Navy's principal offensive asset this college football season is the presence of two sophomore tailbacks, Rich Clouse and Napoleon McCallum. New Coach Gary Tranquill plans to take full advantage of their talent and promises there will be occasions when they will line up in the same backfield.
"Clouse is a slasher, hard to bring down because of his excellent balance and great leg strength," Tranquill said. "McCallum is more subtle. He's a step and a half faster, he's bigger and he looks smooth. They're both quality players, and I'll try to get both in the game at the same time."
Neither saw much action a year ago, playing behind star Eddie Meyers. But both had moments of glory, Clouse with a four-yard touchdown run that beat Georgia Tech and McCallum with a 56-yard kickoff return against Army.
Tranquill said he would call the plays for quarterbacks Marco Pagnanelli, the preseason top man, and Tom Tarquinio, back at No. 2 after the recent death of Jeff Korn ended Tranquill's plans to move Tarquinio to another position. Tranquill indicated that some of those plays might be somewhat unusual.
"I don't think a young quarterback can handle it," he said. "In the old days, when there were three plays and two defenses, anybody could call the plays. But football is a different game now, with 15 to 18 different variations in the front people and 10 or 12 coverages.
"It's difficult enough to call cadence and execute; why add to a young man's burdens? I think play-calling is overrated, anyhow."
Tranquill's predecessor, George Welsh, was a conservative thinker who preferred to run Meyers frequently (277 carries in 10 regular-season games, playing only about a quarter in two of them). But Tranquill wants to throw more, and not just routine rollouts and dropbacks.
"I think there is a place for the unexpected," Tranquill said. "Even if the ball is on our one-yard line, I'm not afraid to throw if I have the right people throwing and the right people catching. There is room in football for a trick now and then. I'll throw off a reverse, perhaps throw out of punt formation."
Tranquill also supports the old adage that defense wins football games. But he said that with his inexperienced secondary that could be difficult.
"If you're good enough on defense, your opponent can't control the ball," Tranquill said. "You want to force them to run three plays and punt. But if we can't stop anybody, we have to try to control the ball offensively.
"I think we're a little stronger with our front seven defensively than we are anywhere else. But our defensive backfield is a problem area. Back there, if you make big mistakes, it's pretty obvious, and we have relatively little experience there. It's a priority position. We have taken every young plebe coming in who is a good athlete and tried him in the secondary."
Jon Ross, a three-time letterman who missed the 1981 season, is manning the short corner; junior Kurt Dixon, a quarterback at Herndon High School, is the No. 1 free safety and senior Brian Cianella, a quarterback at Langley High School, is the strong safety. The wide corner position is uncertain, with Tranquill currently testing Eric Wallace, an outstanding sophomore receiver.