Navy's Spencer makes fast inroads at wide-out Freshman receiver catches third TD in scrimmage

August 30, 1998|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

For a young man who, during scrimmages the past two weekends, has had little trouble finding the end zone after catching passes, Harry Spencer begins his career at Navy with modest objectives.

Though Spencer is just a freshman and there are at least four players ahead of him at the two wide-out positions, one glance at him frolicking in the secondary elicits memories of Rob Taylor, Phil McConkey and other storied Midshipmen receivers of the past.

"I'd like to make the travel squad," said Spencer, a Miami native. "If that doesn't happen, I'll play for the JVs and learn as much as I can."


Last week, in an intrasquad bash, Spencer hauled in a 46-yard scoring pass from Steve Holley. He showed neutrality in the quarterback battle between Holley and Brian Broadwater by scoring on the 35-yard pass from the latter. Yesterday, he scored on another 44-yard bull's eye from Holley.

Granted, the opposition hasn't been up to the standard that will be provided by Wake Forest, Tulane and West Virginia in future weeks, but the ease with which Spencer has been separating himself from defenders borders on alarming.

"One thing in my favor is I attended NAPS [Naval Academy Prep School] last year and I'm pretty comfortable coming in because we ran the same offense there," he said. "We ran the ball a lot, just like here, but I did get a chance to refine my technique in some games."

In a victorious game against the Army preps, for instance, he caught five passes for 90 yards and a score. Developing technique is continuing because, in high school, he was a quarterback "who didn't get to play much."

With Mark Mill and Matt O'Donnell holding as the starters at wide receiver, backed by Ryan Read and Travis Williams, and slot back Manny Metcalf back as the top receiver off last year's team, it might be reasonable to expect that Spencer wouldn't be sent on a deep crossing pattern until October sometime.

But while some coaches put the use of freshmen in the same category as Russian roulette, Charlie Weatherbie isn't one of them.

"If a kid can play, he can play," said Weatherbie, in his fourth season as Navy coach. "I can almost assure you that you'll be seeing some freshmen out there for us. We already have a couple of them pushing starters on both offense and defense."

That wasn't the only prediction made after the scrimmage.

Navy legends Roger Staubach, Tom Lynch and coach Wayne Hardin, in town for the 35th reunion of the 9-2 Cotton Bowl team of 1963, spoke to the squad. Afterward, Weatherbie told them, "We plan on winning the Commander in Chief's Trophy, going to a bowl game and winning it and you can hold us to it."

Brave words for a team returning just five starters off last year's 7-4 team.

Pub Date: 8/30/98

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