Navy at a glance

Navy

September 03, 2004|By KENT BAKER

Navy at a glance

Coach: Paul Johnson (third season)

Last year: 8-5 (including 38-14 loss to Texas Tech in the Houston Bowl)

Conference: Division I-A Independent

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Stadium: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial (34,000)

Offense: Triple-option

Defense: Multiple

Top returning players: FB Kyle Eckel, SB Eric Roberts, QB Aaron Polanco, T August Roitsch, FS Josh Smith, CB Vaughn Kelley, LB Bobby McClarin, DE Jeremy Chase

Top newcomers: SB Reggie Campbell, S Hunter Reddick, CB Greg Sudderth, DE John Chan, FB Matt Hall

Strengths: When executed properly, Navy's run-based offense is difficult for opponents to prepare for because they seldom have to counter the various options. The Midshipmen's defense, headed by deep linebacker and secondary corps, has been solid during spring and summer practices. With Eckel and a talented group of slotbacks headed by Roberts, the attack looks promising.

Weaknesses: Depth may be a problem on the offensive line, which has been beset by injuries and ineffective play during scrimmages. Aaron Polanco and Lamar Owens must prove themselves at quarterback, where graduated Craig Candeto was a tough leader and sound play-caller. Replacing quality punter John Skaggs won't be easy, but place-kicker Geoff Blumenfeld will try.

Strongest opponent: Notre Dame. This is a no-brainer. The Irish have beaten the Midshipmen an NCAA-record 40 straight times, administering another heartbreaking loss, 27-24, last season in South Bend, Ind. Navy will have 15 days to get ready this time.

Key game: Air Force. A thrilling 28-25 conquest of the Falcons defined Navy's 2003 season and launched a run of six victories in the final eight regular-season games. Navy must go to Colorado this year to face a rival bent on revenge.

- Kent Baker

Season opener

Opponent: Duke

Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

When: Tomorrow, 6 p.m.

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

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