Navy receivers stress wins, not receptions

Jenkins, Wesley combine for 24 catches, but have helped Mids to 8-4 mark

College Football

December 28, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

HOUSTON -- In Navy's offensive scheme, they could be more properly designated as DBs (downfield blockers) instead of WRs (wide receivers).

When the spread option attack is working well, the traffic that Amir Jenkins and Lionel Wesley see is mostly in the form of cornerbacks or safeties they must clear out of the way, not passes headed for their reception.

So, when the Midshipmen (8-4) meet pass-happy Texas Tech (7-5) in the Houston Bowl on Tuesday, they can be pardoned for being a bit envious of their Red Raiders counterparts who are apt to catch as many passes in one game as the Mids' receivers do in a full season.

"From a wide receiver standpoint, it kind of gets frustrating sometimes," said Wesley, a junior from the Dallas area. "If we catch two in a game, we've had a pretty big day. But we're winning and that's what counts."

Jenkins, a junior from Temple Hills who was named the male athlete of the year at Sidwell Friends, added that satisfaction must come from within, not from bulging statistics.

"Even though we don't get as much recognition, our teammates know that when we break a 60- or 70-yard play, it's us breaking it out downfield," said Jenkins. "It's a different kind of reward."

The numbers for Texas Tech's receivers are staggering. Seven different receivers have at least 26 catches, more than twice what Jenkins and Wesley have accumulated combined (12 receptions each). Wes Welker has 90 catches to lead the parade for the nation's No. 1 passing offense. Mickey Peters has 70 and a team-leading 10 touchdown receptions. Carlos Francis has amassed 1,087 yards receiving with 69 catches. Running back Taurean Henderson has 69, and Nehemiah Glover has 68.

Meanwhile, Jenkins and Wesley toil along, doing the blue-collar duty at what is regarded as one of football's most glamorous positions.

"We catch ours in spurts," said Jenkins, whose 12 catches have been good for 219 yards. "We might get two one game, and the next time we might not get any. It's usually the running backs making the big plays. We're basically the standup [blocking against defenders] people."

The system has required adaptation from both players. Jenkins was a member of a prep offense that more closely resembled Texas Tech's -- with three, four or five receivers in the play. Wesley's Duncanville, Texas, team ran the option but threw more often than Navy, which has averaged just 12 passes a game.

Wesley said his biggest thrill this season came when he made a 40-yard reception against a former high school teammate playing at Texas Christian. Jenkins remembers most his first career touchdown catch against Vanderbilt and a crunching block at Notre Dame that helped spring slotback Tony Lane on a 65-yard scoring run.

If Texas Tech stacks the defense up front to leave the Navy wide receivers in one-on-one coverage, the chances could be greater that either Wesley or Jenkins could play a major role in the outcome.

"A lot of teams try to put eight up there against us," Jenkins said. "If that's the case, it's our job to beat the corners, who won't have any help. There will probably be opportunity."

But neither relishes the scenario, which forces Navy to pass often because it has fallen too far behind.

"We wouldn't want to be in that position," Jenkins added. "But it's our job to always be prepared if that happens."

Which means a lot of waiting.

"Being a wide receiver in our system is just a matter of being very patient," Wesley said.

And, he might have added, understanding.

Houston Bowl

Matchup: Navy (8-4) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)

Site: Reliant Stadium, Houston

When: Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN/WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Line: Texas Tech by 12 1/2

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