ANNAPOLIS -- Just as coach George Chaump was wondering when his next Navy running back would materialize, he glanced at the linebackers and saw Duke Ingraham.
My, he was glad to see Duke. Six feet 1, 220 pounds, tough as nails. Lettered last year as a linebacker. Son of Duncan Ingraham, a Navy defensive back in the mid-1960s.
As Chaump prepared the Middies for the annual Blue-Gold scrimmage marking the end of spring practice Saturday (7 p.m.) at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium (admission free), he explained how his search for a heavy-duty runner led to Duke.
Navy's leading rushers last year, Jason Pace and Alton Grizzard, are graduating. Rodney Purifoy, the No. 3 rusher, is now a defensive back. The No. 4, Kwame Moultrie, decided to give up football.
"He said he had lost interest," Chaump said. "If that's the case, he wouldn't play with heart, so there's no sense playing the game."
On top of all that, Ivan Bullard, a 215-pounder mentioned by Chaump in the same breath with Napoleon McCallum last year, is questionable for the fall. Plagued most of last season by injuries, Bullard was obliged to skip spring practice to concentrate on his studies.
"Since we don't know Bullard's status, we needed some toughness in the backfield," Chaump said. "A guy who could bull for extra yardage, bowl people over. We moved Ingraham from linebacker out of necessity."
The Duke isn't a stranger at the position. As a freshman in 1989, he won a letter as a special teams member and was a running back on the plebe-JV team.
"Ingraham is big and strong and loves football," Chaump said. "It'll take a good player to beat him out of the starting job."
Bullard isn't the only player devoting his undivided attention to the books this spring. Purifoy, the running back turned defensive back, and safety Mark Ellis, a starting linebacker last fall, are two others. Another safety, Darrell Graham, is practicing now after missing early drills to study.
Grizzard, the quarterback who led Navy to a 5-6 record (its most wins since 1982), must be replaced, along with backup Gary McIntosh. Meet the leading candidates: junior Brian Ellis and sophomore Jason Van Matre.
"I'm hoping we won't miss a beat at quarterback with these two," Chaump said. "Ellis is a fine passer and not a bad runner. Van Matre is a fine runner and not a bad passer."
Ellis, hampered by a sore arm, didn't play at all last season. Van Matre rushed for 1,207 yards in leading the Naval Academy Prep School team to a 10-0 record two years ago and won a varsity letter as a plebe returning kicks and dabbling at tailback.