Navy's Mason pleased he has reached end of position road

September 20, 1990|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

ANNAPOLIS -- When B.J. Mason first arrived at Navy from Valdosta, Ga., he thought for all the world he was a quarterback.

Next thing he knew, he was a halfback. That didn't last long. Now he's a wide receiver, and loving every minute of it.

"The idea of being able to score from anywhere on the field is fun," Mason said as Navy prepared for its scrape with Division I-AA Villanova here Saturday.

There probably isn't a receiver extant who wouldn't like to play for Middies coach George Chaump. He vowed Navy would pass, and he has delivered. In two games, the Middies have thrown 76 passes and rushed 68 times.

"Coach makes the offense fun," said Mason, who leads Navy's receivers with 11 catches. "He'll never go conservative or clam up. He's always wide open."

In last week's Virginia loss, for example, Chaump went against the coaching manual by calling two reverses on the same drive.

"Teams usually run one reverse a game or one a half at the most," Mason said. "So we ran one reverse and Virginia figured, OK, now we don't have to worry about that anymore."

Five plays later, to the surprise not only of Virginia but Navy as well, Chaump called another reverse. Mason took it 13 yards for a touchdown.

"Coach runs a play and sees what the defense does," Mason said. "If he sees a defensive back cheat, he'll run a play just like the other that exploits what the defensive back was cheating on."

Mason, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound junior, didn't come here as a pass-catching novice. At Valdosta High, he was a wide receiver for two years before ascending to quarterback as a senior. The coach liked the idea of having an experienced player at quarterback, although it could be gleaned at another position.

At the outset at Navy, Mason was No. 4 among five plebe quarterbacks. When the season opened, he was No. 3 on the varsity behind Alton Grizzard and Gary McIntosh.

Navy's coaches moved Mason to halfback before his sophomore year, which didn't dismay him because "it wasn't like I had been programmed as a quarterback" from birth.

"It made sense," Mason said. "As a halfback, I was usually split out as a flanker. That's why I started the last four games last season. I was a receiver on 50 percent of the plays."

B.J. -- derived from Billy Joe, which was derived from William Joseph -- expects to finish his Navy career as a receiver next year. The quarterback is likely to be Brian Ellis, now a sophomore.

"My quarterback days are over," Mason said. "Ellis is tall, smart, has a good arm and ran this offense in high school."

Although Mason leads the team with 11 catches, Jerry Dawson is considered Navy's prime receiver with his eight catches for 155 yards and three scores.

"Dawson's experience shows," Chaump said. "Although B.J. has speed and good hands, he's a converted quarterback who's inexperienced as a receiver. Dawson has a better knack for running patterns, getting open and making the very hard catch."

Chaump acts now as if he wishes he hadn't mentioned tailback Ivan Bullard in the same breath with Napoleon McCallum a few weeks ago.

Bullard, a 225-pound sophomore, hasn't played a down after missing his plebe season following knee surgery. McCallum, a former Navy star, is with the Los Angeles Raiders this season.

Bullard, plagued recently by a hamstring pull, finally may be ready to play Saturday.

"I haven't seen Bullard scrimmage, so I shouldn't make such a statement, comparing to Nap," Chaump said. "But he's a big, strong, good-looking back. If he rises to the occasion, he may be the starting tailback. It's time to see what he can do and can't do."

Rodney Purifoy and Jason Pace have been sharing the tailback job.

Dawson is No. 3 in the country in all-purpose running with a yard average . . . Michael Davis, a 279-pound tackle, returns to the starting lineup to buttress the offensive line after breaking his foot four weeks ago. He saw limited action against Virginia.

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