian Meredith, DL Bayard Roberts, OLB Dell Robinson.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Position Changes

Not sure if anyone else noticed this, but the official roster seems to indicate some interesting position changes that have taken place within the past month or two. Here's a few that stood out to me:

Michael Walsh from LB to DE
Luke Lagera from SB to S
Dell Robsinson from DB to OLB

I've probably misses several others, but like I said, these are just the ones that stood out to me for whatever reason. I would guess Lagera's switch is partially due to his size. He's now listed at 5'9, which is larger then the 5'7 he came in at. Navy's depth at slotback was probably also a contributing factor, although I'm not sure if Lagera played any safety in High School. Dell Robinson's switch is interesting too because he's a guy who spent a couple of years in the defensive backfield. My guess is Coach Johnson is trying to put him in a situation where he'll be more apt to compete for playing time. Remember Johnson was thinking about using Miles as an OLB until the New Jersey native transferred to UMass, so we could be seeing that kind of experimentation with Robinson. These kinds of position changes come and go, so I wouldn't get to worked up over any change. The real fun comes during spring practice, where I'm sure these guys and many more will be moving around back and forth all over the place.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Three Offensive Players to Watch this Spring

Let's look beyond the obvious starters for 2007 and take a look at some players who could come out of left field to give significant contributions to the offense. Here are three players in particular I would keep my eye on going into Spring practices.

QB Jarod Bryant- Since most eyes will be focused on the impending quarterback competition, I thought starting out with Alabama's former Mr. Football would be fitting. While as fans we obviously support whoever gives the team the best chance to win, you can't help but like the rising junior from the famed Hoover High program (on a side note, hats off to Jarod, who spearheaded the football teams efforts to bring toys to an orphanage in Liberia.) While Kaipo-Noa started the last six games of last year and had good success, Coach Johnson has made it clear that he's not just going to hand the keys to Hawaiian without first giving Bryant (or even Troy Goss for that matter) a chance. Jarod has a good arm by Navy quarterback standards, and despite his size (5'11) sees the field well and understands where his targets are. He's an athletic player who has the ability to make people miss in the open field, but needs to show better understanding of running the option if he is to overtake Kaipo. After two years in the system he's had time to catch up with Kaipo's preexisting knowledge of the offense, which gives him an excellent chance to compete for the starting job. Remember, JB was recruited as a defensive back for Auburn, so he has the ability to play a variety of positions if he can't win the job.

SB Greg Shinego - It seems like every year Navy returns a talented and veteran group of slotbacks, with this year being no exception. With Reggie Campbell, Shun White, and Zerbin Singleton all coming back the unit is primed for success, and with several highly touted younger players coming up should be set for a few years to come. One of those players is Greg Shinego, a 5-9 speedster out of Port St. Lucie, Florida who saw limited action in mop-up duty last year. As it stands right now Shingeo is in position to win the job as the fourth slotback, which means the difference between contributing on a regular basis and watching from the sideline. If Shingeo can show he's a solid blocker there is no reason why he shouldn't be able to show off his athleticism on the field in '07.

WR Greg Sudderth- Despite the sudden departure of freshmen safety Jeromey Miles in January, Coach Johnson doesn't appear intent on switching Sudderth back to safety from wide receiver. You may recall Sudderth saw action at Safety in 2005 and early in 2006, but was moved to wide receiver last October after his job was overtaken by several talented newcomers. Sudderth is that rare kind of athlete who chooses USNA over several BCS conference schools, but to date he has not lived up to the hype he generated as an incoming recruit. Still, he has excellent size (6'2, 203) and good speed, and now that he's finally clear of some nagging injuries and focused on getting better at wide receiver, there is no reason he shouldn't at least compete for playing time. The biggest obstacle for Sudderth will be Navy's growing depth at wide receiver, where returning starter OJ Washington and veteran Tyree Barnes have all but locked up next year's starting spots. Add in Curtis Sharp and possibly Troy Goss, and you've got a very interesting position battle to watch this spring.

Others to Watch: John Forbes, Ben Gabbard, Eric Kettani, Bobby Doyle, Scott Oswald, Ryan Burke.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Spring Prospectus Up...

...At the Official Site. Good read, especially if your not a huge college basketball fan.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

So, yea...

I apologize for the slow going over here, I've been busy directing another sports-related project and have been having some Internet problems at my home. Considering this is about as dead a time of year you can fine in the nonstop world which is college football, I think it is an understatement to say we haven't really missed much. I'll hopefully have some analysis up by the end of the week on some random stuff, so hold tight.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Our First Spring Motivator

From CFN, talking about Rutgers here...

It's O.K. to talk national championship. The team should be better than last year, and the schedule, once again, isn't all that bad. The only non-conference game worthy of showing up for is a home date with Maryland, while West Virginia and South Florida have to come to Piscataway. The road games? Syracuse, Connecticut and Army before what might be the make-or-break game in the in the regular season finale against Louisville for, yes, the BCS championship game.

