Defense set to stand up and be counted

Brindel says weight room, running should help unit

Navy notebook

College Football

August 29, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

For most of Navy's preseason, all the talk in Annapolis has been about first-year coach Paul Johnson's spread offense, which broke all kinds of school records when he was the offensive coordinator in 1995 and 1996.

But there is an equally important question: Will Navy's defense be any better than last season, when it gave up 34.4 points and 461 yards a game?

Josh Brindel thinks so, and if he's right, he'll be a big part of the improvement. The senior lineman was perhaps the Midshipmen's best defensive player a year ago, and he has gotten bigger and stronger in the offseason. Perhaps even more encouraging, however, was that he wasn't alone.

"We had a lot of guys involved in the weight room, and we posted a whole list of goals that we want to accomplish this season," said Brindel, who is 6 feet 2 and 280 pounds. "It was tough at first. We did more running and definitely put ourselves through some punishment, but I think after a while, some habits started to form."

Brindel had a habit of playing his best in big games last year, which is why he has already been selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game. Against Notre Dame, Brindel made seven tackles, forced a fumble and made a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He had a sack against Boston College, three tackles for loss against Air Force and made nine stops against Toledo.

"We're still running the same defense," Brindel said. "Hopefully, we're just going to be more consistent."

A backup view

Being a backup quarterback is never easy, but Aaron Palanco has managed to make the most of it.

Despite finishing behind junior Craig Candeto in a race for the starting job, Palanco impressed Johnson during spring practices with his running ability and strong arm. He continued to show improvement during two-a-days, and could be a factor on Saturdays.

"We all understand that in this offense, you need more than one quarterback," Palanco said. "Craig has such a great attitude, and he's always been willing to help me understand the offense better because he knows it will only help the team. I'm excited just to get any chance to play at all."

This weekend's game will be somewhat of a homecoming for Palanco, who was a standout in football, basketball and baseball at Wimberley (Texas) High.

A leg up

Johnson still isn't sure which kicker he'll take with the team to Dallas for the game with Southern Methodist.

Eric Rolfs and Geoff Blumenfeld have been extremely even during the preseason, and neither one has managed to pull ahead of the other during competitions each day at the end of practice.

"I started to pull one of the linemen out and let them kick [the other day]," Johnson said with a hint of disgust. "We'll look at the charts and make a decision. There have been days when they've kicked well and days when they haven't.

"If you're the kicker and you go out there and miss one, I'm not going to pull you right then. I'm going to let you try, but if you miss a couple in a row or three kicks, somebody else gets a shot."

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