Wherever ball is, Vereen to follow

Whether running, receiving or returning kicks, senior sure to get Rice's attention

September 25, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Pore over the Navy football statistics and one name appears under virtually every offensive category: John Vereen.

He is the Midshipman who is called upon to do a bit of everything, a John of all trades if you will.

"Whatever they ask me to do, I'll go and do it," said the senior slotback who prepped at Severn School, just a long pass from the Naval Academy. "I like to get the ball."

With more emphasis on option pitches to the slotbacks last week, Vereen had a busy afternoon in the narrow defeat to Boston College. He carried six times, had one reception and returned three kickoffs for 92 yards, including one for 32, the team's longest this season.

Coach Charlie Weatherbie said Boston College's defense adapted to quarterback Brian Broadwater's keepers, opening up the pitches to the slotbacks later in the game.

Despite Broadwater's 100-yard a game rushing average, it is Vereen who tops the Midshipmen in all-purpose yardage, thanks to his kick returns.

That versatility has made Vereen a valuable member of a Navy team seeking a breakthrough at Rice tonight. Boston College got away, so a victory is almost a must if the Midshipmen are to reach their goal of a winning season.

"We've got to get back on the horse whether we like it or not," said Vereen, who was also a four-year letterman in basketball at Severn. "We've got to correct the mistakes we made. Our defense came up with the ball a lot and played a wonderful game Saturday; the offense made a lot of errors and didn't show up."

Vereen is testimony to hard work and dedication. He was recruited heavily by one other school, Division I-AA Tennessee-Martin, except for smaller institutions that didn't appeal to him.

"I heard a lot from Division III, but I didn't want to play at that level," he said. "I wanted to get to Division I. In late May, I made the decision to come here."

Vereen worked his way to the varsity as a sophomore and immediately showed that he was able to be competent in a lot of areas. By his junior season, he was an integral part of the squad and a team leader.

He will be bittersweet about leaving the academy.

"Part of me wants to stay here longer," he said. "But another part wants to move on with my life."

He hasn't decided where he wants to specialize after graduation, but is interested in the Marine Corps and nuclear warfare. Meanwhile, one of his primary objectives is to help Navy get its football ship on course.

"If the guys keep playing like that defensively, we'll be all right. The offense has to step up and execute. There were a lot of instances where we should have made the plays" against Boston College, he said.

"We were very close. We just have to punch through that last glass, break some tackles and play some rough football."

Vereen has one advantage over some of his fellow players. He has the option to get some home cooking in nearby Pasadena.

"I go home occasionally to see my mom," he said. "That's a nice part about being here."

NOTES: Weight has already been a big factor in nose guard David Ryno's young life. He lost a lot last season while battling mononucleosis, then had to beef up to 290 pounds after recovering through weight training. When the season ends, he may have to find a way to lose it again. "I don't want to sit behind a desk," he said. "I want to be a pilot. But I'll have to lose 60 pounds." Navy and Rice run similar attacks, so defensive preparation should be made easier. "It will help us a little," Weatherbie said. "But we've always got some wrinkles." Rice has been plagued by turnovers. It has surrendered 10 and forced two. Navy's senior center Terrence Anderson continues to justify his advance billing as one of the nation's top interior linemen. He has graded at 91 percent or higher in all three games and continued his amazing streak of never having allowed a sack. Navy's 12 opponents enter this weekend with a combined 14-19 record with Rice one of the three winless squads in the group. Army and Kent are the others. Boston College and Air Force are each 2-0.

Next for Navy

Opponent: Rice

Site: Rice Stadium, Houston

When: Tonight, 8

TV/Radio: None/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (1300 AM), WMAL (630 AM)

The line: Rice by 7

Pub Date: 9/25/99

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