FB Kyle Eckel

2003 Statistics

Coach: Paul Johnson
10-15, 2 years
2003 Record: 8-5
at TCU LOST 3-17
at Rutgers LOST 27-48
vs. AIR FORCE WON 28-25
at Vanderbilt WON 37-27
at Rice WON 38-6
at Notre Dame LOST 24-27
vs. Army WON 34-6
Texas Tech LOST 14-38

2003 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2004 Outlook

Navy won the Commander-in-Chief's trophy (outright) for the first time since 1979; they beat Army for the second straight season, and they made it to a bowl game for the first time since 1996. A win this season over the rival Cadets will give Navy their first three-game win streak in the series since 1980. What's fortuitous is that this year's team is set to be even better than last year's.

All totaled, the Midshipmen return 14 starters and enough behind them to (literally) run roughshod over opponents. Polanco is the new edition of Chance Harridge (sorry Navy fans, I had to make that reference) in the realm of option-QBs. He's tough, strong, and has that unteachable, hard-nosed mentality that coaches love and opponents hate. Teaming with the quickness at slot-back and the strength at fullback, this will be a difficult offense to defend.

The key to success will be the solidity of the defense. The front seven will do a consistent job of keeping opponents busy up front, but tackling must get better. Expect to see more blitzing. The front-three will be flushing them out the pocket (or into traffic) where the quartet of LBs can take care of them.

Navy gets two I-AA opponents, and one of them is Delaware - the reigning I-AA champs they lost to last season. Think there is a reason they should have avoided scheduling them as their homecoming opponent this year? Army might as well play in the Patriot League, and Rice and Vanderbilt (at home) are sound wins. The remaining opponents are toss-ups that can go either way, but we want you to mark this down right now- Navy will beat Notre Dame in the Meadowlands on October 16th, breaking the longest (current) losing skid to a single opponent in Division I-A (39 games/years).

Johnson is starting to get the athletes he needs for this flexbone offense, just as he did to help him win a couple national titles at Georgia Southern. That mentality of "line it up, we'll take you on", helmet-to-helmet toughness is catching on fast in Annapolis. As a few bounces go the right way, the Middies will be looking at back-to-back bowl trips for the first time since 1980-81. "Anchors aweigh…"

Projected 2004 record: 8-3
LB Lane Jackson
QB - 2.5 DL - 2
RB - 3.5 LB - 2.5
WR - 2.5 DB - 2.5
OL - 2 ..

Passing: Aaron Polanco, 20-8-1, 98 yds., 0 TD

Rushing: Kyle Eckel, 236 att., 1249 yds., 10 TD

Receiving: Eric Roberts, 20 rec., 493 yds., 5 TD

Scoring: Kyle Eckel, 10 TD, 60 pts.; Eric Roberts, 10 TD, 60 pts.

Punting: none

Kicking: Geoff Blumenfeld, 3-6 FG, 11-12 PAT, 20 pts.

Tackles: Josh Smith, 108 tot., 45 solo

Sacks: Jeremy Chase, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Josh Smith, 4 for 53 yds.

Kickoff returns: Jeremy McGown, 14 ret., 22.6 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Jason Tomlinson, 19 ret., 7.7 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Shane Todd-C, Josh Goodin-OG, Craig Candeto-QB, Tony Lane-SB, Nick Wilson-OG, Eric Rolfs-K
DEFENSE: Eddie Carthon-OLB, Shalimar Brazier-CB, Eli Sanders-ROV, John Skaggs-P

Comfort comes once Middie fans will see Aaron Polanco take the field. A stronger all-around athlete than (last year's QB) Craig Candeto, Polanco gives Navy a more proficient runner of the option offense - he's a better runner, and that's not to be confused with just being an operator. Polanco needs to get to where Candeto was in terms of the intangibles; otherwise this offense will surely take a step back. Coach Paul Johnson won't hesitate to yank/rotate him if he doesn't produce. Backup Brian Hampton had a great spring, and, after switching back from slot-back, he is one of the best athletes this team has. Lamar Owens is the best thrower of the group, but you can guess where that lies on the list of priorities in the flexbone (option style) offense.

