Little not asleep at Navy's wheel

Defensive back becomes a team leader

College Football

October 21, 2005|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

Keenan Little is the Navy player who never sleeps. Well, almost never.

"I have to get on him to get his rest," said defensive coordinator Buddy Green. "He's up all night studying."

"In every class, I have homework every night," said the junior defensive back. "So, I'm up a lot, usually until about 3 or 3:30. I have to catch up on sleep on Sunday."

With a major in aerospace engineering, Little has plenty of bookwork. At one point, he was striving to eventually become an astronaut, but now his goal has changed to Marine Corps pilot.

He is also the individual who wasn't napping at all on the field in Saturday's sloppy, 34-31 victory over Kent State.

Coach Paul Johnson criticized his team nearly to a man, so Little was in exclusive company when Johnson said he was the one player who performed "pretty well."

That assessment has developed into the norm of late. With Jeremy McGown out with a broken arm, Little has elevated his game and stepped into a leadership role for Navy (3-2).

"He's doing what we're looking for out of everybody," Green said. "Keenan has made a lot of big plays the last three games and been the most consistent of anybody we have."

Johnson said: "He's emerged as a leader, really matured and come on. He's playing hard and smart, being consistent and not making any critical errors. He's been where he's supposed to be."

Going into tomorrow night's game at Rice (0-5), Little is fourth on the team with 30 tackles, trailing only three linebackers in a scheme designed to have them make the majority of the stops.

He had vital interceptions in the wins over Duke and Air Force, has broken up three passes and has taken under his wing such newcomers as plebe Rashawn King.

A three-sport standout at Crest High in Boiling Springs, N.C., he is a distant cousin of perhaps the greatest basketball player in Atlantic Coast Conference history, David Thompson, who took him to North Carolina State to show him around.

Little was considered Atlantic Coast Conference material, and Wake Forest and Clemson were serious contenders to sign him. He is one of the exceptions on the Navy roster, a player with big-time potential.

He committed orally to Wake Forest, but that was before he was smitten by the academy and all it provided.

"Coach Green stayed in my face," he said. "I was impressed with the football, but the aerospace engineering was really what did it. For the future benefits, there was no other way to go than here."

"He loved the school and what it offered after graduation," Green said. "When he left after his visit, it was home to him."

Because of injury and inefficiency, Navy's secondary has been a revolving door this season, populated by nine different players, shifting of positions and five separate starting lineups.

Except for McGown, the area had already been ravaged by the graduation of Josh Smith and Vaughn Kelley and the transfer of Hunter Reddick to Maryland.

Little has been a constant, and has taken charge.

"Anytime any of the young players have questions, they can come to me," he said. "I've been there a couple of years and I know how it feels to be in their position. I feel I have to show confidence to them."

kent.baker@baltsun.com

Navy@Rice Tomorrow, 6 p.m., 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Navy by 7

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