Independents spring recap
Originally Published: April 26, 2005By Brett Edgerton | Special to ESPN.com
2004 overall record: 10-2
Offense: 2, Defense: 4, Kicker/punter: 1
2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Kyle Eckel (1,151 yds)
Passing: Aaron Polanco (1,131 yds)
Receiving: Eric Roberts (291 yds)
Tackles: Josh Smith (119)
Sacks: David Mahoney (5)
Interceptions: Hunter Reddick* and DuJuan Price (3 each)
Spring answers: Lamar Owens answered any doubts as to who the quarterback would be this fall. The shifty senior doesn't have a big arm, but do you really need one of those running the Navy offense? ... No matter where Owens throws it, it's likely to be caught by WR Jason Tomlinson, who coach Paul Johnson said was nearly always the team's best player on the field this spring. On a rebuilding offensive unit, it's essential Tomlinson continue making big plays. ... In order to get the best four athletes in the secondary, Reddick was moved from safety to corner and made his usual array of plays. ... Two sophomores that did nothing more than special teams work last season have turned some heads this spring at linebacker. As a result, both Rob Caldwell and speedy Tye Adams are in line for starting positions.
Fall questions: In 2004, the Midshipmen won 10 games for the first time in 99 years. If they can pull it off for the second year in a row, anoint Johnson as Navy Secretary. It would be that big a miracle. The program loses 17 starters, and while some questions were given decent answers in the spring, several more remain. ... Chief among them is the all-important fullback question. None of the three remaining candidates to replace Eckel, the leading rusher on the third-leading rushing team in America, showed anything during the 15 practices. Marvin Dingle quit before practice even started. Matt Hill is probably the best of the bunch, but he can't seem to get over a pesky fumbling problem. Could a true freshman end up getting the job? ... When healthy, WR Trey Hines is serviceable, but there's basically nothing behind him. And Johnson has publicly said there's not a No. 2 at quarterback. ... Meanwhile, the placekicking competition is sloppy at best, the offensive line is without four starters from last year and the Middies get to open the season with what should be improved squads from Maryland and Stanford. Fun stuff.
2004 overall record: 6-6
Offense: 10, Defense: 3, Kicker/punter: 2
2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Darius Walker* (786 yds)
Passing: Brady Quinn* (2,586 yds)
Receiving: Rhema McKnight* (610 yds)
Tackles: Mike Goolsby (97)
Sacks: Jason Tuck (6)
Interceptions: Goolsby, D. Curry and D. Ellick (2 each)
Spring answers: If there's anyone who will benefit most from new coach Charlie Weis' offensive expertise, it's Brady Quinn. With quarterbacks coach David Cutcliffe recovering from triple-bypass surgery this spring, Weis and the third-year QB were basically joined at the hip for the majority of practice time. Quinn's confidence is consequently off the charts, and it could make for a breakthrough fall. ... He'll certainly have a true weapon in TE Anthony Fasano, who looked solid as usual in the spring and has to be considered a legitimate contender for the Mackey Award. ... Quinn also has back every starting wide receiver and O-lineman, and the offense played the part this spring. ... Stable leadership shouldn't be an issue this fall. Unlike under Tyrone Willingham, when the captains changed by the week, the Irish were allowed to vote in permanent captains in the spring, along with a "House of Representatives" that includes a leader of each position group. There's no question who the leader of this team is, though. With his NFL pedigree and "blinders to the past" approach to the depth chart, Weis has the ultimate respect from his players.
Fall questions: While Weis might have the alumni and student body ready to start the season tomorrow, it wouldn't exactly be an advisable move for the team. As much excitement as there is, plenty of questions do remain. ... For one, even though Weis seems flexible and insists he'll let personnel dictate things, no one can be completely certain how well these offensive players can run a whole new system when it actually matters in the fall. It won't take long to find out, though. The Irish open at Pitt and at Michigan. ... Notre Dame has lacked toughness and consistency in the running game lately, and everyone is anxious to see how Walker handles the pressure now that Ryan Grant is gone and he has the show all to himself. ... Will the putrid return game show any signs of life? Speedy walk-on Brandon Harris is getting a long look, but this is still a work in progress. ... Not only do the Irish lose longtime starters Goolsby and Derek Curry at linebacker but they also lose three of four on the D-line. Coming into spring, it appeared Notre Dame might be deep at defensive end, but Ronald Talley was suspended and Dwight Stephenson was moved to tackle. So now, inexperienced Travis Leitko and Chris Frome are battling for the chance to replace Tuck, only the school's all-time sack leader. ... Just one team in the country gave up more passing yards than Notre Dame last season, and that remains an issue. Safety Tom Zbikowski is outstanding, but question marks surround everyone else.
2004 overall record: 2-9
Conference record: 1-5 (Big East)
Offense: 5, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 2
2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Walter Washington (889 yds)
Passing: Washington (2,207 yds)
Receiving: Phil Goodman (677 yds)
Tackles: Rian Wallace (101)
Sacks: Mike Mendenhall* (3.5)
Interceptions: Andrew Turner* and Jermaine Hargraves* (2 each)
Spring answers: After losing his job to Washington, fifth-year senior QB Mike McGann is back at No. 1 and looked fantastic this spring. Remember, this is a guy who started as a true freshman and has 26 starts under his belt. Insisting he learned a lot from watching on the sidelines, McGann won't be running around like Washington, but he has a nice arm and is unquestionably the team's leader. ... He'll be helped out by the return of four starting O-linemen, along with redshirt freshman Alex Derenthal, who won his position battle and drew rave reviews from the coaching staff. ... New coordinator Willie Slater insists the tailbacks will be getting more carries in his offense as it shifts from more of a spread, no-huddle to a two-back set. He has two promising backs in Tim Brown, more of an elusive jitterbug, and Umar Ferguson, more of a north-south type. ... Coach Bobby Wallace thinks there will be increased pressure up front, which was certainly lacking last season. Led by Mendenhall and Antwon Burton, who returned from a broken foot and looked great in the spring, the defensive line could very well be the strength of the team.
Fall questions: The injury bug has struck McGann in each of the last two seasons. If it hits again, Temple might want to reconsider that whole "staying in Division I-A" thing. As of now, a converted defensive end is the backup. That's usually not the most ideal situation. ... It also doesn't help that TU lost its top three wide receivers. There's not a lot of size left, and no one exactly stood up in the spring and acted as though he wanted a job in the fall. ... The D-line should be solid, but don't let that fool you. This is still a defense that gave up 36 points a game last season and now has to replace stud LB Rian Wallace and about half the secondary. Throw out three-year starter Troy Wallace at linebacker, too. Yes, there are still plenty of questions in the back seven. ... Who says the Owls don't have a conference to call their own? Apparently it's the Mid-American Conference. Temple not only faces the best of the MAC but also basically plays a full ACC schedule. Just brutal. When you consider that coach Wallace is in the final year of his contract, this schedule seems even crueler.
Brett Edgerton is a researcher for ESPN. He can be reached at Brett.M.Edgerton.-ND@espn.com.
MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HEADLINES
- Chippewas' rally, lateral heroics not enough
- Harbaugh's brother: Family staying out of it
- FSU's Cook named 'associate' in police report
- Jackson helms Rice to win in Hawaii Bowl