Weatherbie, new-look Navy lack experience, not optimism

March 27, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

A college football coach who has lost 16 starters, all but one player on the defensive unit, plus a record-shattering quarterback, might acknowledge he is facing a major rebuilding job.

But at Navy, which opens spring practice tomorrow, Charlie Weatherbie is a self-proclaimed eternal optimist.

"In the last couple of years, we've pretty much started spring football knowing who our starters would be," said Weatherbie, who has orchestrated a dramatic turnaround with a 21-13 record.

"Now we're going to have lively competition at almost every position, just like when I started here in 1995. It creates better chemistry and the advantage is that all these young guys have been indoctrinated into our system. So instead of rebuilding, I like to think we're simply reloading."

Weatherbie is left with little ammunition, particularly on offense. Gone is quarterback Chris McCoy. A three-year starter, he broke 20 academy records and had a hand in 31 of his team's 51 touchdowns.

Fullback Tim Cannada (792 yards) and slotback Pat McGrew, who averaged 9.8 yards per carry and 29.4 yards on kick returns, also will be missing. But Weatherbie said he has solid replacements at running back in senior Irv Dingle and Matt Harden, part-time starters last season, two capable slot backs in Jason Wolf and Manny Metcalf, and a potential game-breaker in junior Travis Williams.

The offensive line should be strong with senior tackles Michael Wahle and Blaine Kindler and J. D. Gainey, a three-year starter at guard.

But finding a replacement for McCoy, who accounted for 1,370 all-purpose yards, won't be easy. The four candidates are juniors Steve Holley and Jon Limbert, who both saw duty in mop-up roles, and sophomores Brian Broadwater and Matt Dawson, who alternated at quarterback for a junior varsity team that went 6-2.

Holley is listed No. 1, with Broadwater, a gifted athlete who also plays baseball, seen as his principal competitor.

Defensively, Navy ranked sixth in the nation last season. It lost free safety Gervy Alota, who led the team in tackles (105), weak safety Rashad Smith, who had a knack for recovering turnovers, tackle Dave Viger, a Hula Bowl performer, linebacker Travis Cooley and junior linebacker Jake Bowen, who is on a two-year Mormon mission. The only returning starter on defense is tackle Jason Snider.

In trying to match last year's 7-4 finish, the Mids will be facing a tougher schedule, with Kent State and Colgate projected as the only soft spots. They open at Wake Forest on Sept. 10, in a Thursday night ESPN appearance.

Pub Date: 3/27/98

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