- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

Quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and fullback Adam Ballard played well enough for Navy last season to have a firm grasp on starting jobs when spring practice begins today in Annapolis.

Or did they?

Midshipmen coach Paul Johnson and his staff will be looking for answers on defense and along the offensive line after losing a large senior class from a team that went 9-4 last season. But that doesnt mean Kaheaku-Enhadas or Ballards starting status is safe.

Kaheaku-Enhada earned the starting nod last year after senior Brian Hampton was lost for the season with a knee injury. The Hawaiian signal-caller flourished in his place, piloting Navys option offense even more efficiently than his predecessor. The rising junior will continue to be pushed by classmate Jarod Bryant, who is still trying to close the gap between their option-reading abilities.

“The thing that everybody forgets is that Jarod, Kaipo and Troy were all very close when Brian went down,” Johnson said. “We had to make a decision that gave us the best chance to win at that time. I dont know why they arent going to be close again. Kaipo is going to have to elevate his game to hold the other two off.”

Ballard, a rising senior, became a starter in 2005 and had a good but not great 2006. He struggled with injuries, leaving three games and missing the Meineke Car Care Bowl, a 25-24 loss to Boston College, entirely.

Rising junior Eric Kettani became the beneficiary of Ballards missed time, and the Mids didnt miss a beat.

“I dont think Eric Kettani is willing to concede the starting fullback job to Adam Ballard,” Johnson said.

“He is a physical specimen. He benches 400 pounds, runs a sub 4.6 . He weighs 231 pounds, and hes a specimen. Now, can he translate it to the field? Well see. There is going to be good competition at fullback.”

There will be plenty of competition at other positions during spring drills. Navy must replace nine starters on defense, including former stalwarts like Rob Caldwell, David Mahoney and Tyler Tidwell at linebacker as well as Jeremy McGown and Keenan Little in the secondary.

Jeromy Miles, who started the last 11 games at safety as a freshman, left the academy and transferred to I-AA Massachusetts. One new face in the defensive backfield is Corey Johnson, who spent three seasons as a starting guard on Navys basketball team.

“We have a lot of young kids,” Johnson said. “The good thing about spring ball and the bad thing about spring ball is that everybody gets to play. Sometimes its painful to watch, but everybody gets to play and we get a chance to see everybody.”

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