Thursday, August 17, 2006

Questions and Answers from a Navy Blogger

Navy Blogger Adam Nettina proves age in no barrier to running a high quality Fan Blog. He edits the Navy-centric PITCH RIGHT .

This Blog appeared in a question an answer session in PITCH RIGHT on Thursday August 10th (Scroll down) discussing UMass Football for the Navy fans.

Today Adam returns the favor by giving us some insights into Navy Football. Welcome Adam!

First, tell us some details about yourself. It says in your Blog “Pitch Right” that you’re not a Navy grad. How did you get involved in Navy football and what about the Midshipmen makes you passionate enough to write a dedicated blog?

Firstly, I’m not a grad because I’m only seventeen years old. Once readers get pass that shocking piece of news, I think anyone will realize Navy football and I have had a special relationship all of my relatively short life. I’m actually told my first Army-Navy game was three days before I was born. I’ve lived in the Baltimore metro area all my life, and have been going to Navy games since my earliest days. In the beginning there was no real connection. My father was a huge football fan living in a city without a pro team, and loved the atmosphere of Navy games. As I grew older, I took a more active role as a fan. It wasn’t until 2003 though that I really became the fan I am today. That summer I attended the Naval Academy Football camp and was able to play with some of the top recruits for the program. It was the first time I ever heard Coach Johnson speech and the first time I had ever spent time on campus. Since then I’ve been a season ticket holder with my father. My blog, Pitch Right, was actually started on a whim shortly after the end of the season last year. I had envisioned it as just a place I could record my thoughts and kick around some ideas, but it has grown into a great place to develop my love for college football and interact with Navy fans worldwide. As for a future in the Navy, I’m actually awaiting a response to my NROTC application I recently sent in, and with enough luck will be able to attend college next year on track to eventually become an officer.

One of best things for fans of a I-AA team playing a I-A team is visiting a I-A stadium with its big crowds. Last year UMass was the second biggest draw on Army’s home schedule. From talking to UMass fans, it seems that Navy will be looking at a fair amount of Maroon and White in the visiting section. Tell us about the Navy game day traditions.

Being at a Navy game is great; the experience, in my opinion, is better then any other college program in the country. From the pre-game flyovers to the march onto the field, pregame is in fact an entity of its own. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium has got to be one of the nation’s best kept stadium secrets. It’s much more then a great place to watch football, it’s also a memorial to the fighting men and women of past generations.

Until recently, pundits in I-A (and some in I-AA) were saying that the service academies could not be successful in the modern era because they could not recruit the type of player needed to compete. Do you feel that the resurgence of Navy under Paul Johnson and the return to respectability of Army under Bobby Ross has proved the service academies can win at the I-A level?

The short answer? Yes, I believe the Service Academy’s (SA’s) can win at the I-A level. You’ve also got to remember that Fisher DeBerry is only two years removed from a 7-5 season and looks to have the Air Force Falcons on the rebound this year. Of course coaching has a good deal to do with what people figure as the resurgence (Navy) and impending resurgence (Army) of the SA’s, but I think the pundits often overlook the quality of players these schools get. The three Academies often compete over the same guys in terms of recruiting, but people need to understand that there are some talented kids in that pool. Right now Navy has a clear advantage over Air Force and Army in terms of recruiting, but all three of these programs have decent shots at winning seasons this year. While SA’s can win at the I-A level, it remains to be seen if they can compete at the elite level. Air Force was able to crack the polls numerous times in the 80s and 90s, and this season Navy could even slip into the 20-25 range if they play their cards right.

Let talk some football. Navy will have a new QB this season. Who will it be and why?

The new Quarterback will be Senior Brian Hampton. Hampton saw duty in several games last year when then-starter Lamar Owens was out due to cramping. He lead scoring drives against Stanford, Kent State, and Notre Dame, and brings a lot to the table. For starters he throws a good ball, and can be very accurate. While not as fast as his predecessor Lamar Owens, he’s bigger and stronger and shows some great moves in the open field. As long as he makes good reads on the options, he has all the physical tools to lead this team to a winning season. Brian looked very good at Saturday’s scrimmage, making some great reads and having a big day rushing and throwing the ball. Behind him sit three very talented backups, two of which bring great athleticism to the table. If Hampton his injured, Junior Troy Goss will be asked to take his place. Goss runs the option the best of the four, but isn’t the best overall athlete. Behind him are two Sophomores in Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (Kaipo) and Jarrod Bryant (Mr. Football). Both are extremely talented athletes who will likely play other positions this year, but are slated to become huge contributors in a year or two. I’m going to take this opportunity to rep Jarrod Bryant, who I think has an incredibly bright future ahead of him. The guy has a great arm, puts ball right on the money, and has Michael Vick like moves out on the field. He was Mr. Football in Alabama in 2004 at the famed Hoover High, and may see some time at Slot Back this season.

