Johnson's take on Midshipmen: hardly a work of art

New coach calls team's work ethic into question

College Football

March 21, 2002|By Tommy Ventre | Tommy Ventre,SUN STAFF

No one ever accused the Navy football team of not working hard. No one, that is, except new head coach Paul Johnson.

At yesterday's news conference to preview spring practice, Johnson challenged the "country-club atmosphere" he observed during his team's first 5 a.m. workout earlier this year, saying his players need to improve their work ethic if they want to succeed.

"The pace at which they went through the drills and the lack of intensity was not what I was interested in seeing and not acceptable," said Johnson, who arrives at Navy after winning two Division I-AA national championships in five years at Georgia Southern.

"To me, what we're trying to instill is trying to learn how to practice like a championship football team practices. We can't go out there and go through the motions."

Johnson, who served as Navy's offensive coordinator under Charlie Weatherbie in 1995 and '96, inherits a team that has lost 20 of its past 21 games and is in need of a spark. He said his plan for the spring is to open competition at all positions to find the players who best fit his system.

On offense, that system will likely feature a one-back formation with two slot receivers and a seven-man line. With similar formations in place at Georgia Southern, Johnson's offenses piled up 400 yards or more in 45 of their past 58 games.

Johnson's system will mark a significant departure from Weatherbie's spread offense, which often used five wide receivers and frequently had Navy's quarterbacks throwing from the shotgun.

"I think we have some guys that can play the game," Johnson said. "Your job as coach is to put them in a position where they have a chance to be successful. I had an old coach one time who told me never try to teach a pig to sing because it'll frustrate you and annoy the pig. Don't ask guys to do something they can't do."

One of Johnson's most pressing tasks this spring is to find a starting quarterback to replace Brian Madden, who recently withdrew his request to return to the academy for a fifth year. Junior Craig Candeto is the most experienced candidate, but both Johnson and Candeto said yesterday that spring competition will be wide-open.

Candeto, a starting outfielder for Navy's baseball team, said his commitment to baseball won't conflict with the spring football practice schedule.

NOTE: Slotback Gene Reese, Navy's fourth-leading rusher a year ago, has voluntarily left the academy, citing personal reasons.

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