Middies' Ellis unseasoned but ready

September 11, 1990|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

ANNAPOLIS -- The last time Navy met Virginia in football, Gary Tranquill was coaching the Middies, Napoleon McCallum was a rookie with the Los Angeles Raiders and a fellow named Chuck Smith trampled all over the Cavaliers.

The year was 1986. In the opener, Smith rushed for 230 yards and a touchdown, the sixth best rushing performance in academy history, as Navy won, 20-10.

On the sideline that day was McCallum, Navy's All-America tailback the year before who was in the area with the Raiders for their game against the Washington Redskins.

"Napoleon who?" someone said in jest to McCallum as Smith raced up and down the field. How soon they forget.

The Navy-Virginia rivalry will be renewed Saturday in Charlottesville, this time with a passer, Alton Grizzard, as the Middies' chief threat. His backup, as of last weekend, is Brian Ellis, a sophomore from Morrow, Ga., who ascended to No. 2 when Gary McIntosh quit the team.

Coach George Chaump "held my breath" when Grizzard suffered a "burner" in his throwing shoulder after running into a linebacker following a first-quarter interception. On the next series, Navy stayed largely on the ground.

Only in the direst of circumstances would Chaump have put in the unseasoned Ellis. Ellis made a cameo appearance in one varsity game last fall, spending the rest of his time with the plebe/JV team.

"Brian would have been strapped if he had gone in against Richmond," said quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers. "As the third stringer, he didn't get many snaps in practice. They all go to the No. 1 and 2 guys. He'll be ready for Virginia, because he'll get the work in practice."

Said Ellis, "I'm ready any time. I know everything. I just haven't done it in practice."

Ellis, 6 feet 2, 202 pounds, was the quarterback who threw to Andre Hastings two years ago at Morrow High. Hastings, the nation's prep player of the year last season, is now a receiver at Georgia.

"He's a classic dropback passer," Rogers said. "He has relatively good mobility, although not as good as Grizzard's."

In Grizzard's estimation, Ellis was the star of Navy's spring scrimmage. "If our opener had been the next day, I would have started Brian over Gary and me," he said.

With McIntosh, a senior, gone, Navy's only other quarterbacks are sophomore Steven Seoane and freshman Jason Van Matre.

"McIntosh just didn't want to be No. 2," Rogers said. "I'm disappointed he didn't stay."

Chaump and McInitosh talked yesterday, but the coach later said there are no changes contemplated.

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