He'd rather block than receive

Wide receiver Yokitis happy with role in run-oriented offense

Navy Notebook


For a player in a high-profile skill position, Mick Yokitis has managed to remain almost anonymous during a three-year stay on the Navy football team.

He will play his final home game Saturday against Temple as one of the most unsung members of coach Paul Johnson's triple-option offense, a wide receiver whose major duty is to block, block and block some more. It's almost as if he functions as a sixth offensive interior lineman.

"I try to tick off a defensive back every week," said the senior from Pittsburgh. "I'm an unselfish person. I don't even think about catching the ball. I'm more concerned about winning games. If they want to throw the ball to me, I'll make a play. But I have fun running around trying to make sure I get people on the ground."

That's why it was eye-catching Saturday when Yokitis caught his first pass of the season for a 14-yard gain at Notre Dame. The reception was only the fourth of his career, including one for a touchdown last year against Army and a key catch in a program-defining 2003 victory over Air Force at FedEx Field.

"He's a hard-nosed kid who'll do whatever you ask," said Brian Bohannon, the wide receivers coach. "He's not a blazer, and it's been Mick's role to block. That's what he does best. Wide receivers in this offense are not going to catch a bunch, and we want to make sure Jason Tomlinson [starter on the other side] sees the ball.

"We only average 10, 11 passes a game. All those kids have to be blockers first."

Yokitis, whose father, George, had a brief stay at quarterback with the New York Jets, is the strongest of the wide-outs. He's 6 feet 2, 223 pounds, and his responsibilities mirror those of a tight end.

"The coaches said I have to make my money at blocking, so that's what I do," he said. "I go against cornerbacks, safeties, even defensive linemen once in a while. They ask a little bit of everything. I know I'm not going to get the ball much.

"One of the keys to this team is you don't hear any complaining in the locker room about not getting the ball enough, not from me, the A [slot] backs, anybody. That's one of the keys to our success."

Navy will lull defenses with run after run, then hit them with a play-action pass. When Yokitis is on the back end of the play, it is a rare occasion indeed.

Full of potential

Now that Matt Hall is sidelined for the season, Johnson will have a chance to take a long look at sophomore Adam Ballard, a fullback in whom he sees vast potential.

Ballard is 6-1, 240 pounds, Kyle Eckel-like proportions, and is still adjusting to the position after playing tailback at Marcus High School in Lewisville, Texas.

Johnson pushes Ballard hard, a sign that he is anticipating big things from him.

"I get excited [upset] when I see him get arm-tackled," Johnson said. "Nobody should tackle him like that. I have high expectations for Adam and he's going to have to bring it up to me. I'm not going down to him."

So far, Ballard has rushed 47 times for 180 yards and three touchdowns and caught four passes for 45 more.

Et cetera

Temple (0-10) is allowing 46 points a game and scoring nine. All 11 of its opponents could be eligible for bowl games. ... Navy (5-4) is third nationally in rushing with 276.89 yards a game. No. 2 Texas passed the Midshipmen this week, easing in behind Minnesota (295 ypg). ... Navy place-kicker Joey Bullen could break the school record for most single-season extra points this week. He is 35-for-35. Eric Rolfs set the mark with 38 extra points in 2003.


Temple@Navy Saturday, 1:30 p.m., 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Navy by 27

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