Optimism coming in waves at Navy after 1996 success Veteran team dreaming of 11-win season in 1997

March 26, 1997|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

In the lingering euphoria of its most successful football season in almost 20 years, Navy has the audacity to adopt the slogan of "11 in '97."

That's 11 as in 11 wins.

"At least 11," said co-captain and safety Gervy Alota, noting that he first heard the slogan from coach Charlie Weatherbie. "Coach took some of us seniors aside and mentioned it. He didn't make a big deal of it, but we blew it up and made it our motto."

Weatherbie can't remember where he first heard the slogan, but he liked it immediately: "You get out of life what you expect. If your expectations are high, you'll reach great levels."

On Saturday, when the Mids start spring practice that will conclude with the spring game April 26, Weatherbie will have most of the key elements in place following the 9-3 season culminating in an Aloha Bowl victory over California.

His top priority? Finding a deep snapper, if you can imagine that. His No. 2 priority? Finding a reserve quarterback to spell the other co-captain, the record-breaking Chris McCoy.

On and on the list of relatively minor needs goes -- a starting cornerback, a replacement for linebacker Clint Bruce, a few tackles.

Not since Navy went 9-3 under George Welsh in 1978 have the Mids entered the following season with such high hopes. The perennial No. 1 goal of beating Army is more important than usual, since the loss to the Cadets last December cost Navy the Commander in Chief's Trophy.

"When we're 10-0 going into the Army game this year," McCoy said matter-of-factly, "it'll really be important."

In McCoy's estimation, the talent is there, more of it and better than at any time during his years at the academy. "My center, Brian Drechsler, at 260, is the smallest guy on the offensive line," whereas last season 260 was the average.

McCoy, who was the first quarterback in Navy history to rush for more than 1,000 yards and who set a school record with 16 rushing touchdowns in a season, was backed up by Ben Fay.

"People wonder what we'll do without [the graduated] Fay," Weatherbie said. "He was looked on as a savior -- he won a couple of games. [But] with McCoy, we can get it done."

Among the backup candidates, JV graduate John Limbert has the edge. Freshmen Steve Holley and Scott Jones will get a good look this spring. Limbert and Holley, McCoy notes approvingly, are faster than he is.

The way McCoy sees it, there shouldn't be a need for a No. 2. Smiling, he said, "I hope that when I come out, we'll be 20 points up."

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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