Saturday, June 30, 2007
There are, in fact, many things to do over at PhilSteele.com, which has become one of my daily visits. Like his analysis or feel smothered by his cult like following of bloggers, one can't help but admire the sheer amount of college football coverage generated by the man, including the many free previews posted on his site. Mr. Steele recently uploaded his entire preview of the Colonial Athletic Conference in PDF format, and has added an entire section on injuries and transfers for the 2007 season (I like to call this the Rhett Bomar effect.) There is also a poll on the website asking which is the best college football rivalry, so feel free to stop by and vote for Army-Navy.
That is all.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
You're telling me watching some Norwegian dude carrying his wife on his back is better than the greatest and most meaningful college football rivalry of all time? This, as far as I'm concerned, is the problem with ESPN's continued coverage of international (and often meaningless) sporting events. That's right European sports fans, I just called you and your "futbol" out.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
Best of luck Eric, and welcome to the college football blogsphere!
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Can Todd Dodge get this team to win?
North Texas was the dominating force in the Sun Belt with four consecutive conference titles from the conference's inception in 2001 to the 2004 season. Believe it or not, there is actually a glitch in the 2005 version of NCAA '05 which will put the Mean Green into the position to play for the National Championship (!!!) a few years down the road in any given dynasty mode campaign. Todd Dodge was the very well known and respected head coach at high school powerhouse Southlake Carroll near Dallas, Texas. Dodge won four "national championships" there and built what is considered to be one of, if not the best, high school programs in the country. I love the energy and enthusiasm he brings to the team and feel confident that his reputation will start to bring recruits into Denton down the road. However the ENTIRE coaching staff here has been overhauled and while some people may want to point to the Rice example of last year, the Mean Green should struggle even in what figures to b a wide open (as usual) Sun Belt conference. He's installing a new, run-oriented spread system that could be a little much for the players to digest in the course of one off season. I hate to say this, but this team looks like it will only win a few games (say 3-4) next season, although Dodge should build a winner in the long-run.
Who the Heck is the Quarterback?
Hey, your guess is as good as mine. I didn't write too much in my quarterback preview last week, mostly because it seemed too confusing at the time. It now seems like most preseason publications are projecting Jr. Daniel Meager as the starting quarterback. Meager has the most starting experience of anyone on the roster, but he's hit an unimpressive 51% of his passes for just 8 touchdowns and 14 interceptions during his career. Jr. Matt Phillips, who also started last year, is also a possibility, although his 49% completion percentage doesn't look very good on paper. If that wasn't enough, senior Woody Wilson, who started five games last season, also returns. All these quarterbacks should be better this season, especially considering Coach Dodge's reputation of working wonders with quarterbacks (he mentored current Missouri starter Chase Daniel at Southlake Carroll. Meager.)
Yes, and he may be one of the few bright spots on Dodge's work in progress this year. It seems like forever ago when the North Texas freshmen ran for 1,801 yards an 17 touchdowns, and by forever ago I mean 2004. Thomas was banged up in 2005 and sat behind Patrick Cobbs, but was ineffective last season despite having an experienced O-Line in front of him. Thomas returns this season for a final encore, but the leagues defenses have become more stout since he captured Player of the Year honers in '04. Even though Dodge is moving the team away from the more run oriented system, the change of direction may play more into Thomas' favor by getting opposing defenses to stop keying in on him so much. With that being said, the offensive line only returns two starters and typically it takes a few years to develop linemen in a new system, so it could be tough going for Thomas.
Just For Fun: The team's all-time leading receiver, Johnny Quinn, signed as an undrafted free agent with my favorite NFL team, the Buffalo Bills. Just in case you wanted to see how bad NT's offensive line was last year:
Adam's Take: I'm not a fan of the Sun Belt conference but I'm not out to rip it like everyone else in the college football blogging world. The North Texas-Navy game will be an interesting matchup because it's one of the rare games in which a Sun Belt team will not play a "body bag" game against a powerhouse team from a BCS conference. MTSU proved that Sun Belt teams could be competitive against middle of the pack teams by beating Vanderbilt in 2005, but as it stands right now the conference is at the bottom of the FBS barrel. While I think the Midshipmen should handle the Mean Green without too much trouble (Navy always clicks late in the year) North Texas should be able to win two or three games within the conference. North Texas struggled with turnovers last season (an indication that they should be better in 2007) although with the changes in the coaching staff it will be hard to see any immediate effects. I don't like to project team in this range but I really don't see the Mean Green winning more than four games in 2007, and would not be surprised if they went 2-10. Dodge will get this program back on track, but not this year.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
You can now access this blog from the domain PitchRightSports.com. I have no idea if this makes it more convenient to find this site or whatnot, but hopefully it gives this blog a more "official" designation.
