Running back Napoleon McCallum isn't limping and neither is quarterback Bill Byrne -- and here they both are, in the same backfield at the Naval Academy. The thought makes Coach Gary Tranquill go all sort of soft and admiring, because he knows he's got one guy who can run and throw and another guy who can run and catch, and when you have that, why, you have an offense, don't you, so let's get started.
As usual, things really aren't any more complicated than that at Navy, just like that goat is still the mascot and his name still is Bill, and he's now in something like his 140th year. The Academy never is going to startle anybody with depth and size and speed and those other football things that are overabundant at some schools one might mention, so it follows that the Midshipmen better try to outscore somebody.
Which they are liable to do if the Heisman Trophy-seeking McCallum, who holds 17 school rushing records, doesn't break another ankle, and Byrne, who holds two passing records and has some experience now as a junior, doesn't break another foot. The Midshipmen managed a nearly respectable 4-6-1 record last season under those trying circumstances, which raises the question of what they might do if they ever got everyone together.
"They will make you play defense," Tranquill said. "No one can concentrate on one guy anymore."
But the Midshipmen suffered some losses while they were waiting for McCallum to return for an unprecedented fifth year and a healthy Byrne to develop. Of the 20 lettermen who departed to their respective branches of the service last year, four were Navy's top receivers. Two were starting interior defensive linemen, and another five were the starting offensive line. How much Navy can recoup will determine how effective McCallum and Byrne will be against a schedule that borders on cruel.
The Midshipmen open at home with North Carolina Sept. 7, and from there, Delaware and Lafayette provide about the only respite. Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia, Indiana, South Carolina, Air Force and Pittsburgh are others on an arduous schedule that includes five bowl teams. One is Army, which beat Navy last season for the first time since 1977. "For some reason, the Navy doesn't like light schedules," Byrne said.
Chief among the concerns is the defensive line, in light of the 24 points a game the Midshipmen gave up last year. Senior nose guards Dirk MacFarlane and Dave Pimpo return, but each missed virtually all spring with injuries. One probably will alternate at tackle, where there appeared to be little else to choose from. Junior Bob Plantz shows promise after starting two games late last year, and nonletterman Kent VanHorn probably will get the other starting job.
While the line is developing, much will depend on a couple of veterans touted as all-East candidates. They are Eric Fudge, the cocaptain with McCallum, at weak-side defensive end and senior cornerback Steve Brady, who can play just about anywhere in the defensive backfield.
The losses on the offensive line may not be as severe as they seem. Tranquill claims the replacements are bigger and stronger and all have some experience. Senior lettermen Pat Hoffman and Frank Bijak will start at tackles, senior lettermen Mark Miller and highly regarded Chris Castelli at guards. Junior Vic Tuttle, a backup last year, is the probable center. The problem is depth.
Some welcome talent has stepped forward at wide receiver, which could become a strong point despite the loss of split end Chris Weiler, who caught six touchdown passes last season. Senior John Lobb and sophomore Don Hughes at split end and juniors Mike Ray and Tony Hollinger at flanker all have speed and experience.
"Overall, we're probably better athletically," Tranquill said. "We have some thin spots. But depth is rare anywhere these days."