Navy's Madden winces at spring-game mention

Last year, QB's season came to an end in April


March 28, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

When the day arrives for the Naval Academy's spring football game, quarterback Brian Madden will be ready to bail out and head home to Lawton, Okla.

"I think I'll call my parents and have them fly me home," said the upcoming senior, who was elected co-captain of next fall's squad. "I've had nothing but bad luck that day."

On one of the final plays of the spring game last April, Madden injured his right knee, forcing reconstructive surgery of the meniscus cartilage and anterior cruciate ligament.

He missed the entire 2000 season, a dreary one in which the Midshipmen went winless before staving off Army in the finale at PSINet Stadium to finish 1-10.

"I can't wait for next season," Madden said. "I sat out a full year, something I haven't done since I was a small kid. We struggled so much last year and my leadership role was decreased.

"I'm someone who has always led by his actions. If you're not out there [on the field], it's not in your place to tell somebody else what he's doing wrong."

Another potential scare for the program came several weeks ago when Madden - the nation's No. 1 running quarterback in 1999 despite only five starts - reinjured the knee during a conditioning drill.

Doctors performed arthroscopic surgery on the joint and removed part of the meniscus, relieving the anxiety. He is expected to miss only the early portion of spring practice.

"I don't think I'm at any loss now. No meniscus is needed. On April 2, I'll be out there throwing the ball around," he said. "It's just something I'm going to have to deal with. It's a good thing it happened now. Hopefully, I'll stay healthy the rest of the way."

Under new offensive coordinator Mark Hudspeth, Navy is instituting a "flexbone" offense that will place a far greater emphasis on the passing game, using sets with as many as five wide receivers. Madden is looking forward to guiding it.

"It's our opportunity to catch up with the college football world and not be so predictable with what we're doing," said the No. 1 quarterback.

"More and different formations and open sets will also help us run the ball. Some people say we can't throw, but we're going to do some things that will help us in the short passing game. Throw it out there and make an easy 7 [yards]."

The creation of a more diversified attack also should ease some of the strain on Madden's legs. In basically five 1999 games, he carried the ball 180 times.

Like most of the Midshipmen, Madden just wants to leave last season behind.

"Most of us just want to forget about it. I'm glad we beat Army and went out on a good note, but it was a real tough situation for everybody," he said.

Linebacker Jake Bowen, meanwhile, was surprised to be selected by his teammates as the other co-captain after finishing second on the team in tackles last season.

"I was kind of like the adopted stepchild," said the senior. "I left the academy before most of my new classmates came in. Maybe it was because of my maturity they picked me."

Bowen spent two years on a Mormon mission in Brazil before returning to Annapolis last fall.

He said he expects the defensive adjustment to a 4-3 alignment to be "rigorous and strenuous" under new coordinator Rick Lantz, who has 35 years of coaching experience. "It's going to be an old-school approach. Our defense should be salty and weathered."

NOTE: Navy begins formal drills Monday, with the first two practices in helmets only, as mandated by the NCAA. The Blue-Gold spring game will be April 28.

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