5 Questions for Navy Football

The consensus around the country is that Navy is going to be pretty good this fall. We're talking another winning season, another bowl game and, perhaps another CIC trophy. Still, just like every other team, the Midshipmen face some questions entering the fall. Some are positive. Some aren't. Others make for good conversation. Here are five questions about Navy's 2006 season. Stay tuned next week for five more:

1. Can Brian Hampton carry the torch?
Navy has evolved into the service academy version of Quarterback U. Signal callers Craig Candeto, Aaron Polanco and Lamar Owens have all been a part of the team's success. As Navy's quarterback goes, the Midshipmen go. Hampton is up for the challenge and had a good spring. But he still has to prove himself during preseason camp. The real test comes on Sept. 2 against East Carolina. Rising sophomore Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is listed as second on the depth chart and raised his stock during spring drills. He rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns in the Blue-Gold game. More on Kaheaku-Enhada next week.

2. Will the Midshipmen win another CIC trophy?
Navy would love to add a fourth Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to its showcase. You know the rest. The Midshipmen can pull it off unanimously with wins over Air Force and Army. As predicted on this website, Navy will beat Air Force on a late field goal by Joey Bullen. The Midshipmen will also take out Army. Navy had won just five outright CIC trophies since beginning this run in 2003. That marked the first CIC win by the Midshipmen since 1981. Next question.

3. How good can linebacker Rob Caldwell be?
Damn good. Caldwell is a special player and should be the leader of Navy's experienced defense.

He made 140 tackles last year, which is the seventh most in Navy history. Expect Caldwell to get more attention from opposing offenses this fall. Don't expect them to stop him. Navy ranked 62nd overall (377 yards per game) in total defense last season.

Caldwell and the eight other returning starters on defense should help the Midshipmen move up the rankings.

4. When will Navy beat Notre Dame?
The Midshipmen have lost an NCAA-record 42 straight games to Notre Dame, losing to the Fighting Irish 42-21 last year.

Expect Notre Dame to run the streak to 43 when it meets Navy Oct. 28 in Baltimore. There is no shame in that. Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn is a Heisman Trophy candidate and fans are talking national championship in South Bend. "Here's my feeling," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. "If (Quinn) wins the Heisman Trophy, that probably means we win the national championship. So sign me up."

5. Will Paul Johnson leave Navy?
Hey, we had to stir the pot a little bit. As for the question, let's hope not. Johnson is content in Annapolis, but if he keeps winning it seems possible that other schools will take a good look at him.

Johnson is 26-11 over the past three years and has led the Navy resurgence. In previous years, rumors have circulated that other Division I schools were interested in his services. If Johnson keeps winning, which he will, expect more teams to express interest.

Again, this is purely speculative. As for Johnson leaving, let's hope not.


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