ANNAPOLIS -- George Chaump has talked about him in reverent tones all season. The Navy coach has even had the audacity to mention him in the same breath with Napoleon McCallum.
Ivan Bullard is his name. He is a 225-pound sophomore tailback from Hinesville, Ga., who now, after a series of false starts, is actually going to start his first game when Navy entertains Delaware Saturday.
Chaump has raved about Bullard's speed and power. He has said, although he wishes he had the words back, that Bullard might remind some people of McCallum, the runner who went from Navy glory to the NFL, with a military hitch mixed in.
Bullard has rushed only eight times for 11 yards this season, which suggests a problem. It is injuries. Following reconstructive knee surgery last year, Bullard has been hampered this fall by a pulled abdominal muscle and a nagging hamstring pull.
"He might have played last week, but his dad had a serious accident and Ivan missed two days of practice," Chaump said. "Now he looks like the Ivan you've all heard about."
Bullard will share time with Jason Pace, the Middies' leading rusher with 478 yards. Chaump intends to start a freshman, Brad Stramanak, at fullback.
Although Navy is the only Division I-A team on I-AA Delaware's schedule, the Blue Hens have been known to give the Middies a fit. They beat Navy last year, 10-9, raising their edge in the rivalry to 3-2. Delaware has an 11-5 mark against Division I-A teams since 1979.
The Blue Hens' quarterback, sophomore Bill Vergantino, i familiar to Chaump. Vergantino played at Neshaminy High in Levittown, Pa., for Chaump's brother John. George, who was at Marshall University at the time, considered offering Vergantino a scholarship.
"He was a good runner, but we were throwing the ball all ove the lot, 50, 60 times a game, and we had no way to evaluate his passing," Chaump said. "Scholarships were scarce. If I had known he was such a good passer, I would have gone after him."
Predictably, Vergantino leads Delaware in rushing with 658 yards, but he also has completed 104 of 222 passes for 1,217 yards and six touchdowns. He is on the verge of becoming the first quarterback ever to lead Delaware in rushing.
"He was a wishbone quarterback when we looked at him in high school," Delaware coach Tubby Raymond said. "We thought maybe he would be a defensive back. Then he improved, and started all last year as a redshirt freshman. He's had some fine days, but we'd like to see him more consistent."
* Navy's Bill Yancey was named ECAC Division I-A Defensive Player of the Week for his three interceptions and touchdown-saving tackle in last week's win over Toledo . . . Delaware has won 20 of 24 season finales under Raymond; Navy is the Blue Hens' finale this time . . . Raymond has had 22 winning seasons in 25 years, while averaging eight victories . . . The Middies had 24 turnovers in their first seven games; in their last two, they've had none, accounting in part for their strong showing against Notre Dame and victory over Toledo.