Navy aims to bring recruiting home

Johnson says new focus in area could benefit Mids

College Football

October 22, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The field will be overflowing with Texans tomorrow when Navy entertains Rice, but the coach of the Midshipmen, Paul Johnson, wouldn't mind if his roster had more of a local look.

Rice is located in Houston, and it lists 56 members of its roster as residents of Texas. Surprisingly, Navy has 19 Lone Star residents on its side, the result of vigorous recruiting efforts in a state renowned for the quality of its high school football.

The academy scours the entire nation for talent, landing players from several of the 50 states in any given year. With his program on the upswing, Johnson is hoping to land a bigger share of the Maryland and Virginia prep pool.

"No matter where you are, you want to take care of your home base," Johnson said. "When you recruit, you're looking for raw talent, and I think the football around here is pretty good, probably better than most people think."

Only two Marylanders, wide receiver Amir Jenkins and linebacker Reggie Sealey, are currently on the Navy varsity. Both are seniors, so when the Midshipmen launch the 2005 season, their roster will include no upperclassmen from the state.

In the meantime, Jenkins and Sealey are trying to salvage the maximum mileage from the last season of their careers, both of which have taken unexpected turns.

Jenkins, from Temple Hills in Prince George's County, was a three-sport star at Sidwell Friends in Washington. He was enticed to Navy by former coach Charlie Weatherbie's staff, partially with the idea that the team was considering installation of a prolific passing attack.

"Part of coming here is I knew we'd be playing Notre Dame every year and Army every year," said Jenkins. "They were bringing in a new offensive coordinator who was going to use four [receivers]. But a new coaching staff came in and it didn't work out."

Instead, Jenkins became what he termed "a wide blocker" in Johnson's run-dominated option offense. He caught 14 passes last season, the second-highest total on the team. This year, with his playing time cut primarily because of a right knee injury that forced him out of three games and into limited duty in the other three, he made his first reception Saturday against the Irish.

"It was my first serious injury, my first surgery, in football," he said of the torn meniscus. "I've tried to play through it, but when it gets stronger after rehab, the game wears it down and the recovery time gets long."

Said Johnson: "He hasn't been 100 percent all year and is probably a shell of what he was in fall camp. It's unfortunate."

Despite the limited opportunities for catching passes, Jenkins said he still enjoys his position.

"I know I'm not going to catch 10 times a game and score a bunch of TDs," he said. "I take pride in what wide receivers do here."

Sealey, from Douglass High in Upper Marlboro, has "had a hard time staying out there," said Johnson. "But he's taken advantage of an opportunity this year and I'm proud of him."

Not only was he stuck behind last year's co-captain Eddie Carthan on the depth chart at linebacker, Sealey also had a history of dislocated shoulders.

"The first two years were pretty much a wipeout," said Sealey, who received some action as a defensive lineman in 2003 despite weighing 230 pounds. "I just kept working hard."

A two-way player on a high school team that went 17-3 his last two years, he has a military background. His father graduated from The Citadel, one of his prep coaches attended Army, and he was an ROTC member at Douglass.

"I've always been a fan of the Marine Corps," said Sealey. "And I remember coming here when Chris McCoy was playing and watching Navy beat Delaware. When it was my time, I was going to give Navy first shot."

Starting next autumn, Maryland's contribution to Navy football doesn't figure to be overly significant, although the program currently has three freshmen from the state. Johnson said he hopes to change that.

"Sometimes, the best players don't come from the most well-known programs," he said. "We're going to be out there looking for them."

Next for Navy

Matchup: Rice (3-3) vs. Navy (5-1)

Site: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

When: Tomorrow, 1:30 p.m.

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Line: Navy by 10

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