ANNAPOLIS -- If coach George Chaump ever forgets why one of his off-season goals for Navy football was increased strength, he need only break out film of last season's game with Virginia.
In that 56-14 loss, the Cavaliers rolled up 664 yards in total offense (the most ever against Navy), leading Cavaliers coach George Welsh to note, "Our wide receivers were bigger than their linebackers." Defensively, Virginia had no problem getting to -- and punishing -- Navy quarterback Alton Grizzard.
"There was no way we were going to compete unless we were a stronger team," Chaump said yesterday, referring to the upcoming season. "We just didn't match up with the size and strength of the athletes we had on the field, compared to what the other teams had."
When Navy's preseason practice opens today, Chaump said he is hoping to see signs of a narrowing of the size and strength gap between his team and Navy opponents. During yesterday's news conference, the second-year coach practically was gushing about how much more physical he expects his team to be.
"We've had fabulous results with our weight and conditioning program, and the players are motivated and love the weight room," Chaump said. "We'll look like a football team. When our players take the field, a lot of people will be impressed with the bulk that we have."
So, just how much bigger are the Midshipmen? Based on the depth chart released this week, not much bigger than the team that went 5-6last season -- with some linemen actually recording NTC weights lower than a year ago. But those weights are based on spring practice. The team is in the process of being weighed, and any increase will be noted when the new weight chart is released tomorrow.
Most players did say they increased in strength under a regimen implemented by strength and conditioning coach Phil Emery.
"I've gotten a little bigger, and I'm seeing strength gains in a lot of people," said Michael Davis, a 6-foot-3, 268-pound projected starter at right guard. "But I don't think it's the size, it's the mind set of the guys going into games that will make a difference. If we go in with the attitude no one's going to push us around, no one's going to do it."
It won't take Navy long to find out if that attitude will stand up. The Mids open the season at home on Sept. 7 against Ball State, which returns most starters to a defense that ranked second in the country in yards allowed. After that, it'll be a road game at Virginia, followed by a home game against Division I-AA power William & Mary.
Though Chaump is impressed by his team's added bulk, it's still too soon for him to predict success for the Midshipmen. Regardless of who wins the quarterback battle (Jason Van Matre or Brian Ellis), neither has taken a snap from scrimmage. In fact, though the offense has four starters back (three linemen and a flanker), only left guard Dan Dunaway is expected to start at the same position as last year.
"We have switched positions in a lot of cases," Chaump said. We'll play those players we feel we have the best chance to win. Nobody is assured of a position."
Defensively, Chaump will have to find a way to shore up a unit that allowed 194 yards per game rushing and 184 passing. Six defensive starters return, but All-East middle guard Andy Kirkland has graduated, creating a big void.
"Our defense got pushed around, and adding strength is what will lead our defense to improve," Chaump said. "We can't win football games giving up [378 yards per game]. If we get our defense going, I'm certain our offense can get it done.
"You look at one year and where we were and where we are, it's hard to even compare it," Chaump said. "We will be a much stronger football team, and I would be very disappointed if we weren't a more competitive football team -- a team that's going to take charge and show they have a right to be there."