ANNAPOLIS -- He came to the Naval Academy with a reputation of playing an exciting brand of football, with his
pass-happy attack and offensive trickery helping him to seven winning seasons in his eight years of collegiate coaching.
But, after an impressive opening performance in Navy's 28-17 win over Richmond, George Chaump last season found his offense derailed.
"We had difficulty protecting people, and we were overpowered size- and strength-wise," Chaump said. "Pass blocking takes big, strong linemen. We just weren't big and strong, and add that with the lack of experience and never having dropped back before, in order to be respectable and not be embarrassed we had to resort to some other things."
Such as more running, including use of the wishbone -- a formation that didn't win former Navy coach Elliot Uzelac many supporters. The result was a 5-6 record, which, although it was the best for Navy since 1982, was not satisfying enough for a man accustomed to winning.
On Saturday, Chaump begins his second season, as Navy is host to Ball State at 7 p.m. Although Chaump is not one to make predictions, just listening to him on the eve of the 1991 season leaves the impression that the Midshipmen are on the verge of a breakthrough.
"Football-wise, I feel a lot better. The players who have been here a year are more familiar with everything, most significantly the system," Chaump said. "They have a better grasp of their approach, they're more confident and they've improved in terms of execution of our offense and defense. I'd be very disappointed if I didn't see some improvement. Very disappointed. Strongly disappointed."
Chaump said he is pleased with the extra year the players have had to learn his system, but he also is inspired by an off-season strength and conditioning program. "I think we look like a major-college football team now," Chaump said.
But strength alone won't result in wins, and Chaump is hoping for better execution from a defense that allowed 374.6 yards a game and an offense that will feature an inexperienced quarterback and just one player (left guard Dan Dunaway) in the same position from a year ago.
Thirteen players worked out at quarterback during the preseason, but the battle will be between junior Brian Ellis and sophomore Jason Van Matre. Ellis, 6 feet 2, 198 pounds, possesses a strong arm that probably is better suited for Chaump's style of play. But Van Matre, a tailback last season, has speed and was more productive during Navy's final preseason scrimmage on Saturday, when he led the team to three touchdowns.
Chaump said he won't decide until just before kickoff.
"We're trying not to show our hand," Chaump said. "[But] we haven't made many wholesale offensive changes. Our plays and offensive schemes are basically the same."
Navy's backfield will be just slightly more experienced than the quarterback. The team's best rusher in 1990, Rodney Purifoy, will be starting at cornerback. In Purifoy's place at tailback will be Duke Ingraham, who was an outside linebacker last season. At least fullback Brad Stramanak will be in a familiar backfield spot. The sophomore played in five games, starting just one, against Army.
"They [Ingraham and Stramanak] have no second speed; they're full speed all the time," Chaump said. "They go all out, and that's the type of backs we want. Ingraham will be exciting, and he'll give us that toughness dimension we need."
What Navy also needs is a winning season. The Midshipmen haven't been over .500 since going 6-5 in 1982.
Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel, responding to a question in the Navy Sports Annual, said: "I believe the No. 1 issue facing our academy's athletic program is to bring football back into a winning and successful era. I feel confident that George Chaump will do that. This season will go a long way in establishing that particular position."
But Chaump said he doesn't feel any added pressure.
"I don't think any outside force puts any more pressure than I put on myself," Chaump said. "You try to satisfy your own desire and your own ambition. I realize it's important to win. You're going to do everything to win, because you want to win personally.
The [Navy] following is yearning for that type of success. I think it will be contagious once it starts."
Navy facts and figures
Coach: George Chaump, (5-6, second year at Navy)
Last year's record: 5-6
Key players, offense: QB Jason Van Matre, G Michael Davis
Key players, defense: LB Byron Ogden, CB Bill Yancey
Player to watch: RB Brad Stramanak
Toughest game: Notre Dame
Easiest game: Delaware
Pivotal games: Air Force, Army
Sept. 7 Ball State.. .. .. .. .. ..7 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Virginia.. .. .. .. .. 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 William & Mary.. .. .. 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 Bowling Green.. .. ... 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 Air Force.. .. .. .. .. 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Temple.. .. .. .. .. .... noon
Oct. 26 Delaware (homecoming)...1:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Notre Dame.. .. .. .. .. 4 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Tulane.. .. .. .. .. ... 8 p.m.
Nov. 23 Wake Forest.. .. .. ... 1:30 p.m.
Dec. 7 Army (Philadelphia).. .. 1:30 p.m.