McGown showing versatility for Navy

Sophomore taking turns at receiver, defensive back

College Football

August 19, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Less than two weeks ago, Jeremy McGown was diligently lifting weights when his young Naval Academy football career suddenly took a 180-degree turn.

Now, the sophomore from Houston is the sensation of summer camp.

With the secondary ranks depleted, Mids coach Paul Johnson decided to shuttle McGown from wide receiver to defensive back, a move he welcomed with open arms.

"I took it as a compliment," said McGown, who originally enrolled at the academy as a quarterback. "I figured I'd get to play some more, and I want to be on the field."

Two cornerstones of the defensive backfield, Shalimar Brazier and Eli Sanders, graduated, and DuJuan Price, a late-season starter as a freshman, had not yet passed the physical readiness test, leaving the ranks of the deep backs thin. Price has returned, but ousting the rising McGown from near-starter status won't be easy.

"He's a smart kid who played quarterback in high school," Johnson said of McGown, who has the best vertical leap (37.3 inches) on the team and is one of the squad's fastest. "He's just an athlete who could do whatever."

McGown flashed the speed often as a kickoff returner last season, culminating with a Houston Bowl effort (five returns for 105 yards) that earned him special teams player of the game honors. It was a "dream come true" to capture that honor in his hometown.

Listed as the third wide receiver entering the spring, he now figures to be much more conspicuous.

McGown hasn't played defensive back extensively since he was a high school sophomore.

"We're trying to get him ready for the first game," said defensive coordinator Buddy Green. "That's important from a team standpoint because we were down on numbers back there."

Fortunately, McGown has adapted rapidly because he likes to play physical football and has quick feet and hands.

"He's been on the offensive side of the ball, so he understands what defenses are trying to do," said Green. "He's picked it up very quickly, and he has a lot of natural ability."

McGown can play either safety or cornerback, another plus, and will remain a kickoff return man.

Several Texas schools were interested in McGown, including Navy opponent Rice.

"I didn't know that much about the academy until they started recruiting me. Once I found out what was offered here, it was hard to turn down," he said.

NOTE: Johnson has not been pleased with the lack of cohesiveness on offense, but he's not contemplating a lot of changes yet. "You play against yourself, you can't be too concerned," he said. "Clearly, the defense is ahead of the offense, but against yourself, you're always disappointed in something." Johnson said quarterback Aaron Polanco "has to play better." The coach also said if Polanco doesn't, "he won't be the starter for long."

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