Two of Navy Coach George Welsh's biggest preseason worries involved his quarterback and the secondary. But much to his relief, and that of Mid rooters, Fred Reitzel is doing well after having been moved from free safety to quarterback, and the rebuilt secondary has played nearly flawlessly the first two games.
"Yes, I'm very surprised the secondary has played so well this early," Welsh said at today's weekly press conference. "We have a lot of junior faces back there and they've done a good job."
Welsh agreed that Reitzel's replacement, Jeff Shoemake, has developed into the leader of the Navy outfield, which has five interceptions, one more than the secondary had all of 1979.
"Shoemake did a good job last year as a freshman, and played well in the spring. His play was one reason we felt we could switch Fred and not lose too much," Welsh said. "He is quick, smart and works hard."
In the Mids' 6-3 loss to Virginia, Cavalier quarterback Todd Kirtley could complete only six of 16 passes fro a paltry 35 yards. Shoemake had an interception. Navy's pass defense was even better Saturday in the 31-3 humbling of Kent State. Shoemake and Co. held two Golden Flash quarterbacks to six completions in 18 tries for 52 yards. The back four picked off four passes, with junior Elliot Reagans getting two.
"I was sky high after those," said Reagans, who spent most of last year flying downfield on the special teams.
In addition to their early success at stopping the pass (they are ranked third in the nation, allowing 50.2 percent completions), the hard-hitting defensive backs have been coming up to help out on the run. Reagans, with 14 tackles, is third on the team. Senior roverback Chris Boblit has 10 tackles and junior cornerback Jon Ross nine, one of which caused a fumble.
Saturday's opponent, William and Mary (0-3), probably will throw caution to the wind, as well as passes, in an efort to win. Indian QB Chris Garrity has completed 42 of 80 for 432 yards.
Navy quarterback Reitzel, one of the best athletes on his team, has been a very pleasant surprise. The senior, who lettered as a sophomore and as a junior playing safety, has made a few "rookie" mistakes at quarterback, but according to Welsh, has "done a very good job for us."
"We're still dropping too many passes," Welsh said. Reitzel is a good quarterback, but he needs help. We plan to throw a little more against William and Mary than we did last week. We didn't have to pass in the Kent State game, but you should throw whether you have to or not just to keep teams off balance. I expect William and Mary to pass against us."