Running Back
Navy surfaced to the top of the national rushing ranks last season, averaging 323 YPG. Aside from Polanco, they return three backs that averaged over five yards per carry. FB Kyle Eckel is the 1200+ leader of this ground barrage. He's the hammer in this rushing attack, while slotbacks Eric Roberts and Trey Hines are the skillsaws, cutting through defenders like the blade of the forenamed power tool. Hines is listed as a backup, but possessing the fastest legs on the team will put him at the top before long. Both averaged over 8.5 YPC, so big-plays will be an oft-seen commodity. Backup FB Michael Brimage was Navy's featured back until Eckel came along. So now, Brimage gives Eckel a swift change of pace off the sidelines.

Not an area of great focus in the flexbone, but when called upon, these snarlers are good for about 20 yards per. Amir Jenkins and Lionel Wesley will be equally called upon, and Jason Tomlinson will see a more involved role. Their greatest assets are providing down-field blocking and the ability to be decoys, giving the backs enough room to move downfield.

Offensive Line
Just two starters return, but the experience and depth in this unit makes up for the lost regulars. Dennis Ray Phillips and Casey Hughes anchor the line, but the new guys will become slightly quicker than their predecessors. Tyson Stahl gives them a nimble tackle. RG Matt McLaughlin is the biggest body along the front (merely 6'6", 295) with a good set of feet. Again, though, speed is the key that turns this offensive machine. Navy has always had accomplished athletes along the front. With time to grow into this offensive unit, this group will give the backfield its chance to repeat as rushing champs.

Strong and quick - that about sums it up. Polanco's will be the best option QB in the country! The system works for guys like Aaron, for he has some dynamite flanking him. How many 1000-yard rushers will the Middies produce? Averaging over six per play and converting third-downs at close to a 50% clip in 2003 makes us believe Navy can command similar offensive results this campaign. As soon as the offensive line catches up to where the rest of the group is at, this will again be one of the most potent offenses in the nation. As a wise coach once told me, "the option, run to perfection is impossible to stop". These guys will prove that, like in '03, having the ball for 31+ minutes (which means the opponent has it only 28+) is a key to grounding many unstoppable passing attacks - the best defense is a good offense.


SB Eric Roberts


Returning Starters in bold
QB Aaron Polanco-Sr (6-0, 208) Lamar Owens-Jr (6-9, 185)
Brian Hampton-Sr (6-0, 202)
FB Kyle Eckel-Sr (5-11, 240) Michael Brimage-Sr (5-7, 206)
SB Frank Divis-Sr (6-0, 225) Trey Hines-So (5-9, 195)
SB Eric Roberts-Sr (5-10, 194) Marco Nelson-Jr (5-8, 185)
WR Lionel Wesley-Sr (5-11, 188) Mick Yokitis-Jr (6-2, 220)
WR Amir Jenkins-Sr (6-1, 208) Jason Tomlinson-So (6-2, 181)
OT Tyson Stahl-Sr (6-4, 262) Marshall Green-Jr (6-1, 265)
OG Dennis Ray Phillips-Sr (6-4, 285) Zach Gallion-So (6-3, 295)
C August Roitsch-Sr (6-1, 270) James Rossi-So (6-1, 279)
OG Matt McLaughlin-Sr (6-6, 295) Kevin Schwind-Sr (6-1, 280)
OT Casey Hughes-Sr (6-4, 252) Sam Brown-Sr (6-3, 259)
K Geoff Blumenfeld-Sr (6-0, 169) Ethan Gouge-So (5-11, 169)



Defensive Line
The tone of any defense is set up front, and in Navy's case, this is true. The Midshipmen, who use a three-man front, bring four guys with quality starting experience. DE Jeremy Chase was switched from OLB midway through the season and it has paid off, giving Navy added quickness to their pass rush. He's strong and determined. He's joined by NG Babatunde Akingbemi, who, while he has gotten stronger in his tenure at Navy, hasn't lost any of his athleticism- the guy can leap 33 inches and run the forty in 4.8. DE Jeff Vanak and backup Pierre Moss supply more quickness on the outside and will make it difficult for opposing teams to beat the Middies around the corner. These guys gave up 4.2 yards per carry (to rank 78th in rushing defense) as the defense allowed a 44% third-down conversion rate against them. Experience will pay off, and Navy will tighten its ship in this unit to make short-yardage situations play out (more often) to their advantage.

