It was a few weeks into preseason practice in 2002 that Navy Coach Paul Johnson, unhappy with Craig Candeto and Aaron Polanco, said it was "a very definite possibility" that then-freshman Lamar Owens would be the starting quarterback.
Candeto and Polanco straightened things out, both for themselves and the Midshipmen. Candeto led the team to a bowl game in 2003; Polanco did so last year.
Fans will get their first look at Owens, now a senior, as the starting quarterback when Navy plays its annual spring football game today at noon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Owens has been a backup for the past three seasons. He rushed for 115 yards on 24 carries and completed 2 of 5 passes for 38 yards last year. In the only spring scrimmage, on April 9, he rushed for 68 yards and completed 7 of 10 passes for 89 yards.
"Lamar is clearly the best," Johnson told reporters after practice earlier this spring. "He's the number one quarterback. His experience and he's made some nice plays" are why he's the starter.
Replacing fullback Kyle Eckel may be tougher. Eckel rushed for 1,147 yards last season. Among his possible replacements, junior Irv Dingle quit the team during the spring, and junior Matt Hall had fumbles on two of his first three carries in the spring scrimmage and sat out most of the second half.
"I'm not sure we have" a good fullback, Johnson said. "I think they have the ability. But if they don't get better, we will play with a freshman."
-- Christian Swezey