Each of the Washington area's five major college football programs is in a preseason of transition at the game's most important position--starting quarterback. Continuing today, The Post will look at how, and with whom, each team is progressing.
After wrestling Navy's starting quarterback job from Steve Holley last season, Brian Broadwater led the Midshipmen to consecutive comeback wins over Colgate and Boston College, scoring the winning touchdown against the Red Raiders on a 61-yard run with 1 minute 1 second left. He finished the season with 679 yards and five touchdowns rushing and completed 47 of 98 passes for 838 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions.
It was a remarkable performance for a sophomore who had entered the 1998 season hoping simply to make the travel roster, and admittedly didn't have a firm grasp of Navy's often confusing spread offense.
"I wouldn't say I was totally lost last year, but sometimes a play would be called and I wouldn't exactly be sure what to do," said Broadwater, who hurt his own cause with several turnovers. "When I was snapped the ball, I didn't always know whether I was going to the right place or not. Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn't."
In the months since, Broadwater has spent countless hours in the film room trying to learn from those mistakes, working with coaches to acquire a more instinctive feel about how to react in various situations. As the Midshipmen prepare to enter their season opener Saturday against No. 11 Georgia Tech at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, coaches say they've noticed a marked improvement in their junior quarterback.
"From last year to this year, I think he's really matured," quarterbacks coach Mitch Ware said. "I think he's developing into a better leader, he's more vocal and has a little more confidence."
Confidence is an important attribute in Navy's offense. Even though Coach Charlie Weatherbie calls the plays, Broadwater has the option to change them at the line, depending on the defensive formation. Each day in practice, the offense spends at least 45 minutes working against different defensive schemes, and it's largely Broadwater's job to figure out what to do against each.
His vast array of physical tools often make that choice easier.
Aside from football, he also was a standout pitcher and outfielder on a baseball team at Lower Dauphin High School in Elizabethtown, Pa., once ranked in USA Today's top 15. Broadwater has contemplated trying to play both sports at the Academy, though the math major said it might be too difficult to squeeze in baseball along with spring football.
And after backing out of a verbal commitment to attend Bucknell--both for the education and the chance to play Division I-A football--he became a multipurpose performer during his year at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I., showing an array of talents by playing safety, kicking and returning punts.
Once Broadwater got to Annapolis, however, Weatherbie soon moved him back to his natural position of quarterback, in part because of his athletic ability, in part because his plebe picture reminded Weatherbie of Navy great Roger Staubach.
After entering last year's spring practice as a strong candidate to replace quarterback Chris McCoy, the sophomore broke his right leg in his very first scrimmage, opening the door for Holley.
Following a summer of grueling rehabilitation, however, he came back to offer the Midshipmen a rare combination--a strong-armed quarterback with the speed and elusiveness of a running back. It's the kind of double threat that can give opposing defenses fits, as evidenced by Navy's No. 4 national ranking in total rushing offense last season (261.3 yards per game).
"It gives offenses another threat," said Ware, who pointed to programs like Tennessee, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech that have turned to similar types of quarterbacks in recent years. "It gives them an athlete that can escape a blitz, get out of a rush and the whole bit. It adds another dimension."
Quickness has always been a defining trait of the 21-year-old, who weighed just 155 pounds upon his graduation from high school, scaring off most Division I programs. In his younger days, his slight frame nearly kept him away from the sport altogether.
"My wife told him that unless he weighed 75 pounds when he was 10, he wouldn't be allowed to play midget football," said Brian's father, Dale, whose daughter Amy recently graduated as a four-year letter-winner in field hockey from the University of Virginia. "I think when he went to weigh-ins he had a couple stones in his pocket, because I don't know how he made it."
Broadwater said he got by largely on athletic ability through high school. Nowadays, however, he's finding that it takes more than a fast 40 to get the job done.
"He's a very hard worker--no nonsense," said Ware, who added that Broadwater has elevated his game while being pushed by another hot quarterback prospect, sophomore Brian Madden. "He wants to know what you expect, and he's the kind of guy that if you jump on him, he responds. He doesn't go into a shell. He wants it tough on him; he wants the pressure on him in practice."
How good can Broadwater be?
"The jury's still out," Ware said, "but I think Brian has the capability of being something special. Just from the spring to now, I think he's gotten a lot better throwing the football. He has the potential, but that doesn't mean anything. It's got to be proven on the field."
CAPTION: Junior Brian Broadwater should be even better now that he's more familiar with Midshipmen's spread offense.