I've also added some blogs that I've been reading more of to the blogroll, and removed a single blog that more or less annoys me. The blogs I've added are ProvoPride, The 12th Manchild, Conquest Chronicles, Card Chronicles, Boiled Sports, Rakes of Mallow, and Subway Domer. These are all good blogs which I've started to check on a weekly basis, and some of them have been good to this blog in the past so I'd reccomend checking them out. I also want to introduce some of you to Project119. These fellas are attempting to see every FBS stadium in the country, and they've let me know they will be touring Naval-Marine Corps Memorial very soon.
I've also taken down the "latest from the Fan House" feed that made me look like I was trying to relive my blogging glory days a little too much, and added some new pictures at the bottom just because I felt like it.
One of the only cool things you can do on the "New" Blogger is to add a video bar which displays YouTube videos by key words. I've added one with Navy football videos, so that's worth a perusal if you get a chance.
I may also add a "Best Of" link set for the best posts I've ever written on this blog. If you have any other suggestions please let me know, they're probably better than my own ideas, which are running on empty at this point.
Mark Dodge, Texas A&M: Talented linebacker who started five games for the Aggies in 2006, recording 51 tackles and two interceptions. Dodge was not offered a scholarship out of High School and ended up enlisting in the Army, serving in the famed Old Guard at the Pentagon during the September 11th attacks. After four years in the Army he continued to pursue his dream of playing college football, playing two years in community college before coming to the Aggies prior to the '06 season. He's a very good linebacker in the Big 12, but just think how good he would be playing against Navy's competition!
Chad Hall, Air Force: Elusive back who would fit right into Paul Johnson's already talented group of slotbacks. Last year Chad ran for 784 yards on 155 carries, including five touchdown scampers. Hall is a multi-use back who will be playing a hybrid running back/wide receiver position this year for Air Force, and can even play quarterback despite his diminutive 5'8 size.
Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame: Was actually recruited by Navy as a quarterback, but decided to attend the University of Notre Dame as a defensive back instead. Has been one of the best strong safeties in the country when healthy, and has also been an explosive punt returner on special teams. Can do a variety of things, not the least of which includes knocking people senseless in the boxing ring. Could play quarterback in Navy's system and would also make a great rover or outside linebacker. Sports a freaking awsome haircut as well.
Caleb Campbell, Army: When he's healthy he can be a dominant player in Army's otherwise work in progress secondary. After recording 54 tackles as a true freshmen he became one of the best strong safeties in the country as a sophomore, recording 97 tackles and five interceptions. Was off to a good start last year before an ACL injury took him out for the year. Bobby Ross once commented that he'd take Caleb over any other safety in the country, and to be perfectly honest, so would I (although we'd still make room for Jeff Deliz of course.)
Drew Fowler, Air Force: A first team All-Mountain West performer in 2006, Fowler has been one of the best Air Force linebackers in recent memory. He recorded 123 tackles for the Falcons last season, and 77 the year before. Considering Navy's inexperience at linebacker, they could sure use a play maker like Fowler. He also has a really cool last name.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Dienhart however gets it wrong with several other teams. He overrates Houston and New Mexico to start out with. Houston will be a good team in 2007 but the loss of Kevin Kolb is going to test the identity of the team while New Mexico has more or less always faded in the stretch and underachieved under Rocky Long. Both are solid non-BCS programs, but probably fall just outside the Top 10. I think you move Utah up a few spots from #10, especially considering they get Brian Johnson back after a redshirt year. I also think he severely underrates Wyoming, which should have a more explosive offense in 2007 and remains solid on the defensive side of the football despite some key loses. At last but certainly not least, where the heck is Central Michigan? No Navy players were named to the All-Non BCS team, although I really think Antron Harper, Clint Sovie, and some other deserved consideration. All in all though it's great to see columns like this, so I'd like to thank Mr. Dienhart for taking the time to write this. Here is his Top 25 juxtaposed with mine:
Mr. Dienhart's Top 25
1. TCU 2. Boise State 3. Southern Miss 4. BYU 5. Hawaii 6. Houston 7. New Mexico 8. Navy 9. Miami (Ohio) 10. Utah 11. Tulsa 12. Troy 13. Western Michigan 14. Nevada 15. Ball State 16. Fresno State 17. Ohio 18. Bowling Green 19. Toledo 20. UCF 21. Wyoming 22. San Jose State 23. SMU 24. New Mexico State 25. Marshall
Adam's Top 25
1. TCU 2. Hawaii. 3. Boise St. 4. BYU 5. Utah 6. Southern Miss 7. Tulsa 8. Navy 9. Wyoming 10. Central Michigan 11. Houston 12. New Mexico 13. Troy 14. Ball St. 15. Western Michigan 16. San Jose St. 17. Nevada 18. Fresno St. 19. Toldedo 20. UCF 22. Ohio 23. Marshall 24. SMU 25. Middle Tennessee St.
