Adam Ballard ready to rumble

The hole opened so fast that Adam Ballard could hardly believe it. There in front of him, in the biggest game of his life, he saw nothing but empty field in front of him with thousands of screaming Midshipmen waiting for him in the stands behind the end zone.

So Adam Ballard ran to the Midshipmen. Sixty-seven yards later he scored his second touchdown in last season's Army-Navy Classic in Philadelphia. Ballard finished with 192 yards on just 18 carries in Navy's blowout 42-23 win over its bitter service academy rival.

In the process, a budding star was born. So what does Ballard have planned for an encore?

Keep Navy's starting fullback job.

The heated fight for the position likely won't develop until Matt Hall returns during preseason camp in August. Hall has been out since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and medial cruciate ligament on his first carry against Notre Dame last November.

Ballard remains No. 1 during spring drills and he isn't expected to get competition from second-stringer Eric Kettani.

"It's bittersweet," says Ballard. "I wish Matt was here. I don't think I have earned anything yet. I don't think (Kettani) and those other guys are a bunch of Joe's off the street. But Matt and I really competed last year."

Ballard became the starter after Hall went down last fall. Hall beat out Ballard for the job last August. The pair shared reps up until Hall's horrific knee injury.

The way Ballard's coming on combined what Hall has to come back from, may give one of last year's Army-Navy's stars the edge. Ballard finished 2005 with 109 carries for 668 yards (6.1 yards per carry) with six touchdowns. At 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, Ballard is a load and is only getting better at reading Navy's smooth triple-option attack.

In case Ballard is looking for any motivation, all he has to do is look to Navy coach Paul Johnson. Said Johnson of Ballard before the start of spring drills last month: "Can Adam Ballard be a good player? Yes. But he isn't proven. He hasn't proven anything to me. He proved he could get 75 yards against Army when nobody touches him right up the middle. That's more than half of what he got on one play."

Ballard responded: "I don't look into everything coach Johnson says. I don't get caught up in it." Actually, Johnson couldn't provide Ballard with a better compliment. Johnson's tough on Ballard, he pushes him so hard, because he cares. He knows he can be a special player.

He knows that Adam Ballard is a budding star. "Adam has only scratched the surface," Johnson said. "He can be so much better. That's why I get after him so much. Adam has so much ability."


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