Navy more shipshape in spring scrimmage

QB Polanco, first team roll to impressive 31-3 victory

College Football

April 27, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Navy football coach Paul Johnson admitted last week that a year ago, watching his team play its final spring scrimmage didn't exactly fill him with confidence for the upcoming season.

"I knew we might be in trouble last year when the second offense got about 300 yards in one half against our No. 1 defense," Johnson said. "That might have been a precursor of things to come."

In that game, the first team offense and defense barely defeated the second unit, and Navy finished with a 2-10 record the following fall. Yesterday, things looked a bit more positive as the first unit, led by quarterback Aaron Polanco, easily defeated the second team, 31-3, in the final spring scrimmage for the Midshipmen.

"It went a little more like you'd think it would go if you divide the teams like that," Johnson said. "I think we're ahead of where we were a year ago. There's no question that these guys have a better understanding of what we're doing."

One of those guys is linebacker Bobby McClarin, who was given the Vice Admiral William P. Mack Award as Navy's most improved player during the spring. A special teams player all of last season, McClarin impressed the coaching staff with his play over the past three weeks, and Johnson says the 5-foot-11, 215-pounder may push for a starting position in the fall.

"Bobby worked really hard and he practiced every day when he was beat up," Johnson said. "Although there were a lot of people deserving, Bobby was certainly deserving."

Polanco, who has filled in while last season's starter Craig Candeto is away playing varsity baseball for the Mids, showed Johnson a few things this spring, too. Yesterday, the junior-to-be rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns, threw for 122 yards and didn't turn the ball over.

While he'll most likely remain the backup in the fall, Polanco showed he's more than ready to contribute if Candeto gets hurt. Candeto missed two games with an ankle injury last year, and Polanco nearly led Navy to an upset of Notre Dame.

"I feel like mentally I'm even better this spring," Polanco said. "With more time, we'll just keep getting better and better."

One of the most important players for Navy next season didn't even play a snap yesterday, but that hardly mattered. The team is just happy to have nose tackle Kevin Schwind back in uniform. Schwind is still recovering from a broken tibia he suffered last year, which was so bad it forced him to withdraw from school for the semester.

"I couldn't put any weight on my leg for three months," Schwind said. "It was pretty bad. It just turned the bone into mashed potatoes for a while."

Allowing a player to retain his eligibility by dropping out of school because of an injury is fairly rare at Navy, where players do not redshirt. Johnson said the move made sense for everyone.

"It served no purpose to keep him here and try to wheelchair to class and get further and further behind," Johnson said.

Schwind should be back at full strength in the fall.

NOTES: Bronson Carroll, who asked if he could move to fullback this spring after seeing little playing time his first three years at slotback, rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries yesterday. He'll compete with injured fullbacks Kyle Eckel and Michael Brimage for a starting spot in the fall. ... Andy Michalowicz, a quarterback for three years at Navy, switched to wide-out this spring and caught four passes for 42 yards yesterday. ... Third-string quarterback Lamar Owens, hampered by turf toe this spring, still rushed for 49 yards.

Navy's 2003 schedule

Aug. 30--VMI, 1:30 p.m.; Sept. 6--at TCU, 6 p.m.; Sept. 20--Eastern Michigan, 1:30; Sept. 27--at Rutgers, TBA; Oct. 4--Air Force, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 11--at Vanderbilt, 1 p.m.; Oct. 18--at Rice, 3 p.m.; Oct. 25--Delaware (homecoming), 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 1--Tulane, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 8--at Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m.; Nov. 22--Central Michigan, 1:30 p.m.; Dec. 6--vs. Army at Philadelphia, 4 p.m.

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