Three days before his football team's opening game at North Carolina, Navy Coach Gary Tranquill faced a dilemma today. A pleasant one, but a dilemma.
"We don't know who will start at quarterback yet," Tranquill said at his weekly press conference. "All three quarterbacks have done better than expected during practice and we're still undecided. We can't play three guys, so we'll have to pick one soon. It'll be a surprise and you'll find out at kickoff. But whoever we take will be number one."
Tranquill said that at the moment sophomore Bill Byrne was ahead of senior incumbent Ricky Williamson and sophomore Bob Misch.
"Byrne sort of came out of the woodwork and has been very impressive," Tranquill said. "Rick started the last 12 games for us but I don't think he's lost any confidence. Bob isn't where we wanted him to be when practice began but he's caught up now. All three know this is a competitive thing. We are better right now (at quarterback) than we were at this time last year."
The starter against the Tar Heels will have to pass well enough to keep some of the pressure off tailback Napoleon McCallum. Tranquill doesn't want to hand off to McCallum 35 times a game.
"I've said it a hundred times. We want to be able to do something else, throw the ball, try a trick play or two," Tranquill said. "There's nothing wrong with throwing to Nap six or seven times in the flat to get him in the open field. I'd rather do that than run him six or seven more times."
One player capable of diverting a defense is tight end Mark Stevens.
"Overall, we should be more balanced this year," Stevens said. "I don't think I'll get as many catches (41 for 483 yards and three touchdowns last season) because our wide receivers are improved and we'll spread out the receptions. That should take some of the pressure off Napoleon and me."
Except for left tackle, the Navy offensive line is experienced and Tranquill said he has "five fine receivers." He is not as concerned about his offense as he is about his defense, which gave up 380 yards and 25 points per game during the 3-8 adversity of 1983.
"We do have more depth and the drop-off from first- to second-line players isn't that great," Tranquill said. "We do have some concerns at linebacker, where there is inexperience, and at defensive end where Tom Judge might be out (ankle sprain). Our secondary may lose a big chunk, too, because of safety Steve Brady's hamstring pull."
UNC may have a quarterback problem. Sophomore Kevin Anthony threw only 14 passes last year. But Carolina Coach Dick Crum has running backs Ethan Horton (1,107 yards, eight touchdowns) and Eddie Colson (425 yards, three touchdowns) and four of his top five receivers back from an 8-4 team. The defense is solid with end Micah Moon, tackle Brian Johnston and two quick linebackers in Troy Simmons and Carl Carr, a former all-Met at T.C. Williams in Alexandria.