After having a fine spring Harper was recently rewarded by being named one of 41 players named to the "watch list" for the Outland Trophey, which is presented at the end of the college football season to the best interior lineman in the country. You may also remember that Antron was named to the "watch list" for the prestigious Remington Award several weeks ago, which is presented to the "most outstanding center in college football."
Being named to both of these watch lists are a testament to Antron's career at the Naval Academy and the great job he's done both on and off the field. So often over the last two seasons when his name was mentioned it was usually in connection with his 5'11 height, which made him the smallest offensive linemen in the FBS. Fortunately after 25 starts and two All-Bowl team selections by ESPN.com, Antron has built a reputation of not only being one of the smallest linemen, but one of the best. If you watched him in spring, as so many of us eager fans did, then you are more than aware of just how good he is, and how dominant he may become at his new position. I'm not an expert on the play of the offensive line, but from what I've seen Antron is a master "technician" at center. He uses his hands better than anyone on the team, and gets great leverage against bigger defenders. He gave highly touted Navy defensive tackle Nate Frazier a rude awakening in spring ball despite being several inches shorter, and has earned the most lofty praise from coach Paul Johnson. Knowing that Johnson rarely gives out such open praise for his players, his words on Antron cannot be interpreted any differently, as the senior from Eastman, Georgia has certainly left his mark on the program.
Congratulations Antron, and best of luck in 2007!
(Picture from Navysports.com)
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Riley Skinner, Wake Forest
Hey, why not? Before last season began, everyone assumed the Demon Deacons would go with incumbent Ben Mauk, who had seen significant playing time over the past few seasons and had been a highly touted quarterback out of High School. Fortunately for Wake Forest (although not at the time) Mauk broke his arm in the opener and in stepped Riley Skinner, a 6'1, 200-lb redshirt freshmen who had never taken a college snap. The rest is, as they say, history, although very recent history at that. Skinner wasn't lights out for the Demon Deacons last season, and he's not going to put up huge numbers in Jim Grobe offense, but he does manage the game effectively and most importantly finds a way to win. He's not a phenomenal runner outside the pocket but is willing to carry the football, take hits, and even block for running backs out of the backfield. To be short, this guy is just a winner who is willing to do anything for his team. He threw for just over 2000 yards last season with a 9-5 ratio while completing an impressive 65% of his passes en route to being named 2nd Team All-ACC. With a full year under his belt I expect Skinner to have a better understanding of the offense and for the Grobe and the coaching staff to be more comfortable letting loose the talented quarterback in 2007.
Nate Davis, Ball State
Is Nate Davis the next great MAC quarterback? If his freshman campaign was any indicator, he very well may be, as he completed over 61% of his passes for just under 2000 yards with an 18-8 touchdown to interception ratio. He was one of the most highly recruited quarterback to commit to a MAC school in recent memory, and brandishes one of the strongest arms in the entire conference. He nearly led the Cardinals to a huge upset over then 2nd ranked Michigan in week ten, and threw for more than 200 yards in each of his last three games. With seven starts under his belt from his true Freshman year I only expect Davis to be better in 2007, and with both his top receivers back should be poised to put up big numbers this fall.
Jimmy Clausen/Evan Sharpley/Demetrius Jones, Notre Dame
Well, this certainly isn't going to do anything to break the perception that I'm something of a Notre Dame fan. To be honest, I'm not crazy about putting three untested quarterbacks this high, but it is what it is. All of these quarterbacks were top 15 prospects at the quarterback position coming out of High School, with Clausen being the top overall prospect in the country according to Rivals.com last season. All thee of these quarterbacks bring something different to the offense, and it's not impossible to see them used interchangeably in 2007. I believe that Sharpley will begin the year but think by the time the Navy game roles around the Irish may have Jimmy Clausen at the helm. All the better I suppose, because he annoys a lot of people, including me.