There are two obvious problems with this statement. First, this is major college football, you need to show up for any game no matter who you are. While Rutgers may not need to bring 100% intensity to beat the likes of Norfolk St. or Buffalo, I can guarantee you after last year's loss the Midshipmen are going to bring it, and they will be fired up for the upset. Second, to assume Maryland has a better chance at upsetting Rutgers doesn't make a ton of sense. Are they a better overall team then Navy? Probably. Are they that much better. No. If Navy goes into their week two matchup against Rutgers (televised nationally on ESPN) with the intensity and focus we have come to expect from a Paul Johnson coached team, and if Rutgers comes in overlooking the Midshipmen, there is no reason Navy can't pull an upset, or at least play competitively with the Scarlet Knights. Remember, this was a very close game until two third-quarter blocked punts last year, even without Brian Hampton at the helm for Navy. Don't pencil this one in as a "sure win" for Rutgers just yet.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Air Force's New Look

I'm very interested to see how Air Force's new offense looks next year. As many of you know new head coach Troy Calhoun plans to install a new, non-triple option offense at Air Force, which of course ran the triple option for 23 years under Fisher DeBerry. While the specifics of the offense aren't exactly floating around on the web, it looks like the Falcons will utilize the shotgun formation and run a Jim Grobe-type offense that places more emphasis on the pass then in past seasons. There are also reports that Air Force will utilize the I-formation, which you can basically run anything out of.

As a fan of the game I'm very excited to see how what exactly this offense looks like and how well it does. Shaun Carney, while an average option quarterback his first three seasons in college football, is still regarded as one of the better quarterbacks to pass through Colorado Springs. I'll be the first to admit he throws a nice ball and can play with good accuracy, but one has to wonder is Carney isn't just destined to be one of those disproportionally hyped quarterbacks that never has much of success on the field. Word on the street is this new offense will highlight Carney's passing ability while still utilizing his athleticism, also taking advantage of some good skill position players like running back Chad Hall. I don't know how the whole experiment will work, and to be honest I'm really not that well informed on the change anyway. But I think its going to be an dynamic to watch this spring, and should be a point of discussion as we get closer to next year's game at NMCM. Air Force will also be switching to the 3-4 defense, which is, by conventional standards, more susceptible to the working of the triple option. Considering the Falcons don't have a monster-of-a-man, two-gap-playing defensive linemen (at least one I've heard of) this could bode well for Navy. Will it be enough to give Navy a edge next season? Maybe, maybe not, but its something to mull over as we get closer to both Navy and Air Force's spring games.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Monday Musings 3/07

One of the most annoying points made over and over again during the 2006 college football season was that of Notre Dame's schedule. Even now there are still people ripping both the Irish and Brady Quinn for not winning a game against elite competition, and lambasting the "cupcakes" which the Irish throttled during the year. This point was particularly annoying this year because of the nature of Notre Dame's schedule, which featured both Army and Air Force in addition to the usual matchup with the Midshipmen. Never mind that Navy has had four consecutive winning seasons of eight wins or more, apparently the real "experts" still think playing Navy is comparable to playing the Temples or FIU's of the world. The amazing thing is, to me anyway, that these same folks were neglecting to talk about how the Irish played a one win Stanford team that Navy just shellacked, a North Carolina team which sunk to the bottom of the ACC, and barely escaped a Michigan St. team which managed only one conference win. Now I know people brought up those three teams up many times in their arguments, but the point is the argument about ND's schedule almost always started with the Service Academies, and with Navy. Why? I don't really know, but I'm assuming its just out of ignorance. It's hard to defend the on-the-field accomplishments of Air Force and Army as of late, but I hope that people recognize the Midshipmen, while not a Top 25 team, are by no means cupcakes. Scheduling Navy shouldn't be ripped, since let's be honest here, Navy is one of the better non-BCS teams in the country. Not only that, the Paul Johnson's offense presents matchup problems with defenses, and even against reletivly good defenses (Notre Dame, Rutgers) the Mids have proven they can move the football and score. So lay off the fact that Notre Dame plays Navy, as far as a the streagth of schedule argument goes the Irish could play someone far, far worse. And lay off Army too, seeing that when the Black Knights don't throw five interceptions a game they're actually decent (just ask Texas A&M.) As for Air Force, well, I won't stop you.

That is all.

Three Keys to Drafting Success

As I watch the current NFL free agency market progress, I have several thoughts regarding drafting players who will more or less become an asset for your organization. Please adjust roster accordingly.

1) Don't Draft People with Character Concerns

2) Don't draft people represented by Drew Rosenhouse

3) Basically, don't draft people from the U.

Please note that these points of emphasis may or may not be directed at a certain overrated running back currently employed by the Bills who pays alimony on five kids by five different girlfriends and runs too high and too slow to be a feature back in major college football, much less the NFL.

Three Keys for Drafting Success

As I watch the current NFL free agency market progress, I have several thoughts regarding drafting players who will more or less become an asset for your organization. Please adjust roster accordingly.

1) Don't Draft People with Character Concerns

2) Don't draft people represented by Drew Rosenhouse

3) Basically, don't draft people from the U.

Please note that these points of emphasis may or may not be directed at a certain overrated running back currently employed by the Bills who pays alimony on five kids by five different girlfriends and runs too high and too slow to be a feature back in major college football, much less the NFL.