Five questions

College Football '05


September 01, 2005|By Kent Baker

Can the Midshipmen handle a tougher schedule?

Although none of Navy's 2005 opponents had a winning record last season, the schedule is more demanding for two reasons: the addition of high-profile opponents Maryland and Stanford and the elimination of a game against a Division I-AA foe. This is a key issue for a team that will depend on inexperienced personnel in many areas. Before coach Paul Johnson downgraded the opposition, Navy struggled mightily against big-name teams.

Will the new quarterback thrive in his season in the spotlight?

Co-captain Lamar Owens steps into the same situation faced by Aaron Polanco a year ago, having to replace a highly successful quarterback. Owens is a team leader and has taken thousands of repetitions in practice during Johnson's tenure. But his role in game situations has been confined to mop-up time and, like Polanco, he must make the most of his one-shot deal while directing an intricate attack.

Is Navy's lack of size a detriment?

In an era when college football players have added much beef, this team has only one significant 300-pounder and is projected to start six players who stand 5 feet 9 or shorter. No other college team has more than three that short. One of the guards, Antron Harper, is 249 pounds, making him the lightest starting offensive lineman in Division I-A. Navy always concedes some bulk, but this year's concessions could be striking.

Will the rebuilding occur quickly enough?

This senior class, recruited in the transition between the previous regime and Johnson's takeover, is woefully thin with only 11 players on the three-deep chart of the offense and defense and just one, co-captain Jeremy Chase, is a returning starter. The roster is dominated by juniors and sophomores, many of whom must progress quickly if Navy is to prolong its rise. The team was hit hard by graduation and will probably need a few games just to get its bearings.

Can the kickers contribute more consistently?

Johnson called his kicking game "probably the worst in the country" early last season. Although he made a 30-yard game-winner against Air Force, Geoff Blumenfeld was erratic, missing seven of 12 field-goal tries and four extra-point attempts, and the punting was in disarray until Eric Shuey took over in the third game of the season and provided stability. Shuey returns for his senior year and sophomore Joey Bullen, the kicker for the sprint team last year, has a strong leg and figures to improve the other area.

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