Navy senior J. Smith prepared to tackle leadership position

Safety succeeds Carthan as Mids' defensive captain

College Football

August 14, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

When Josh Smith was a senior at Attica (Ind.) High School four years ago, he was a point-making machine.

On the football field, he amassed 63 touchdowns and 449 points (four short of the national high school record) through the state championship game. On the basketball court, he averaged 24 points, 12th-best in hoop-rich Indiana, and led Attica to its first state title in any sport.

At the Naval Academy, he hasn't scored a point, but he's still making an impact - on defense.

So, when the Midshipmen launch their football season against Duke on Sept. 4, Smith will be in his familiar position in the secondary, barking signals and directing traffic as the successor to defensive captain Eddie Carthan.

The senior is poised to become the first Navy player in more than two decades (Andy Onseigo, 1983) to lead the team in tackles for three consecutive years.

"Josh is a game-speed guy," said defensive coordinator Buddy Green. "I don't care what kind of watch you put him on, he'll handle it. He can play at any tempo anywhere."

Smith has functioned at free safety (his current spot), rover, nickel back and even linebacker, and thrived. He was a natural to captain the unit, which improved in quantum leaps last season.

"There are a lot of extra responsibilities, both on and off the field," Smith said of his leadership duties. "You have to get everybody to do the right things. I plan to lead by example, but I'll get vocal if I need to. I wouldn't say I expected to be named a captain, but I kind of knew it was coming and I was excited about it."

An ardent student of film, Smith considered playing two collegiate sports, but the tough military and academic obligations of academy life precluded that idea.

"I still play [basketball] in pickup games in the offseason," he said. "But Navy gave me the best shot at football and if you go to a bowl game, you don't get to basketball until January and miss a third of the season."

Navy's goal, according to Smith, is "to do at least as well as last season," when it went 8-4 and played in the Houston Bowl. "There are a couple of games we let down in: Rutgers, Delaware, Notre Dame. We don't want that happening again."

If Smith can help it, there will be no such recurrence.

NOTES: Coach Paul Johnson said "we're going to look at a lot of young guys" in today's scrimmage. "We know the veterans." ... Safety DuJuan Price, a starter as a freshman at the end of last season, has passed the PRT (physical readiness test) on his second attempt and rejoined the squad. ... Johnson was perturbed when his quarterbacks ran the ball when passes had been called at yesterday's practice. "You'd think they'd throw the ball," he said. "They're jugheads."

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