"Linebacker Lane" Jackson has lettered twice, earning his starting and tough-guy status (and then some) from his inside post. He's looked at as a leader, and is equally effective against both the run and pass. He and fellow senior Bobby McClarin form a solid interior. The smallish outside guys are good for supplementing the front-three, but the overall level of their play will not be that of the insiders. The Middies shored their depth this spring, as senior T.J. Costello took almost every rep next to Jackson (at ILB) on the first team, while McClarin nursed an injury. Like many LB units that are undersized, these LBs are swift to the point of attack and will give opposing passing games a challenge underneath and in the flats.

Defensive Back
FS Josh Smith, the defensive captain, has led the Midshipmen in tackles each of the last two seasons. The pride of Attica, IN, he jails ball-carriers with sure-tackling and a natural eye for the football. Basically, he makes the field smaller for the entire defense. His leadership will be needed to bring this inexperienced secondary through the first part of the season. Senior Vaughn Kelley is a hard-nosed corner with adequate cover skills. Lord Cole won the (spring) title of most improved player and will challenge Keenan Little for the starting spot opposite Kelley. Johnson loves Cole's speed and feels he will have to be on the field in some way. As long as these guys improve their tackling, the defense will be fine.

Navy won't face off against any offensive juggernauts, so the defense will be sound. They will get swift movement to the ball and consistent tackling. Tackling comes first - they did not do a great job at wrapping up and finishing plays, which (will) negate their speed. They have a good amount of experience coming back (eight starters) and some solid backups in the system. The big question will be the secondary, where they don't get many quality looks against the pass in practice. Navy needs to keep opponents from achieving in the fourth quarter, for this problem in '03 ostensibly led to a few of their losses.


FS Josh Smith


Returning Starters in bold
DE Jeremy Chase-Jr (6-2, 250) Pierre Moss-Sr (6-0, 249)
NG Babatunde Akingbemi-Sr (6-0, 282) Dan Wendolowski-Jr (6-2, 254)
DE Jeff Vanak-Sr (6-1, 247) John Chan-So (6-1, 247)
OLB Reggie Sealey-Sr (6-0, 230) Jason Monts-Jr (6-1, 224)
ILB Bobby McClarin-Sr (5-11, 225) T.J. Costello-Sr (5-10, 230)
ILB Lane Jackson-Sr (5-11, 217) Rob Caldwell-So (6-2, 214)
OLB David Mahoney-So (5-10, 215) Tyler Tidwell-So (6-1, 204)
CB Vaughn Kelley-Sr (6-1, 180) Kerwin Scott-So (5-7, 179)
Luke Penrose-Jr (5-10, 187)
CB Keenan Little-So (6-0, 194) Lord Cole-Sr (5-10, 191)
ROV Hunter Reddick-So (6-2, 191) DuJuan Price-So (6-0, 211)
FS Josh Smith-Sr (6-2, 201) Clay Carter-So (6-3, 204)
P Mick Yokitis-Jr (6-2, 220) Eric Shuey-Jr (5-10, 160)




Geoff Blumenfeld has his private pilot's license, but the only soaring coach Johnson wants to see is his kicks through the uprights. Blumenfeld has made five of nine career attempts, but only two of them have come from beyond 30 yards out (42 is his career long). He'll also handle the kick-offs for the Middies.

This is a BIG question mark. John Skaggs leaves with a 41-yard average, and this year's trials have been anything but fruitful. Mick Yokitis could win the job by default, unless an unlikely hero emerges. If the fall doesn't yield any progression in the kicking game, the Middies could wind up leading the country in 4th down conversion attempts.

Return Game
Jeremy McGown and Brian Hampton are back to return kicks, while Tomlinson will again field punts for the Midshipmen. Expect to see improvement in these areas of the special teams, especially if Trey Hines and his speed are placed out there somewhere.