Starting or subbing, Cannada relishes role Navy FB pounds defenses geared to stop QB McCoy

November 08, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Before Navy's spring practice began, Tim Cannada's goal was "to see if I could win my position outright."

That position was fullback, and the man he had to beat out was Omar Nelson, who had posted rushing statistics almost identical to Cannada's during the 1995 season.

Cannada had a strong spring, won the starting role for the opener, then seemed to cement it when he churned out 107 yards on the ground in a victory over Rutgers.

But Nelson wasn't through. In the following weeks, he became the main man, eclipsing the 100-yard figure three straight times and becoming the focal point of Navy's straight-ahead offense.

Now Cannada has reasserted himself. Last week, when Notre Dame arranged its defense to stop quarterback Chris McCoy (only 16 yards on 13 carries), Cannada ran up the middle. He totaled 93 yards, his best day since the opener.

"I knew both Omar and myself could play the position," Cannada said. "He's been the dominant player most of the time, but I'm happy with the way things have gone. We've been winning and that's what counts."

The two workhorses have combined for 887 yards, more than McCoy and second-string quarterback Ben Fay have produced.

The reasons? First, because of McCoy's outside threat, defenses spread to stop him, which unclogs the middle. Second, Navy's offensive line has improved.

"Because of Chris, somebody has to open up," said coach Charlie Weatherbie. "And in our offense, we try to use the fullback a lot.

"And our line is doing a good job of creating holes in there. We're more physical and more knowledgeable about what we're doing. And the coaches are more able to adapt from series to series on the sideline."

Cannada, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound junior, undoubtedly will be the go-to guy for power yardage when Nelson leaves after this season.

Born in Pennsylvania, Cannada grew up in Trussville, Ala., a small town north of Birmingham. Auburn inquired about him after a stellar high school career. So did Georgia Tech.

"Basically, when I told them I was interested in going to an academy, they stopped talking to me," said Cannada. "I was mostly concerned about the opportunities after school."

He attributes Navy's resurgence to "a lot of faith in the coaching staff and a lot of faith in each other. I've been kind of expecting us to do well. We've worked really hard since the Army game [last season]."

Cannada is third on the team with 331 yards rushing and has scored two touchdowns, both in the rout of Duke. His 5.1 yards-per-carry average is second on the team among runners with more than seven assignments.

Tomorrow against Delaware, he expects Navy to rebound from last week's 54-27 loss to Notre Dame in Ireland.

"It's not bad when you play well and get beat," Cannada said. "But getting dominated like we were is not good.

"We caused a lot of problems for ourselves by giving up the ball. We're not a team that can hand opportunities to a good opponent."

And where are his long-range sights set?

"Everybody is talking about going to the Aloha Bowl," Cannada said. "That would be real nice."

No matter which fullback is getting most of the glory.

Pub Date: 11/08/96

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