Fricks' collarbone is a break Mids didn't need in comeback

Senior slotback is lost for early season

Rolfs, Blumenfeld kick off duel

Navy notebook

College Football

August 14, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

When you're trying to rebuild a football program coming off an 0-10 season, you need more than just a new system and a new attitude. You need a little luck on your side.

So far, Navy only has two out of three. The Midshipmen, already dealing with a rash of injuries, found out yesterday they'll be without team co-captain Donnie Fricks for a substantial amount of time after the senior slotback broke his collarbone diving for a pass during Monday morning's practice.

Fricks - a 5-foot-8 180-pounder from Houston-had surgery yesterday, and will, at minimum, miss the first part of the regular season, according to coach Paul Johnson. Though he is by no means a star, carrying eight times for 29 yards last season, Fricks' 4.49 speed and his willingness to sacrifice his body on blocks will be missed in Johnson's option offense.

"It's a tough deal because you really want your captains to be out there," Johnson said. "He's a leader. I'm sure he'll do his best to stay involved and try to do a lot of that stuff from the sidelines, but it's a tough break."

The injury is the most significant one for the Midshipmen, who wrapped up two-a-day practices yesterday, but by no means the only one. Safety Lenter Thomas, the team's leading tackler from last season, is on crutches nursing a sprained knee, fullback Bryce McDonald is sitting out with a sprained ankle, defensive lineman Steve Adair has a foot injury, and linebackers Ben Mathews (hamstring) and Reggie Sealey (lower back) have both been hobbled.

"We've got a lot of guys banged up," Johnson said. "A lot of that's just the grind of two-a-days. Hopefully we'll get some of them back soon. We're making progress, but we're certainly not where we want to be yet."

Just for kicks

The kicking battle between junior Eric Rolfs and sophomore Geoff Blumenfeld looks as if it will be a tight one. After some up-and-down performances in Saturday's scrimmage, both kickers looked good yesterday in the final minutes of practice.

Each kicker hit a pair of field goals from outside 40 yards, and Blumenfeld capped things off with a kick that appeared good from 50. Rolfs and Blumenfeld are vying to replace graduated kicker David Hills, who led the team in scoring in 2000 and 2001.

"Both of them looked good today," Johnson said. "I'm of the opinion that you never know with kickers until about the fourth game of the season. I've seen guys who couldn't make a thing in practice, then in the game they'd be right down the middle every time. I've also seen guys who are automatic in practice, then they get in games and they can't hit a thing. We'll just have to wait and see."

Salute for Brindel

With Fricks going down for an undetermined amount of time, most of the leadership burden will fall on senior defensive tackle Josh Brindel, Navy's other co-captain.

A 6-2, 280-pounder from Ward, S.C., Brindel is one of Navy's strongest players and was an integral part of last year's defense, finishing fifth on the team with 44 tackles. And while most of the questions during the off-season have focused on Navy's new offense, Brindel knows there will be plenty of pressure on the Mids' defense as well.

"I've thought a lot about this being my last chance to play football, maybe ever," Brindel said. "I know how bad I want us to succeed this season, and I want to make sure and end things the right way."

Brindel, who played his best in big games last season, says he was honored when he found out his teammates picked him to serve as captain this year.

"To be picked by your peers like that is humbling," he said. "When I went home, I was talking to my dad about it, and it really sunk in. I know people will be looking at me and expecting big things."

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