Five questions for Navy


September 03, 2004|By KENT BAKER

How will the Midshipmen respond to last year's success? This is a pressing concern for coach Paul Johnson, who wonders whether the current team can make the necessary sacrifices to meet higher expectations. Opponents will be taking Navy much more seriously now.

Will the Commander in Chief's Trophy remain in Annapolis? With Army in a rebuilding phase under Bobby Ross, Navy will almost assuredly have to repeat a victory over Air Force to regain the trophy named in honor of the nation's president. That won't be easy on the road against a team itching to get even.

Can the offensive line hold up? The principal blockers for a gifted group of runners have been besieged by problems during preseason drills. Front-line players are generally experienced, but depth is in short supply and a rash of injuries could be devastating.

Is Aaron Polanco a worthy successor to Craig Candeto? Named a co-captain, Polanco now must carry a much heavier load as the team's quarterback. He is a stronger passer than Candeto, has respectable speed and is slightly bigger. The jury is out on whether his play-calling and decision-making will be as efficient.

Will the top-heavy home schedule be a blessing? Navy has six games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, a seventh home contest at the Meadowlands against Notre Dame and the usual neutral-site battle with Army. Only three of the 11 are legitimate road tests. Defending its own turf is imperative for this team.

- Kent Baker

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