Preseason Lookaheads - Independents
Posted Jan 28, 2007

Why each Independent team should be excited, grouchy, and what each team needs to work on.

The numbers are the CFN pre-preseason national rankings. 

35. Notre Dame   2006 Record: 10-3
Why to get excited: In year three of the Charlie Weis era, the program should theoretically be hitting its stride, but it appears to be two years away from being the superpower to match up the hype and attention. The recruiting classes have been terrific, highlighted by QB Jimmy Clausen, but it's obviously going to take a little while before they all start to rock. The schedule couldn't end any softer than Navy, Air Force, Duke, and at Stanford, and there's a five-game home stretch starting in mid-October, but ...
Why to be grouchy: ... it starts out brutal. After the home date with Georgia Tech, the Irish go on the road for four games in five weeks to Penn State, Michigan, Purdue and UCLA. They follow that up with Boston College and USC. Yeesh. It doesn't help when you lose all the offensive stars, including RB Darius Walker, who left a year early. Four starters are gone off the offensive line, the defense loses Victor Abiamiri and Derek Landri along with big-hitting safety Chinedum Ndukwe.
The number one thing to work on is: Pass protection. Brady Quinn was enough of a veteran to get out of several jams, but he still got killed. The new starting quarterback has to survive behind a rebuilt offensive line and without Walker, Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight to rely on. The line simply can't give up the 31 sacks it got roasted for last year.
Biggest offensive loss: QB Brady Quinn
Biggest defensive loss: DE Victor Abiamiri 

65. Navy   2006 Record: 9-4
Why to get excited: Many of the main pieces are back for the offense to be its usual, dominating self. Losing QB Brian Hampton in the middle of last year wasn't good, but the positive out of is was the experience Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada gained. He now appears to be the type of leader who can keep the attack rolling. FB Adam Ballard should be back after getting hurt, while all the top speed backs return. Even with all the concerns going into next year, the independent status should mean another bowl season playing only three teams that went to bowls last year.
Why to be grouchy: The defense loses almost all the starters. Just three return, while the offense loses three key offensive lineman along with top receiver Jason Tomlinson. The passing game was the worst in the nation last year, partly be offensive design, and it should struggle even more next year.
The number one thing to work on is: Kickoff returns. Navy is great at going on long, drawn-out drives, but it could use all the positive field position it can get. The punting game was awful, the punt returners were mediocre, and the kickoff returners were abysmal averaging 16.27 yards per try.
Biggest offensive loss: OG Zach Gallion
Biggest defensive loss: LB Rob Caldwell 

108. Army   2006 Record: 3-9
Why to get excited: Carson Williams. He might not have shown it last year when thrown to the wolves as a true freshman, but Williams is the type of talented quarterback Army hasn't had in a long, long time. When the light eventually goes on, he's the type of player who should be able to make everyone around him better. If he's not on, David Pevoto is a veteran quarterback the offense can go back to. The rest of the backfield returns, so the running game should be better.
Why to be grouchy: The defense is still a work in progress, and while the effort is always there, the overall talent isn't. It hurts most going into this year that most of the top players of 2006 were seniors including top pass rusher Cameron Craig. The team's top three tacklers are gone.
The number one thing to work on is: Turnovers. Army simply isn't good enough to make a ton of mistakes and win games. It led the nation last year with 37 turnovers, two more than anyone else, and only forced 19 takeaways with just four interceptions. Getting more pressure into the backfield would also be nice after cranking out just 11 sacks.  
Biggest offensive loss: OG Pete Bier
Biggest defensive loss: DE Cameron Craig 

118. Temple    2006 Record: 1-11
Why to get excited: Yeah, Temple won just one game last year, but there were signs of some big improvements under Al Golden. For one, the team actually got a win beating Bowling Green. It lost to Buffalo in overtime, and started to get the offense going a wee bit over the second half of the year as the team experimented. Now, just about everyone is back with eight starters on offense, including options at quarterback, and eight on defense including the entire defensive front four and three in the secondary. The kickers all return. 
Why to be grouchy: Two key linebackers, Walter Mebane and Ryan Gore, were seniors and while there are just three starters gone on offense, they were the key playmakers (RB Tim Brown, OT Elliot Seifert and WR Mike Holley). The team might have experience, and it really is getting better, but the overall talent level isn't there to hope for a winning season. Improvement is needed in almost every area.
The number one thing to work on is: Moving the ball. The Owls were dead last in the nation in run defense, second-to-last in scoring defensive, third-to-last in total defense, dead last in punt returns, and 116th in scoring. The biggest issue is total offense after finishing last in the country averaging 216 yards per game. The big issue is the line that needs to do far more for the running game and has to be far, far better at protecting the quarterbacks.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Tim Brown
Biggest defensive loss: LB Walter Mebane