With only two days remining before traveling to Charlottesville to take on much improved Virginia, Navy Coach George Welsh is sure of only two things: his team will show up for the game and Fred Reitzel will start at quarterback.
"Reitzel has been the best in the pre-season practices and clearly has the edge over the other quarterbacks," Welsh said at the Mids' weekly press conference today. "He has improved his ball-handling, his judgement has gotten better and he has a good release. He has the physical tools to be a fine quarterback."
Having decided on a quarterback leaves Welsh with only a handful of unanswered questions. Will the inexperience of the defensive ends and the secondary hurt the mids? Will the loss of offensive tackle Rick Welch (broken hand) be a problem for the always-reliable Navy running game? Will the Mids be able to move the behemoths on the Virginia front line?
"Virginia is definitely the best team we've played on opening day since I've been here," said Welsh, now in his eighth year. "It will be a bruising game in the trenches. UVA is big up front, much bigger than we are, but I don't think that will hurt us. They have a fine offensive line and good tailbacks. They must have good depth there or they wouldn't have switched Greg Taylor (933 yards and nine touchdowns as a tailback last year) to wide receiver."
Although the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Reitzel has spent the past two seasons at free safety and will be playing his first game at quarterback since his high school days, Welsh is confident the senior will do the job and is spending his quota of worry on the denfense.
"We should be good at the tackles, the nose guard and the linebackers. Our ends are new and we'll keep our fingers crossed on our secondary. Virginia's quarterback, (Todd) Kirtley, is a good passer and will throw a lot. I just hope we don't get cut up back there."
Cornerback Jon Ross is the only returning Mid starter. Chris Boblit played roverback the last four games in 1979 when regular Gregg Milo was injured and Elliott Reagans and Jeff Shoemaker played sparingly last season.
"I don't expect them to throw 35 times but. . . . . ," Welsh said. "I don't think we'll stop them. We just want to contain them."
One way the Mids, who were 7-4 last year, including a 17-10 victory over Virginia in Annapolis, can control the Cavaliers is to keep the ball. Navy will alternate tailbacks Mike Sherlock and Ed Meyers and fullbacks Duane Flowers and Kevin Tolvert in an attempt to keep fresh players in the game. If the Navy running game clicks, Reitzel won't be under as much pressure to throw.
"We have a young quarterback and he can't come in and throw every other play," Welsh said. "I know we have to keep them honest but I don't know how much we'll throw."
Reitzel, who has a good arm and quick feet, said he didn't mind being switched back to quarterback and felt he would improve with experience.
One player who is confident Reitzel can handle the job is tight end curt (Pop) Gainer.
"He has a good arm and he can do the job." said Gainer, who is hoping to at least double his '79 total of nine receptions this year. "We've worked on our passing game and I think we'll be able to throw the ball pretty well."
Navy's passing attack sputtered much of last season. Quarterback Bob Powers was inconsistent and had problems picking out his secondary receivers. Welsh refused to compare the graduated Powers with Reitzel.
"It's not fair to Reitzel; he hasn't played a game yet," Welsh said. "It's not fair to compare him to anyone. He is our quarterback now and I don't plan to take him out if he has a bad quarter." o