When everyone talks about Navy they talk the spread option. Can Navy pass? If so, who should we look for?

I am happy to report that Navy can pass, and that when Navy does pass, we pass very well. Because Navy rushes as much as they do, often times you will see the Wide Receivers and Slot Backs draw single coverage when in fact the team does pass. The QB will either pass out of a straight drop or out of the triple option, in which he will roll out but pull back to survey the field. The latter is particularly hard to defend, especially if the Safety over-commits on what he thinks is the option. Navy’s number one wideout is Jason Tomlinson, who caught 25 passes last year for 445 yards and a score . Either Tyree Barnes (6 catches, 154 yards, 2 TDs) or OJ Washington will start opposite of Tomlinson. Barnes has good size at 6’2, but Washington is arguably the better blocker. Navy’s slotbacks also haul in passes, and both the starters and backups have track caliber speed. Slotback Reggie Campbell caught 12 balls last year for 314 yards (26. 2 avg!) and 2 TDs. As this Navy offense continues to get more comfortable in its execution, look for the team to open up the playbook more with some passes.

Looking over the Navy defense it seems you are loaded with seniors. One thing UMass and Navy might have in common is we don’t have a lot of size up front. What is Navy’s base defense? Who are the best players?

Navy plays a base 3-4. The prevailing wisdom is that our defense has been marginal to weak over the past few seasons, but I really think this is going to be a special year. Our linebacking corps is by far the best facet of the D. We return the Nation’s second leading tackler in ILB Rob Caldwell (144 Tkls last year) and two ultra athletic OLB’s in Tyler Tidwell (67 tckls, 10 sacks, 9 tfls) and David Mahoney (76 tckls, 8 sacks, 8 tfls). The unit will break in a new ILB, which figures to be either Joe Cylc or Clint Sovie. After watching this unit stonewall our offense early in Saturday’s scrimmage, it’s clear they should frustrate some opposing offenses this season. Caldwell has a hard nose for contact, while Tidwell, Mahoney, and Sovie all bring great athleticism and aggressiveness to the unit. The defensive line figures to be much improved this year, with a beefed up defensive line. The line struggled to develop a pass rush at time last year, and going into the season will be question mark for the defense. The secondary returns several athletic and very talented players, including senior cornerbacks Jeremy McGowen and Keenan Little, who both were highly touted players out of High School. Free safety DuJuan Price was hampered by injuries last year, but is a fierce hitter who picked off a pass at Maryland last season. The Rover will be Ketric Buffin, who at only 5-7 may be the most physical part of this secondary. Depth may be a problem after Cornerback Greg Thrasher decided to sit out the season for academic reasons, so don’t be surprised if you see some converted safeties or freshmen running seeing some time at cornerback. All in all, this looks like it will be the best defense in the Paul Johnson era.

Navy plays Stanford the game after UMass. Stanford lost to a I-AA team last year. Do you think Navy will take the UMass game seriously?

I think they have to. You have to understand Coach Johnson’s mindset. This is a guy who got his team worried about facing a winless Rice team last year. He keeps the guys very humble and very well focused, and is sure to remind the seniors here about their loss to Delaware in 2003. We Navy fans take an attitude that the “next game” is always the :most important game,” so I think it’s safe to say for at least a week UMass will be the most important game on our schedule. Having talked to a number of the players a couple weeks ago, I can tell you they only have the utmost respect for what they consider a tough slate of teams they will face this year.

What is your prediction for the game and why?

I think Navy is just going to be too much for UMASS to handle. The team is well coached and well focused, and the overall talent level here is better then the 2003 team that loss to Delaware (who won the Div I-AA Title that year.) I think this game has the potential to be close up into the 3rd quarter, but to tell you the truth I’d be surprised if this one went into the 4th quarter with both teams still having a shot. I think the Navy defense has enough speed to cause some problems for the Minute Men, and should be able to force a few turnovers. Navy just has too much speed on offense, and as usual, the triple option offense carries the Mids to victory. I’m going with Navy 42-UMass 21.

Thanks Adam for taking the time to visit with us. UMass fans are excited about visiting the Naval Academy and we'll be talking more about Navy as the game gets closer.


Anonymous said...

I feel if UMass can jam the triple option we will have a chance. I just wonder how much time Brown is gonna spend on getting ready to play against the option with a tough Colgate game and what I fell is the sleeper game on the schecdule, vanillanova.

UMass74 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
UMass74 said...

The deleted comment was by me. There was a typo and there does not seem to be anyway to edit comments after being posted.

Villanova has won 9-11 UMass games at home. History is against us there. Also, the big effort against Army last year led to a flat last game against Hofstra. Hopefully, that won't happen again.

Patriot League champion Colgate, Navy and Vallanova away are three tough games to start the season.