"Most of the time people ask me if I really am," Navy's new football coach said.

Am what?

Tranquil.

"And I say, 'Yes,' " Gary Tranquill added. "Calm. Peaceful. Serene. You can't be a football coach with a name like that."

Unless your style of play is Tranquill instead of tranquil, as his has been throughout his years as a big-time and little-time assistant. He hopes to do as well as the man who brought him to Navy as an assistant for four years in the mid-'70s and whom he replaced as head coach three days ago, George Welsh.

Navy is anxious to be so Tranquillized.

But enough of these play-action puns. Let 'em skip out of mind as quickly as Tranquill hopes to slip play-action passes out of the Navy play book. No ramming into the other team's bow time after time for this skipper. He wants to fire missiles whenever and wherever possible.

If enough quarterbacks who grew up floating footballs over linebackers and floating boats in the bathtub come aboard, Tranquill might order as many passes the first half as Welsh did the entire game, and then declare: "We've only begun to throw."

At 41, Tranquill was a passer when passing wasn't cool.

"Believe it or not," he said, alluding to another irony in his life. Before showing that a Tranquill can coach a violent sport, he showed at Wittenberg that a quarterback about 5-foot-8 or so can thrive throwing.

"I played for a man (Bill Edwards) who was a little ahead of everybody else (offensively) at that time," he said. "He'd had great experience, the kind of coach who came back to Wittenberg to retire. So we threw a lot, and it was fun. We had motion, wide formations (in the late '50s).

"We'd throw 25 to 30 times a game, which at that time was unheard of. And with great success. In the four years I was there, I think we lost four times.

"I haven't been around too many losing football programs."

As an offensive aide from '73 through '76, he watched Navy become a winner under Welsh.

"The big thing was George's ability to make the players understand that they could win," Tranquill said. "The first year here we had some pretty good football players, and I can remember we lost to Georgia Tech by about two, to a Tulane team that went to a bowl by two and to Michigan up there by seven.

"We ended up 4-7, and I would say that four or five of the seven losses we were in the game. There comes a time in every game when you've gotta win it. I'm not sure at that time that any of those players (were supremely confident of winning). They maybe were looking at the other guy. And the other guy was looking back at them.

"And as a result we didn't win.

"That's the No. 1 thing he accomplished, getting them to believe they can win. And when you have something like that going, it's very hard for anyone else to overcome."

To keep that going, Tranquill's first priorities are not evaluating the players Welsh left him. Knowing most of them can play with the majority of teams on Navy's schedule and that all of them are gung-ho, Tranquill first wants to recruit a staff that will coax more winners to Navy.

"I don't think it'll be quite as difficult to recruit now as it was then," he said. "People talk about The Naval Academy Type. There's no Naval Academy Type. You'll go in and recruit some kids who know nothing about the Naval Academy, who never, ever considered it, and they end up coming.

"Other guys who have dreamed of coming here since they were 5 years old come here and it's not what they expected, so they end up going somewhere else. I hate when people say: 'He's a Naval Academy Type.' Who knows?"

Tranquill knows he wants "skill people" and "big folks." So do the two schools for whom he worked most recently, Ohio State and West Virginia. And everyone else.

Will Tranquill choose to battle with them in recruiting? Will Navy go after, say, a Franco Harris, a prospect with obvious pro potential, knowing Navy's disadvantages make it appealing for him to go elsewhere? And that the effort expended in vain for superior players, the ones necessary to beat Michigan and Notre Dame, might cause Navy, through neglect, to lose the good players necessary to beat the Boston Colleges and Virginias? A man who shoots too high in recruiting can miss everything.

"You've got to find out about a Franco Harris," he said. "You've got to use some discretion, of course. But if you learn about 'em, and they give an inkling they're interested, you better go after 'em. You know how a guy like that can change a lot of things. And fast."