Today is the first day of football practice. Sunbeams are bursting through the clouds, the choirs of angels are singing, and all is right with the world. Well, maybe not everything. Is it just me or does Paul Johnson sound way too optimistic in his Media Day press conference? It doesn’t seem right. Anyway, I’ll get to overanalyzing everything he said in a minute. But first, some media day links:
- A pair of photo galleries– the first linked in the press conference transcript, chock full of Pete Medhurst and Bill Wagner hard at work; the second courtesy of Dave Ausiello at GoMids.com.
- The fruit of Wagner’s labor, here.
- Additional writeups from the Sun, Examiner, Times, and Post.
OK, on to the part where I read too much into every syllable that comes out of PJ’s mouth. We’ll start with his introductory remarks:
I think as a group our guys have had the best summer since I’ve been here. We had a large group that stayed here and got in a lot of workouts. They came back and tested very well and they have done some good things so we are excited about getting started.
This is a great thing to hear. Wagner’s last question touched on PJ’s concern at the beginning of spring about the team’s attitude. Apparently he wasn’t pleased, although he didn’t seem to say much about it then. If there’s one thing I fear about the Navy football program– other than some BCS school offering PJ a heap of cash– it’s complacency. It’s exciting to see a new group of seniors taking charge.
Wagner: Can you talk a little more about what you have to do to rebuild the defense?
Johnson: We lost a lot of key players off the defense. We lost a lot of guys that started for three or four years and they made a lot of plays for us. We are going to have some new faces out there, but I really think we have a chance to be better athletically than we have been on defense. There will be some growing pains. This team reminds me a little bit of where we were a couple of years ago when we lost nine or 10 starters on offense and we had eight or nine guys back on defense and we ended up having a great year. I think we have the players to be good on defense. We are short on experience, but I think they have some athletic ability.
PJ’s response sounds a lot like something you might have read on Pitch Right, particularly the comparison to the 2004 team. Props to Adam for his analysis. PJ also echoes something he said on the wine & cheese circuit over the spring, that he feels good about the athletes he has on defense. It’d be one thing if we were dealing with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores, but the defense, while lacking game experience, is mostly made up of players who have been practicing in the system for 2-3 years. They’ll be ready. Actually, I don’t remember PJ ever gushing so much before:
We have personnel on defense. They don’t have a lot of experience, but athletically I feel good about where we are. We have some new guys in the secondary, but athletically they are as good or better than anybody we’ve had back there. At linebacker, Clint (Sovie) and Irv (Spencer) have played some. It’s going to be hard to replace David Mahoney and Tyler Tidwell; they played a lot of games at outside linebacker, yet we have some guys that have a chance. Mattt Wimsat has been a backup and he’s going to get a chance, Matt Humiston has a chance, we have some young guys that nobody knows that I’m excited about. They are good athletes. Jordan Eddington, Matt Nechak, there are a lot of guys that nobody has heard about that I think can be pretty good football players.
PJ usually keeps his excitement to himself, at least with guys who haven’t played yet. He usually doesn’t want to put too much pressure on anyone. So much for that! I know I’m going to be paying close attention to Eddington and Nechak now. Nechak had already sort of announced his arrival with his hit on Jarrod Bryant in the Blue & Gold game.
Vito: It seems like the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy has found a home here in recent years. Is that still a priority?
Johnson: It’s always been one of the main goals of the team. Later on tonight the captains will get the team together and they will come up with the goals for this year’s team. I’m big on letting the players come up with their own goals. I’m sure that will be one of them. Winning that trophy is one of the most important things we do here. It’s a rallying point for the alumni and former players. Navy went way too long without winning that thing and our guys kind of like having it. We are going to try and defend it the best we can.
Speaking of goals, PJ usually talks about them in his preseason radio interviews. I’m anxious to hear what the team came up with.
Wagner: The flip side of the defense is the offense where you have a lot of experience returning. Do you think you have more experienced guys playing key spots than you’ve had in a while? You have two quarterbacks back, two fullbacks and a ton of slot backs.
Johnson: I think we have some depth. If everybody stays healthy we have some good athletes on offense. The difference between the offense and defense right now is the offensive guys have game experience. There will be some real competition for the positions and I think any time you have competition it makes everybody better. We are anxious to get started. So much of having a successful season is getting the right blend together and staying away from injuries. You never know what’s going to happen until you start playing. We have the big P word. We have potential. The question is can we translate that into being a good football team. We still aren’t going to intimidate anybody. When we get off the bus the other team isn’t going to run for cover. I guarantee you that everybody that plays us has us circled as a win. They all think that they should beat us and that’s not going to change no matter who we play.
It isn’t a PJ presser until he talks about getting off the bus. I love football season.
We moved Antron Harper to center and I think that will be a good position for him, I think he’s a natural in there.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to mention that after watching his CSTV All-Access interview with Pete Medhurst, Antron Harper’s biceps look like they could turn a lump of coal into a diamond.
Ausiello: On the other side of the ball with Nate Frazier, does that put more pressure on him as a sophomore looking to contribute up the middle on defense?
Johnson: It depends on what we are doing. Nate could end up being a defensive end, he could be the nose guard, he could slide and be over the guard, he’s probably going to be an inside guy, but I don’t think there’s any more pressure on Nate than there is Jordan Stephens or Andrew Lark or Kyle Bookhout or Chris Kuhar-Pitters. Nate is listed as a starter heading into fall camp, but he hasn’t played a down yet. I don’t want everybody building him up like he’s the second coming of Deacon Jones. Let’s watch him play first. He may get beat out before the season starts. There will be a lot of guys competing in there.
There’s lot riding on Nate’s shoulders. The nose guard, more than anyone else, is the one player that can make or break a 3-4 defense. Two-gap players don’t grow on trees either, so it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of hype when there’s a player here with that kind of potential. He and Antron sure had some great battles over the spring. Despite PJ’s words of caution, I can’t help being excited.
Wagner: We spent a lot of the off-season talking about your candidacy for other jobs and talking about rumors are you happy to be standing there with a Navy shirt on?
Johnson: Yeah. As long as I beat Army this year they will let me stay one more year. A lot of that stuff you guys drum up in the press and I get a chuckle out of it. I jokingly told somebody that it’s better to be talked about for other jobs than people talking about who is going to take your job. That’s not much fun. That just comes with having a successful program. It’s a credit to the players and the assistant coaches. I wouldn’t read too much into that stuff.
Come on, Coach. Who are you kidding? I freak out about the long snapper two-deep. Things like rumors about your departure have me about a half-step from going Unabomber. It’s all gonna be taken seriously.
And that’s it. I’m fired up for a month of PJ one-liners leading up to the Temple game. Let the snot bubbles fly!
In completely unrelated news… Kyle Eckel is off the bike and back in Dolphins practice after sitting out a couple of days while nursing his hamstring.