The Tranquill era opened at the Naval Academy this afternoon. If it should be truly tranquil, it will be as much of a surprise as new Football Coach Gary Tranquill was today, when a football rolled nearby. He locked it between his feet, flipped it into the air and caught it.

Tranquill stalked around the practice field while chill winds whipped off Chesapeake Bay. Occasionally, he altered a player's stance, or cautioned an overeager defender to lay off the quarterback, but mostly he just watched as assistants put 125 candidates through varied routines.

"I'm just looking at players, getting acquainted with what they can do," Tranquill said. "Normally, at spring practice, you concentrate on the younger players, try to find some new talent to fill the holes. But this spring everybody is new to us, just as we're new to the players, so I'm looking at everybody.

"My No. 1 goal this spring is to evaluate the players, put them in the right spots and see if our system is adaptable to the personnel.

"Spring practice can be boring, but I think we'll be able to keep them alert. We have a new system, with new terminology, and they'd better be alert. Right now I suspect everything is Spanish or Greek to them."

Tranquill allowed 18 walk-on candidates to join up. He told the players they could try out for any position they liked, at least for the first few days.

"We will be doing a lot of experimenting the first couple of practices," Tranquill said. "Then when we've been able to evaluate some of the players, we'll make whatever moves are necessary."

There will be 20 practice sessions, with workouts concluding April 23. Although there will be no formal spring game, Tranquill said he probably would wind things up with a game-condition scrimmage.

Navy lost 20 lettermen, 12 starters, and some questionable areas include place-kicking, punting, the defensive secondary and defensive line.

The three top quarterbacks from last season--Marco Pagnanelli, Tom Tarquinio and Jeff Korn--have returned, however, along with tailback Napoleon McCallum, flanker Troy Mitchell, defensive end Travis Wallington and linebacker Andy Ponseigo, absent today because he is the designated hitter for the baseball team.

Among the graduated were three of the best players to represent Navy under former coach George Welsh: middle guard Tim Jordan, tailback Eddie Meyers and place-kicker Steve Fehr.

Jordan joined in today's drill as a student assistant and he will remain at the academy for the football season.

"It's a strange feeling to be standing here watching the other guys," he said.

Everyone connected with Navy football figures to have even stranger feelings on Sept. 11, when Welsh brings his new Virginia team here to open the season for Tranquill and Navy.

"There's a long way to go between now and that game, but I guarantee you one thing," said offensive guard Dick Guest. "This team will be ready. We can't wait to play that one."

As for Tranquill, a one-time assistant under Welsh, he said, "There's no one I have more respect for than George Welsh. He'll be a tough act to follow. I accept the challenge."