Mike Teel, Rutgers
Admittedly, I'm not sold on Teel or Rutgers. This is a top 25 team and perhaps even a top 20 team, but all this talk about being a legitimate national title contender is getting annoying. Mike Teel has good size and a solid arm as well as two years of starting experience, yet sill has struggled with his accuracy. He threw for 2135 yards last season with a 12-13 touchdown to interception ratio but "only" completed 55% of his passes. Against my better judgement I'm going to list him this high because of his experience and because he has an underrated group of wide receivers to throw to. Rutgers is still going to live and die based on how well Ray Rice and the running game do, so don't expect Teel to be named to any All-Big East teams anytime soon.Shaun Carney, Air Force
Part of me wants to put Carney higher on this list because numbers wise, the guy looks very, very good. The reality is that Carney is one of the better duel-threat quarterbacks in the country, but the thing is, if he were that good, why would his team be that bad? Sure he puts up the stats, but stats really don't mean much when you can't win on a consistent basis. To be fair, the Falcons have had some bad luck over the past couple of seasons, but Carney's decision to attend the The United States Air Force Academy over the United States Naval Academy doesn't look to good in retrospect, at least from a football perspective. Still, Carney brandishes a surprisingly strong arm despite his 5'10 size., and believe it or not he's been among the most accurate quarterbacks in the nation couple seasons. He'll probably shatter every major Air Force passing record by the time his career ends after this season, but then again he also stands a good chance to become the first Air Force QB to lose four straight starts against Navy.
Pat Bostick/Bill Stull, Pittsburgh
It's tough to rank these two so low because I'm convinced Bostick can be a very good quarterback at the collegiate level in the near future, while Stull has spent a fair amount of time within the system and could easily win the job too. That being said Pitt fans are very concerned about their quarterback prospects for 2007 after the departure of Tyler Palko, who was a very highly touted player who had been in the program since 2002. Bostick was the 6th rated high school quarterback according to Scout.com last season, and a five star recruit with a big arm and great poise in the pocket. Because he's the long term solution I'm projecting him as the starter, but he will struggle in 2007.
Thaddeus Lewis/Zach Asack, Duke
As of right now rising sophomore Thaddeus Lewis is the starter, but don't be surprised if 2005's starter Zach Asack wins back the job this summer. As many of you know, Asack was expected to lead the Blue Devils last season, but a spring plagiarism scandal left him off the team and out of the University, not to mention derailing what little hopes Duke had in 2006. Lewis did an admirable job filling in, but it was apparent the true freshmen was overwhelmed from day one. Lewis hit 52% of his passes last year for 2134 yards while sporting a 11-16 ratio. Asack returns this summer and gives the Blue Devils a solid option if Lewis struggles. Both of these players aren't necessary bad quarterbacks and should be much better in 2007, especially considering the team returns all of their skill position players from 2006.
Dan Nicholson, Northern Illinois
Nicholson has five career starts for NIU and I could have easily put him ahead of the Pittsburgh and Duke duos. He's passed for nearly 15oo yards in his career and sports an 11-8 touchdown to interception ratio while hitting 56.7% of his passes. He ended the season on a high note in the start against Eastern Michigan, going 24-37 for 261 yards but was absolutely overwhelmed in the Bowl game against a swarming TCU defense. With no Garret Wolfe this year he's going to be under more pressure to give the offense a spark, and despite the return of the team's three top receivers I think Nicholson will struggle in 2007.
Carson Williams, Army
If I had to write one sentence about Army quarterbacks Dave Peveto and Carson Williams from all of last season, it would be this; When they don't throw interceptions, they're actually pretty good. Unfortunately for the United States Military Academy and all of it's fans, interceptions were something of a norm last season, as Peveto tossed 14 while Williams tossed ten. When you considered they only combined for ten touchdown passes, you can arrive at the fairly obvious conclusion that Army should be running the ball more. Peveto is a senior this season and has the most experience, but every projection I've read has Williams' quarterbacking the Black Knights next year so for the purposes of this preview we'll project him as the starter. Either way both quarterbacks will have to adjust to a new system, which is usually a struggle. Both of these quarterbacks have the physical tools to be decent players, but until they can show that their propensity to turn the ball over was limited to the 2006 season, I unfortunately can't list them any higher in my assessment. For what it's worth, I really hope this Army program can turn it around sometime in the near future.
Adam DiMichele/Vaughn Carlton, Temple
DiMichele was horrible against Navy last season, while Carlton actually showed some ability to lead the offense down field. During the MAC regular season it was DiMichele who actually played the best though, hitting 65% of his passes for 1050 yards and a 9-6 ratio against the six MAC teams he faced. DiMichele originally accepted an offer from Penn St. a few years back but chose baseball instead. After that tanked he came back to football, although not to the acclaim he had coming out of High School. Temple has a talented group of receivers who should be able to help both of these quarterbacks next season, including Travis Shelton, who runs an alleged sub 4.3 (fat chance, but he is fast.) I look for both of these quarterbacks to make strides and be better players next season, although they're still at the bottom of the list.
