Pitch Right: A Navy Sports Column

A new month is upon us, and so is a new feature here on GoMids. Welcome to the first column of Pitch Right, your weekly look at the happenings of Navy athletics and where your favorite Midshipmen teams fit into the wider NCAA landscape. On tap this week? The best Navy team with the least press, an early look at Notre Dame, and workouts for recruits.

Pro Movers and Shakers

The NFL season has become a 24/7, 365 day of the year enterprise (366 if you count this year.) Aside from this past week's NFL combine, we're starting to hear a lot of talk about signings and potential personnel acquisitions as we get closer to the draft. Surprisingly, two Navy graduates have made the wire reports in recent weeks, with the New England Patriots adding fullback Eric Kettani to their 80-man roster, and the CFL's Toronto Aragonauts signing receiver Tyree Barnes to a free agent contract.

Does that mean both former Navy standouts and class of 2009 graduates will be playing professionally this year? Not exactly. I spoke with Eric's manager and brother, Amir, who told me that while Eric has been added to the roster, his status remains unchanged as far as the Navy is concerned. This means that unless he's granted permission by the Navy to join the Patriots active roster prior to beginning of the league year on March 13th, he'll likely be added to the team's reserve military list.

Barnes' path to a CFL field may be more viable as of today, as the speedster receiver recently returned from two years of active-duty service on the USS Gonzalez (DDG-66). I'll be speaking with Barnes this weekend and getting the scoop of his next move, so be sure to check back next week for an update.

Overlooked Tennis Team Still Dominating

If there's one Navy athletics team that gets lost in the shuffle of spring sports (and with lacrosse, baseball, and spring football, it's sometimes tough to keep track) it's the women's tennis team. Picked to finish second in the Patriot League preseason poll, the team might only be in its third year of Division I play, but their undefeated record this year has already made them one of the top Mid-Atlantic programs. The women dominated Loyola (Md) in action last weekend before beating Drexel 4-3 in a close match, while Sophomore Erin Snook has boosted her singles record to a perfect 9-0. Haven't been cable to catch the Mids smack the ball around this year? The season is still young, but you'll get a chance to watch coach Keith Puryear's team take on George Washington at the Brigade Sports Complex this Sunday at noon.

Irish Watch

If you've never checked out Bruce Feldman's college football blog at CBS Sports, then I highly suggest you add it to your daily reading list. The former ESPN senior writer is not only an accomplished author and storyteller, but he manages to cover more teams with greater insight than even local writers can manage. Earlier this week Bruce ranked his 'Top 10 Most Significant' quarterback battles for the spring, and coming in third on the list was Notre Dame's impending showdown between up to four signal callers. It was an interesting reminder that while the Mids will be heavy underdogs when they travel to play the Irish in Ireland on September 1st, they'll nevertheless be going up against a Notre Dame team which will be, in many respects, rebuilding. As Feldman points out, the Irish are far from set at quarterback, and the possibility of starting a redshirt freshmen like Everette Golson or even a true freshman like Gunner Kiel on the road and in an unfamiliar environment could definitely play in Navy's favor. Whoever ends up winning the job this spring (and my guess is that it will be junior Tommy Rees) it'll be worth the time to check out for Navy fans looking to get an early scouting report.

Memphis Jumps on Big East Bandwagon, Temple Next?

Temple to the Big East is a likely scenario by 2015, but 2012 could be a trickier situation. Because Temple will need to find a way to exit two conferences (The MAC in football, and the Atlantic 10 in all other sports) it's still unknown whether or not the Owls will officially become part of Navy's future conference by next season. But make no mistake about it; Temple will eventually join the Big East. It's a sure sign of desperation for the conference, which kicked out the University for lack "competitiveness" in 2004. Since that time the Owls have become one of the success stories in college football – going from perennial one-win seasons to a team that can expect to compete for a bowl berth each season, including last year's 9-4 finish

But does that make Temple the best expansion candidate? It might depend on your definition of "best," with the short answer being that for now, the Owls represent a stop-gap to a dwindling conference which needs to fill its league slate. That being said, Temple as a program never beat a MAC team with a record greater than .500 during their short-lived stay in the conference, and never even won their own division within the MAC. While any move to stabilize the future of the Big East helps Navy, I have my doubts about whether or not Temple is the best long-term solution help the conference maintain its automatic qualifying status as a BCS affiliate.

A "Leaping" Recruit for a Leap Year

Unless you've been living under a rock you know that Wednesday was February 29th. A date, as it so happens, which only comes about once every four years. There are plenty of things to leap about when it comes to Navy athletics, especially when it comes to Navy football. One future Midshipmen who could be doing some leaping is C.J. Williams, a running back out of Calvert Hall. If you haven't seen Williams' senior highlights, you've got to check out this video of him in which he hurdles over a defender at the 30 second mark. Back in January I talked to Williams about his commitment to Navy and asked him how he started doing the leap. "Ever since I was young I'd say I was tired of getting hit low and would just hop over people," Williams told me. "You don't really plan it out – it just kind of happens. It's all instinctual," he added. Here's to hoping those instincts aren't lost after Williams spends a year at NAPS.

Fourth Quarters…and then some

By now most Navy fans know about "Fourth Quarters" – the infamous series of strength and conditioning workouts that Navy strength coach Mike Brass leads the team through prior to spring practice each year. I talked to one Navy senior recently who told me the first week of the workouts this year has gone well, and crediting prior sessions with helping him get into "the best shape of my life." What you may not have known about Fourth Quarters is that coach Brass actually puts together a program for incoming recruits to the Academy and to NAPS. The manual for the three phase lifting and running program reads like a "Beginners Guide to Getting Jacked," and alternates muscle groups by day before finishing with an abdominal exercise at the end of each session. There are no lifting exercises on Wednesdays, but one thing I did notice about the program is that itgets progressively more difficult as the phases increase. Just goes to show you that even during their senior years recruits aren't slacking off. With that kind of program, is there wonder that we've seen players like Chris Ferguson come in and make an immediate impact in recent years?

adamnettina – at – gmail.com

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