Navy Coach George Welsh, saying, "There is no quarterback controversy here like at Maryland or some other places," has named junior Tom Tarquinio as his starting quarterback for the team's season opener here Saturday against The Citadel.
Tarquinio was the Navy backup quarterback to the graduated Fred Reitzel last season. He has been receiving a strong challenge from sophomore Marco Pagnanelli.
Both quarterbacks are 6 feet tall, but Pagnanelli, at 210 pounds, is 40 pounds heavier, a better passer and a more physical player. Pagnanelli had run the first-string offense at times the past three weeks and was impressive.
Welsh said he decided to go with Tarquinio, however, "because he reads defenses a little better and he has the experience. Pagnanelli is ready to play, though, and he will definitely play some Saturday. I'm not saying the job belongs to anybody, but Tarquinio is the starter now. We'll just see who does the best as the season progresses."
No matter who the quarterback is, his primary duty Saturday will be to hand off the ball to tailback Eddie Meyers, whom Welsh expects to carry the ball about 30 times a game this season.
The senior running back from Pemberton, N.J., carried the ball 204 times for 957 yards a year ago. Welsh says he is even better this season.
"Other than Herschel Walker, who may be in a class by himself, Eddie is right there with the other good running backs in the country," Welsh said. "He has strength, power, speed and he's durable.
"He's a smarter runner this year than he was in the past, too. He used to take an awful lot of hits but he's making better cuts and slipping more tackles now."
Backing up Meyers is talented Napoleon McCallum, a 6-2, 188-pound first-year man. "He will spell Meyers some, but I plan to play the first string most of the time Saturday," Welsh said.
The defense is normally the strong point of Navy teams, but with question marks in the secondary and at linebacker, Welsh isn't feeling as comfortable as usual going into the season opener.
The Citadel is coming off a 7-4 season, and Coach Art Baker said, "We're excited about playing Navy and we know they're going to be the best team we play all year."
The Citadel's offense is ground-oriented. It was eighth in the nation in rushing last season, averaging 278.7 yards a game. Tailback Stump Mitchell, now with the St. Louis Cardinals, was third in the country in rushing, averaging 149.7 yards per game.
Taking his place is senior Doug Miller, who split playing time with Mitchell for two seasons before missing last year with an injury.
The Bulldogs have eight starters returning on defense. The heart of their defense is up the middle, where Navy plans to send Meyers much of the day.
Only starting defensive end Travis Wallington among the Mids is doubtful, because of a back injury . . . Welsh said Steve Fehr, a preseason all-America place-kicker, also will do the punting . . . Welsh is beginning his ninth season as the Navy head coach, and needs only two more victories to tie Eddie Erdelatz for the most by a Navy coach -- 50. "I just hope I don't have to stick around for 10 seasons to do it," Welsh said.