Wednesday, May 24, 2006
AN ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENT OF: NAVY
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SMQ spins the wheel for a hastily-rendered, too-soon look at a random school's prospects for the fall, sans inevitable academic and criminal suspensions, sudden transfers, debilitating injuries and other miscellaneous misfortunes of the long summer
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Change: Overrated, once you've got the right system and the next anonymous overachiever reaches the front of the line
PAST FIVE SEASONS: 28-31 - 2005: 8-4, Won Poinsettia Bowl
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 17 (8 Offense, 9 Defense)
WHAT'S CHANGED: Quarterback Lamar Owens, like all Navy QBs, was no dynamo with his arm, but who needs to be when you're only throwing around ten passes a game? New guy Brian Hampton, another one-and-done senior starter, much more resembles short, stocky former Middie quarterback Aaron Polanco than he does the quicker Owens, but will fit right in to the same role as trigger man in the ol' veer. Hampton is also, presumably, not an accused rapist.
WHAT'S THE SAME: Born to run: still nobody's figured out the option much, with the Middies topping 400 yards rushing against three different opponents en route to finishing No. 1 in the country on the ground, their 134th consecutive season among the top five. Even minus Owens, key figures return in Adam Ballard, Matt Hall and Reggie Campbell, not to mention four starting offensive linemen. Campbell, you'll recall, tied a bowl record with five touchdowns in the rather eye-opening dismantling of Colorado State in the Poinsettia Bowl, which makes it enticing - though hardly foolproof - to project his production to rise above 43 yards per game, his '05 average.
Most importantly, the schedule's not any tougher.
DON'T WANT NO SHORT PEOPLE 'ROUND HERE: The Midshipmen remain almost comically undersized in some spots: there's a 247-pound right tackle, a 225-pound nose tackle and a 200-pound middle linebacker, to cite the most extreme, 1965-ish examples. SMQ has a soft spot for the supposed "little guys" - his own 145-pound ass was frequently moved from split end down to tight end his last year of high school, unaccompanied by any coaching for line play, a move that made sense given his lineman speed but that left him hoping to stalemate at best hulking kids with 60 to 140-pound weight advantages - but in general this Davidian approach tends to be not the most sound strategy.
The defense returns just about everybody, too, but its problems against any competent attack last year means this isn't as much a reason for enthusiasm as the returning ability on the other side. Tyler Tidwell was good at getting into the backfield (19 TFL, 8 sacks, including 3 in the bowl game) and returns along with leading tackler Rob Caldwell, but as a whole it was ripped up - especially by opposing quarterbacks, the last four of whom averaged 304 yards per game and threw for 11 touchdowns to one interception (all but one - Brad Quinn - it should be noted, in Navy wins despite the numbers).
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC POST-SPRING CHATTER: College Football News has begun to crack underneath the sweltering offseason sun beating down on the expansive desert of the offseason, issuing the beginnings of a ludicrous 100-player Heisman list that SMQ refers to here only to note that Navy fullback Ballard is on it:
(HT: Navy blogger Pitch Right)
Ballard, whom SMQ has not seen play, comes across here as the Incredible Hulk, yet still ranks behind mega-hyped...er, eh, make that "presumably not made up" UNLV quarterback Rocky Hinds on the early Heisman watch. Just wait 'till those voters see Ballard's aiming point on the veer come September, and then we'll see who's No. 94!
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Not sweating Adam Ballard just yet
REASON FOR HOPE: All of Johnson's teams have been winners, and none have been as experienced as this one. The option's not tricking anybody at this point, but it still seems to be working as well as ever.
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: Might this be the year opposing defenses finally get a clue, or just overpower the smaller Middies ? We don't know yet how effective Hampton will be, or if the defense will show any improvement.
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, LITERARY OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE... Your successful Mom and Pop hardware store on Main Street: sometimes seems a little quaint, old-fashioned or even corny, never going to rise to compete with the biggest competition, but (except for the rapist quarterback thing) utterly respectable in its niche and still capable of holding its own with far fewer resources after all these years.
WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING... Notre Dame is basically an automatic annual loss, but it's the only one in that category, so another eight wins seems inevitable until the schedule picks up more games tougher than Rutgers and Tulsa.
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Previous absurdly premature assessments:
April 3: Central Michigan...April 4: Brigham Young...April 6: Kentucky...April 7: Bowling Green...April 8: Southern Cal...April 11: Rutgers...April 12: Marshall...April 13: Florida State...April 15: San Diego State...April 17: Alabama...April 19: Oregon State...April 20: Buffalo...April 22: NC State...April 23: Arizona ...April 24: Memphis...April 26: Louisiana Tech...Apr il 28: Iowa...April 30: Toledo...May 2: Ohio State...May 3: Mississippi State...May 5: Southern Miss...UL-Lafayette...May 11: Akron...May 13: Michigan State...May 15: Air Force...May 17:Stanford...May 18: Georgia Tech...May 21: Connecticut...May 23: Purdue
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Actaully, It is. Notre Dame is well, Notre Dame. Tulsa and Rutgers are Top 30 caliber, and Stanford (which already is decent-good)may very well have a breakout season (Trent Edwards is getting a lot of offeason praise, apparently his progression has really picked up). East Carolina is much improved, and some analysts are already prediciting a Bowl and challanging for the C-USA title. Air Force, UCONN, and Army are all not great to decent, but UCONN could be in position to have a winning season. Duke, Temple, and E Michagen all suck, but I wouldn't rate them In the bottom 10, that's researved for the entire Sun Belt.
I will post a greater critique on Pitch Right later today...Gotyta defend my boys