Navy a great unknown as it starts with SMU

September 08, 1995|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- Call it the X-factor.

Neither new Naval Academy football coach Charlie Weatherbie nor Southern Methodist counterpart Tom Rossley know what to expect from the Midshipmen when they open their 1995 season against the Mustangs in the Cotton Bowl tomorrow night.

"We really didn't know how to prepare for Navy," said Rossley, coming off a 17-15 upset of Arkansas in his team's opener last week.

"We're playing ag- ainst a new coach, a new system and a lot of new faces from the Navy team we beat [42-13] two years ago.

"To guess what they might do, we've got to look at films when Weatherbie was coaching at Utah State and when his offensive coordinator [Paul Johnson] was at Hawaii."

Weatherbie also only can guess how much his new football students have absorbed during practice while learning drastically new offensive and defensive alignments.

The biggest question mark is at quarterback, where Weatherbie has chosen sophomore Chris McCoy to run the sophisticated triple option spread offense that Johnson calls "a hybrid of the the wishbone and run-and-shoot."

McCoy, a product of Morris, Ga., a small farm town in the western part of the state, has no varsity experience. He performed last season for the plebes as a defensive back, but ran the scout offense when the Mids were preparing for Rice, Air Force and Army -- three wishbone teams.

But when spring practice began, Weatherbie and Johnson asked McCoy to audition at quarterback among six other hopefuls.

"Chris fits well into our type of offense with his quickness and ability to run and throw," said Johnson, whose teams at Georgia Southern and Hawaii always ranked among the nation's offensive leaders.

"He was a quarterback, shortstop and pitcher in high school. He's got a strong arm. But how he'll perform under pressure is something we'll find out on Saturday."

McCoy, an honor student in high school, was encouraged by his principal, Jack Hammond, to apply to the Naval Academy.

"The day I was to sign with Albany [Ga.] State was when I got accepted by Navy," recalled McCoy, who spent a year at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I., before coming to Annapolis.

McCoy, an economics major, readily accepts the challenge of trying to help resurrect a football program that has not enjoyed a winning season since 1982.

"I've always loved playing offense, having the ball in my hands and creating excitement," he said. "I don't feel any pressure. I just plan on going out there to have fun and be successful."

McCoy, 20, said he realizes he has a tough act to follow. His predecessor, Jim Kubiak, broke 17 academy passing records in his two full seasons of running the Navy offense.

"I got a lot of encouragement from Kubiak," said McCoy. "We threw on the sidelines this spring, and he told me I had a strong enough arm to keep the defense honest."

Weatherbie and Johnson will not put undue pressure on McCoy, stressing a running game to use the speed the slender 180-pounder employed as a high school sprinter.

"Chris has become more comfortable with what we're doing," said Weatherbie, "but we want to make sure he doesn't make costly mistakes. We have to be stingy with the ball."

Navy was far too charitable in its last meeting with SMU in Annapolis two years ago, when the Mustangs romped, with then-freshman quarterback Ramon Flanigan running for a career-high 148 yards.

But the Mustangs will not have Flanigan to bedevil the Mids tomorrow.

He suffered a hip injury on the first offensive play against Arkansas and was replaced by redshirt sophomore Chris James, who completed 17 of 28 passes against the Hogs.

NOTES: Weatherbie was forced to make a number of adjustments in the offensive line when senior right guard Alex Domino quit the team "for personal reasons" last week. Sophomore Jeff Smith will replace Domino. Senior co-captain Garrett Smith has shifted from center to left guard, with sophomore Brian Drechsler replacing Smith over the ball. . . . SMU has lost star sophomore linebacker Chris Bordano for the season. Bordano has a back injury and will be red-shirted.

NAVY AT A GLANCE

Coach: Charlie Weatherbie, first year at Navy (15-19 at Utah State).

Last year: 3-8

Conference: Independent

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WNAV (1430 AM), WMAL (630 AM)

Stadium: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial, Annapolis

Offense: Spread offense featuring triple option

Defense: New alignment will feature five backs

Top returning players: Omar Nelson (RB), Matt Scornavacchi (WR), Garrett Smith (C), Brian Schrum (P), Fernando Harris (LB), Clint Bruce (LB), Andy Person (DE), Joe Speed (DB), Andy

Thompson (DB), Gervy Alota (DB)

Strengths: Navy boasts experience on defense, with the secondary leadership of Speed, Thompson and Alota as its main strength.

Weaknesses: The offense lost its most potent combination in quarterback Jim Kubiak and tight end Kevin Hickman. The new system will put a heavy burden on untested sophomore Chris McCoy, who played defensive back for the Plebes last season.

Strongest opponent: Notre Dame

) Key game: Army, as always

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