Navy all-America candidate Andy Ponseigo took a well-deserved break from football this summer, spending nearly a month on the Atlantic Ocean and in Europe. But the sea duty wasn't as pleasurable as Ponseigo would have liked.
"We played a lot of war games," Ponseigo said today at the Midshipmen's annual photo day, "and I stood a lot of watches and did a lot of hard work. I got to spend a couple of days in France and maybe two hours in Norway. But I didn't do anything on the ship (related to football) and it was a good chance to relax."
The brief European trip might have been an ideal time for Ponseigo and fellow linebacker Todd Hastings to discuss Navy's 5-2 defensive alignment and the upcoming season but both felt they would have plenty of time to become reacquainted with football and Gary Tranquill, entering his second season as Navy coach.
"I've worked out the last few weeks and am probably in the best shape I've been at the beginning of practice," said Ponseigo, the team's leading tackler the last two years. "I looked around today at the size of some of the guys, and they've come back much bigger."
Tailback Rich Clouse didn't enjoy his summer much either.
"I spent seven weeks in class, just got back from a week of flying jets, playing Marine and riding in subs (submarines)," Clouse said. "Oh, and last week, I jumped out of a window and sprained my foot. I couldn't do the running tests today. No, it was not a good summer for me."
Despite the painful last few weeks, Clouse, Ponseigo and Tranquill are very optimistic for the upcoming season. "I'm much more comfortable right now than I was last year at this time," Tranquill said. "The players and I understand one another a lot better. We have a lot of good athletes and some experience returning. The offense is experienced at running back, receivers and along the offensive line.
"The defense is in a different situation. We have good athletes, but not a lot of experience. Injuries hurt us last year and we're starting the season with just one little ankle sprain. I did a lot of checking on how you condition for broken bones and didn't find any answers."
Tranquill said Ricky Williamson, who started against Army in the season finale after Navy's two top quarterbacks were injured, will open as No. 1 on the strength of spring practice. "I don't know who'll open against Virginia (Sept. 10 in Charlottesville), but right now, Ricky is No. 1. He doesn't have much game experience but he has the tools to do it."
Williamson, a junior, said he spent his summer watching game films, throwing footballs and building confidence. He is competing with sophomores Sean Cannon and Adam Meinrod for the starting job.
"Any of the three quarterbacks could start by the opener, but right now I have the edge," Williamson said. "I worked on my quickness and release all summer and I'm looking forward to getting started. It makes things a lot easier when you look around and see so many experienced players back."