When Navy tailback Napoleon McCallum broke his ankle in the final seconds of a 21-9 loss to Virginia in the second game of the season, said Coach Gary Tranquill, he thought about the possibility of redshirting his senior star.
"I'd be lying if I said I never thought about it," Tranquill said today, reacting to a column by Thomas Boswell in Tuesday's editions of The Washington Post that urged the academy to redshirt McCallum. "It would be nice if it could be done, but it's not my decision. Since then, I really haven't given it much thought."
Tranquill said there is little chance of McCallum playing Saturday against Army. "He isn't even practicing with us," Tranquill said. "He just jogs around the field by himself."
Tranquill said he has more important things on his mind. "I've had to get our team ready to play each week," he said. "And this is a very important week for us."
Navy's roller-coaster season has produced a 4-5-1 record, but the Midshipmen are coming off a stunning 38-21 upset of then-second-ranked South Carolina. Navy has won nine of its last 11 games against Army, with one tie. Last year, in Pasadena, Calif., the Midshipmen won, 42-13.
But Coach Jim Young's switch to a wishbone offense has made the Cadets first in the nation in rushing, averaging 337 yards a game.
"Army has improved in just about every offensive category going," said Steve Belichick, the academy's long-time coach who scouts opponents. "Offenses go through cycles, and Army decided to go back to the wishbone. It's a high-risk offense that requires special athletes. They had to beef up their players and they went on a food-supplement program with mandatory breakfast and snacks during the day.
"Army has size, speed and a lot of confidence. They've played some good games and don't stop coming after you. They switched a defensive back and two receivers to running back and all of them have had good years."
Navy has faced the wishbone several times this season and given up a lot of yards. Army may have the best wishbone of all those teams.
Fullback Doug Black, who was a walk-on, has 993 yards and 10 touchdowns. Quarterback Nate Sassaman has run for 848 yards and five touchdowns. William Lampley, Clarence Jones and Jarvis Hollingsworth have, among them, rushed for 10 touchdowns and nearly 900 yards.