Candeto leads Mids' QB race

Experience on his side, junior `a little bit ahead' as Navy starts practice

College Football

August 06, 2002|By Tommy Ventre | Tommy Ventre,SUN STAFF

Navy football coach Paul Johnson said yesterday that junior Craig Candeto will start fall practice with a slight advantage in the race for the starting quarterback job, but he stopped short of naming anyone as a lock to win the position.

Johnson said he'd like to name a starter by the middle of the month when the Midshipmen begin preparing for their Aug. 31 season opener at Southern Methodist, but until then the competition should be open.

"Craig's probably a little bit ahead coming out of spring, but not so [much] that I would say he's the bona fide, clear-cut starter," said Johnson, the first-year coach whose team starts practice today.

Candeto is the most experienced of all the quarterback candidates. He appeared in five games last season, including starts against Temple and Georgia Tech. Two of his three touchdown passes last year came against Temple, the only game in which a Navy quarterback threw for multiple scores.

He's also had experience with a triple-option offense like the one Johnson is installing, earning first-team all-state honors at Florida's DeLand High while running a similar set. It's something that helped him stay on top of his football obligations this spring even as he started in the outfield for Navy's Patriot League champion baseball team.

"I feel pretty comfortable," Candeto said. "Of course, there's a lot of different little things, especially coming to the Division I level and running it, but it's an offense I've run before and I feel pretty comfortable running the ball and making decisions on the option."

Candeto's competition will come from sophomore Aaron Polanco, who threw for 142 yards and ran for 109 opposite Candeto in April's Blue-Gold scrimmage.

Polanco's Division I experience and knowledge of the offense aren't on Candeto's level, but Johnson hasn't ruled out a platoon should the need arise.

"If one guy doesn't move himself way out ahead of the other guy, we might have a change-up and give guys a chance to play."

NOTES: Johnson said his team will open fall practice almost entirely healthy, with only tackles Derek Jaskowiak (appendicitis) and David Walsh (shoulder surgery) less than 100 percent.

Two starters from last year's defense, safety and leading tackler Lenter Thomas and linebacker Eddie Carthan, are both fully recovered from injuries suffered in the spring. ... Johnson said special teams will garner extra attention in the coming weeks.

"I'm not sure we have a real good feel for where we are there, he said. "I know we have an outstanding punter returning, but as far as place-kickers go, we worked a little bit in the spring but not as much as we will now."

The punter, John Skaggs, finished fifth in the country last season with a school-record 44.8 average ... The first phase of renovations is under way at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, with seat backs being added to the bleachers in the stadium's upper deck and newer seats being installed in the lower deck. Permanent seats will also replace temporary bleachers currently in place at both end zones, and the concourse and scoreboard will both be upgraded. Officials expect the entire project to last four years.

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