Line-dancing act centers on Green

Navy linemen stretching roles to deal with injuries

College Football

August 26, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

When Navy's two starting centers went down with injuries with two regular-season games remaining in 2003, Marshall Green, then a sophomore, was pressed into the starting lineup.

Despite an apparent lack of size, Green performed admirably, so well that he was switched to tackle this spring. The shifting hasn't stopped since.

Originally a guard when he arrived at the academy, Green now can be a walking advertisement for U-Haul. Tackle to center. Back to tackle. Now back to center.

Green's roaming ways are a symbol of the problems that have beset Navy's offensive line during preseason drills. Injuries and ineffectiveness have forced the coaching staff to juggle personnel often in a unit that is of paramount importance if Paul Johnson's triple-option attack is to be as potent as last season's.

After Saturday's scrimmage - during which the defensive Midshipmen were dominant again - Green said "the last four guys to leave the locker room to go to the [team] barbecue were offensive linemen. We take our performance to heart. We don't make a lot of noise, but we internalize it.

"You hate coming off the field and have the defense talk about what they did. We've just got to fight it out and, hopefully, get the job done."

Johnson was disgusted with the line after the scrimmage, and the group took another hit when senior tackle Casey Hughes suffered a high ankle sprain and became questionable for the Sept. 4 opener against Duke. That injury forced senior Sam Brown, who has participated in all of five varsity plays, into the spot.

"We'd like to have a starting lineup by now," Johnson said. "But we've only got what we've got. We're not all-world anywhere, but, yes, that is one of the trouble spots."

Green prefers center despite his admission that August Roitsch, the team's best offensive lineman, is the most capable at the position. Roitsch is at right guard.

"Trying to learn tackle in a week and a half isn't easy," said Green, who has boosted his weight to 265 pounds. "There's a lot to absorb, a lot of technique. You have to be quicker with more lateral movement. But I'll go wherever I'm needed."

Given the state of the group, he may not be finished moving.

"We've got to come out with some determination, a little more ferociousness," he said. "And, we have to learn how to work together, get the right combination out there."

With Green, Roitsch and the unmoved Dennis Ray Phillips in the middle, the holes should be there for bruising fullback Kyle Eckel, who has been known to make a few of his own. If that trio can stay healthy, there shouldn't be a problem on the dives, which spring open the outside game.

Although Johnson said Green "is struggling a little right now," he likes the Louisiana native's ability to play more than one position.

He isn't concerned at all about his size. "What good is it to weigh 300 pounds if a guy can't get out of his own way?" Johnson said rhetorically. "You don't have to be 300 to be effective."

NOTES: Dan Wendolowski, a junior, volunteered to switch from nose guard to the offensive line. "He wanted it. I hope he can play there. We're giving him a chance," said Johnson. ... Starting receiver Amir Jenkins, one of only two Marylanders among the upperclassmen (Temple Hills), is probably out of the opener with a knee injury. Mick Yokitis has moved up to No. 1 on the depth chart. ... Johnson played plebes liberally last season, but, so far, has tabbed only slotback Reggie Campbell for considerable duty among the new crop.

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