Navy sets sail to silence skeptics Mids have lost 10 starters on defense, most of attack, but not their determination

September 10, 1998|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Just a couple of days after Wake Forest had been humiliated by Air Force, 42-0, word came down that the Demon Deacons have been installed as a 10-point favorite for their game against Navy tonight (8, ESPN) at Groves Stadium.

When so informed, Navy defensive tackle and co-captain Jason Snider couldn't figure it out. "If the team was anxious to get going before, this will make us doubly so," he said.

What on earth makes the prognosticators think so little of a Midshipmen squad that among the 112 Division I schools in the country Navy ranks 95th in the ratings of one computer service?

While it's true graduation hit the Mids pretty hard, numerically, the first thing coach Charlie Weatherbie wants people to understand about this year's squad is that this is not a rebuilding year.

"We're reloading," he said. "We have some very talented players returning and some outstanding young people ready to see action."

In other words, don't expect a drop-off from the 7-4 record of last season because of personnel losses. Weatherbie is perfectly willing to go on the record as predicting the team will win the Commander in Chief's Trophy (over Air Force and Army), receive a bowl bid and win it.

Flying in the face of such unbridled optimism, certainly nothing new in the coach's makeup, is the fact Navy takes on a much tougher schedule this time around. Gone are Duke (2-9 last season), Temple (3-8), San Diego State (5-7) and Division I-AA Virginia Military, replaced by West Virginia (7-5), Tulane (7-4), Boston College (4-7) and Wake Forest (5-6).

Despite losing 10 of 11 starters on defense, the thinking is that Navy will be just as rugged defending due mainly to the number of people available. No fewer than 10 players, led by Snider, will man the four down positions while a similar number will be counted on in the five-man secondary.

"Linebacker will be a critical area for us," said Weatherbie. "We lost five guys there and are pretty inexperienced, but I think we have the guys to get the job done."

Named as starters are Brad Wimsatt and Gino Marchetti at the ends, Snider and Greg Adams at tackle, Daryl Hill and Brad Chatlos at linebacker, Enrico Hunter and Mike Wiedl at the corners and Gary Lane, Jamie Doffermyre and Adam Crecion at strong, free and weak safety, respectively.

"While I'm the only starter back, that's deceiving," said Snider. "We have four or five guys who lettered last year and several others who got game experience. To tell you the truth, I'm excited about our defense. The camaraderie and chemistry is there already."

The Mids lost three of five offensive linemen, but are counting on returnees Blaine Kindler and J. D. Ganey and experienced Terrence Anderson, Doug Howard, Kostas Hatzidakis and Hoot Stahl to leave no slack. "I like the way they're coming together," the coach said of his line.

Ah, yes, now to the skill positions and the men who will attempt to rack up the yardage and points turned in by the departed record-setting option quarterback Chris McCoy, fullback Tim Cannada and leading receiver Pat McGrew last year.

The Navy attack, as prolific as it was while racking up 420 yards and 36 points per game in 1997, was decidedly unbalanced. The Mids would rush for 306 yards, which was impressive, but pass for just 112, which wasn't. "Ideally," said the coach, "we'd like to run 50 times a game and pass 25 times instead of last year's average of 60 and 15."

To that end, Steve Holley, as the starter, and Brian Broadwater will do the quarterbacking and, what they lack as runners of McCoy's ilk, they figure to make up for as passers.

"One place where losses were light is in the receiving department," said Weatherbie. "It's almost as if we might have too many."

Mark Mill and Matt O'Donnell at the wide receiver spots and Manny Metcalf and Jason Wolf as slotbacks will start with Ryan Read, Travis Williams, Marlon Terrell and John Vereen as immediate backups. Then there's Ronel Reyes and Jon Fay, who can catch the ball, and freshman Harry Spencer who, in scrimmages at least, has looked like the best deep threat Navy has had in years.

"Going into last season [coming off a 9-3 year], there were questions, too. But we had people step up," said co-captain and slotback Wolf. "We have a good offensive line and quick receivers, so I think our balance will be good."

Navy at a glance

Coach: Charlie Weatherbie (fourth year, 21-13)

Last year: 7-4

Conference: Division I-A independent

Radio: WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (1300 AM)

Stadium: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (30,000)

Returning lettermen: 21 (five starters)

Lettermen lost: 29 (17 starters)

Key losses: QB Chris McCoy, FB Tim Cannada, SB Pat McGrew, entire defensive secondary.

Top newcomers: Sophomore QB Brian Broadwater and DB Mike Wiedl, freshman DE Bwerani Nettles, SB Marlon Terrell and WR Harry Spencer.

Strengths: Familiarity with spread/option offense improved. Better offensive balance. Depth in the receiver corps. The number of offensive formations Navy uses often confuses the defense. Speedy newcomers Spencer and Terrell likely to provide big-play capability in due time. PAT/field goals solid with Tom Vanderhorst back.

Weaknesses: Only one defensive starter, tackle Jason Snider, returns. Size at cornerback (average 5 feet 9) will be exploited. Little experience at linebacker.

Schedule

Date, Opponent (1997 record), Time, (TV)

Sept. 10, at Wake Forest (5-6), 8, (ESPN)

Sept. 19, Kent (3-8), 7:30

Sept. 26, at Tulane (7-4), 6

Oct. 3, West Virginia (7-5), noon, (Fox)

Oct. 10, at Air Force (10-3), 2

Oct. 17, Colgate (HC), noon

Oct. 24, at Boston College (4-7), noon

Nov. 7, Rutgers (0-11), noon

Nov. 14, Notre Dame* (7-6), 3:30, (CBS)

Nov. 21, Southern Methodist (6-5), noon

Dec. 5, Army (Philadelphia), noon, (CBS)

* -- At Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, Landover

Pub Date: 9/10/98

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