Anyone from North Texas
This is basically a wide open race between three quarterbacks who all had chances to start last season and all struggled mightily. The good news here is that new Head coach Todd Dodge is renowned for his ability to mentor quarterbacks on the high school level, including current Missouri star Chase Daniel. This entire unit should improve, but it's clearly the worst of the Navy's opponents from the FBS.
BTW, writing this post (as well as several others recently) has really made me aware that I hate blogger. It's difficult to use and the formatting sucks, so please excuse the lack of symmetry in this post.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Thursday, June 07, 2007
In other news, I just picked up this year's Phil Steele magazine, and will have a full report early next week. There are however some key points I will quickly touch on. Fullback Adam Ballard was named the 6th best fullback in the nation, while Navy's backfield was named the 6th best backfield in the country. As usual, Phil Steele seems high on the Midshipmen, giving his famous yet ambiguous prediction. This year he gives Navy a shot to win nine games, which seems to be the mark many preview magazines are hovering around. Navy is ranked as the second most experienced team based on Phil's projection system, which centers around the amount of upper class men featured on the three deep of the depth chart (Service Academies are almost always in his top ten, including this year, in which Air Force is first and Army is third.) He picks the Midshipmen to match off against the BYU Cougars in next year's Poinsettia Bowl.
I'll be more or less of the Internet for the next few days, but I should be able to up the content next week, including a return to our Non-BCS question edition as well as further previews of Navy's 2007 campaign.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
To download for use, click the picture to see the full size version. A big thanks once again to Boomerbadger529, who is also planning covers for Brian Hampton, Matt Hall, and Adam Ballard.
Friday, June 01, 2007
As for the Athlon Regional I bought, I've found it really to be one of the better preview magazines out there. Of course I'm an unabashed Phil Steele enthusiast, but getting four pages on Navy coverage (albeit nothing new for me) out of Athlon is not half bad. There are some cool features that are standard to all the regional magazines, including rundowns on preseason Top 25 predictions, recruiting class rankings, and just general listmania of anything and everything. Since this is a Navy preview I won't bore you with all the details, but I'd suggest checking one of these out if you get the chance.
First things first. Navy's own Paul Johnson was ranked as the best"underrated coach" in the country out of six coaches listed. Here's what the blurb said...
Few coaches have been to the White House as often as Johnson, who has made visits each of the past four seasons after Navy's has won the Commander in Chief Trophy. Navy is 8-0 the past four years against the Service Academies.
Nothing new there for Navy fans, but it's good to see Johnson get some recognition. Another interesting note is that the magazine listed Air Force as one of it's five "programs in decline." The Midshipmen are ranked 48th in the Nation by Athlon for the projected rankings, which is 16 spots higher than Lindy's, which ranked the Midshipmen at 64th in the country. Navy's 2007 opponents are projected as followed, with a little commentary by yours truly...
Rutgers #10 (Too High)
Wake Forest #32 (Sounds Right)
Notre Dame #38 (Sounds Right)
Pitt #55 (Sounds Right)
Air Force #87 (A bit low, based on strength of MWC)
Ball State #93 (Much too low)
Northern Illinois #96 (maybe a little low)
Duke #98 (sounds right)
Army #111 (a little low)
North Texas #114 (a little low)
Temple #115 (sounds right)
Because Delaware is a FCS team, they were not projected in the rankings. Athlon predicts eight wins and three loses for the Midshipmen, with what they call a "crucial game" against Pitt (a game that could go either way.) I'm not going to pick apart the analysis, but it's more or less what I'd predict if I were made to predict how the 2007 season would shake down. The projected loses are to (no shock here) Notre Dame, Rutgers, and Wake. For what it's worth, I think the Mids can be competitive against all of those teams, in particular Wake Forest, which does not tend to blow people out. More on that later this summer...
Some other random points. Wide receiver Tyree Barnes is listed as the "rising star" while a lot of credit is given to not only to Paul Johnson, but his staff. Sometimes as fans we overlook the staff, and I think its important to remember just how good of a job the position coaches do in this system. Other than that, the preview is pretty standard, and it's nothing we haven't heard before. I'll have an update sometime next week on further previews that should begin to come out, including, well, you know.
B+ for Navy coverage, A- for ACC coverage. Love the love for Wake for what it's worth.