Chappy's Clipboard - 2003 Independents Breakdown
By Tim Chapman Writer/Analyst


Notre Dame (9-3)

            Offensive MVP: QB Carlyle Holiday (sr)

            Defensive MVP: MLB Courtney Watson (sr)

            Special Teams MVP: KR Julius Jones (sr)

            Newcomer to make biggest impact: DE Victor Abiamiri (fr)


            Notre Dame MUST pose more of an offensive threat. Talk about luck of the Irish, their defense bailed them out of too many contests last season. That’s all well and good, but when they faced offensive powers USC and N.C. State, they fell behind too far too fast, and the offense posed no such threat of a comeback. They get Julius Jones back to help the run game, but Holiday must emerge as a steady QB who can hurt teams with his arm more than his legs.


            Notre Dame CAN’T rely on their special teams units to bail them out again. Nicholas Setta managed to hit only 14-of-25 FGAs. The Irish will also have to break in a new punter. The Irish do pose one of the better return threats in the country with Vontez Duff (who will return punts) and Julius Jones. Teams are likely to kick away from Duff, though, and the Irish would like to return as few kickoffs as possible.



UConn (9-3)

            Offensive MVP: QB Dan Orlovsky (jr)

            Defensive MVP: DE Uyi Osunde (sr)

            Special Teams MVP: P Adam Coles (sr)

            Newcomer to make biggest impact: WR Seth Fogarty (fr)


            UConn MUST improve against the run. UConn went 2-6 when an opposing back rushed for more than 100 yards. Conversely, when holding opposing backs to under the century mark, they were 4-0. Altogether, the Huskies were 59th in the nation in rush defense, allowing 155 yards per and 18 TDs total. They were 5th in the NCAA against the pass, so by stopping the run, UConn could be pretty dangerous.


UConn CAN’Tlet up. They ended 2002 with a full head of steam. If they had played their first six games like they did their last six, their season might have ended in a bowl game. They’ll head to the Big East in 2004 and would love to have two strong seasons under their belt to give them confidence. Few teams will be looking past them this year, and they’ll need to be ready for that fact.



Navy (5-7)

            Offensive MVP: QB Craig Candeto (sr)

            Defensive MVP: FS Josh Smith (jr)

            Special Teams MVP: P John Skaggs (sr)

            Newcomer to make biggest impact: DB Keenan Little (fr)


            Navy MUSTstop the pass. It would be easy to say the Midshipmen must pass the ball to succeed, but stopping the pass is much more of a concern. Navy yielded 220 yards per game through the air, and less than half their opponents liked to throw more than run. By decreasing this number, the defense can keep the offense out of many holes, which allows the O to then confidently work their game plan.


            Navy CAN’T break discipline. The Midshipmen pride themselves on strict guidelines and strategy, so they cannot be forced out of their strategic routine early. They run the football, we all know that. Falling behind early frustrated them last year, and they don’t have the offense to come back from any sizeable deficits. Navy was outscored 21 to 12 in the first half last season. As long as they can hold close and stick to that exasperated option offense, they could be in a position to win more games.



Troy State (3-9)

            Offensive MVP: RB DeWhitt Betterson (jr)

            Defensive MVP: DE Demarcus Ware (jr)

            Special Teams MVP: KR/PR Toris Rutledge (so)

            Newcomer to make biggest impact: OT Joe Fowler (jr)


            Troy State MUST create more of a passing threat. The Trojans only mustered 127 yards per 2002 game throwing. That number has to improve to allow their offense to kick into a higher gear. RB DeWhitt Betterson averaged seven yards per carry last season as a backup. Think of what he could do this year, as a starter, with a passing game to support him?


            Troy State CAN’Tturn the ball over. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The Trojans were (–10) in their overall TO margin, and fumbled the ball 42 times!!! They recovered 26 of them, but they simply cannot put the ball on the ground four times a game and hope to be successful. The 19 INTs were not helpful either, considering their anemic passing game.