Offensive line is main question for Navy football

April 21, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

Two questions come to George Chaump's mind as the end of spring football practice approaches.

"Does talent make the line?" he asked. "Or does the line make the talent?"

He thinks he knows the answer and doesn't even need the results of Navy's annual Blue-Gold game Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium to determine it.

"I think you need both, talent and the line," Chaump said.

He only feels comfortable, however, with what he calls the talent: the quarterback, running backs, receivers and tight end. All five of last year's starting offensive linemen have departed.

"That's the main area that needs shoring up," said Chaump, who will enter his fifth season. Navy finished last year 4-7 and has been 11-33 overall under Chaump.

None of the projected starters, including tackles Alex Domino (294 pounds) and Dean Wakeham (290), guards Bryce Minamyer (264) and Dave Gordon (284) and center Garrett Smith (260), has earned a varsity letter.

"They've obviously got some bulk, just no playing experience," Chaump said. "How good an offensive team we'll be will depend on how these young men develop."

When Chaump says he likes the talent at the skill positions, his satisfaction starts with two-year starter Jim Kubiak at quarterback. Although last year's top four rushers -- Jason Van Matre, Brad Stramanak, Billy James and Cleavon Smith -- are gone, new talent is available.

Plebes Omar Nelson and Will Smith impressed Chaump this spring. Senior Mike Jefferson, perhaps the team's fastest runner, could be used at tailback and wide receiver.

"He has blazing speed," Chaump said. The coach said he has a good crop at running back, players with more speed and power than before.

During the Blue-Gold game, Chaump will look for improvement in a number of areas.

"One is we've got to run the ball better," he said. Navy rushed for only 984 yards last season to its opponents' 2,320.

"We have to eliminate turnovers. We had 38 last year, putting us 104th out of 106 schools, which is embarrassing. We don't want to see sloppy tackling or the defense giving up big plays. We want to see constant hustle, with a lot of people around the ball."

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