ANNAPOLIS, SEPT. 5 -- Navy's new football coach is champing at the bit as he awaits Saturday's season opener against Richmond. George Chaump is making no attempt to deflate the importance of the game either.
"There is never a must ballgame, but we're new at Navy and we're opening against a Richmond team that was 1-10 last year," Chaump said today. "It's terribly important that we win. We've got to win."
If it is vital for Chaump to start with a victory as he tries to revive Navy's flagging football fortunes, there also is a sense of urgency for Richmond Coach Jim Marshall. That 1-10 record came in Marshall's first year as a collegiate head coach and a repeat might necessitate a change in job classification.
For this Saturday, though, the expectations are not quite as high for Division I-AA Richmond as they are for the only I-A opponent on the Spiders' schedule.
"The first game is always important," Marshall said in a conference call. "We have to see how far we've come and we need for some guys to play. We've been in camp three weeks and guys get a little tired of looking at the same faces every day.
"There's a good attitude though. The kids have worked hard through the spring and summer camps. The big thing now is that they know us and we know them -- plus we have a lot of new kids."
Marshall's task is complicated by the absence of film that would provide some inkling of what to expect from the Midshipmen. Navy, which used a wishbone last year under Elliot Uzelac, has gone to a pro set under Chaump, with emphasis on the I-formation.
"It's difficult to play a team in this situation," Marshall said. "We have to prepare ourselves, but we don't know what they're going to do on either side of the ball."
Trying to keep a little secrecy at his end, Marshall declined to name his starting quarterback for Saturday. The candidates are senior Kyle Horner, who passed for 1,450 yards last season, and junior Mark Mascheck, a Texas junior-college product who is expected to get the nod on the basis of need for a change.
"We'll go with the guy who deserves it," Marshall said. "Mascheck is a good-sized kid with good speed and mobility, and he can throw the ball well. But Horner has battled hard. There's a good battle going between them."
Richmond's problem could be on defense. At least the Spiders are blessed with two outstanding players on their defensive unit, sophomore linebacker Eric Johnson and senior free safety James Smith.
Johnson made a major impact as a freshman, ranking second on the team with 118 tackles, including seven for losses and four sacks. Smith already has been invited to January's All-American Classic in Tallahassee, Fla., based on last year's performance -- five interceptions and 11 passes broken up.
"Smith is the quarterback of our secondary and there will be a lot of pressure on him," Marshall said. "But from everything I've heard, Navy will put a lot of pressure on our whole secondary."
Chaump was less concerned with the Spiders secondary than he was with their pass rush.
"I'm told they have only one starter back in the secondary, but we'll pass no matter who the secondary is, if they don't have good defensive linemen beating on our quarterback," he said. "If we can't block their linemen or if they blitz a lot and we can't pick it up, the secondary is insignificant.
"Our most important facet is the offensive line. That's where the challenge is. If there's any worry we do have it's our offensive line being new, being young and having to learn a new game of protecting the passer."
"Our defense is ahead of our offense," Chaump said. "If we had the luxury of putting our first defensive line on offense, I'd be bragging about our offense. I'm very satisfied with our defense. That's the only thing that counts."
He later said he was not putting down the offense, but had concerns there because of so much inexperience up front. . . .
Navy soon will unveil plans for a new locker room facility -- to be named in honor of Hall-of-Famer Tom Hamilton -- as part of a general refurbishing of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. . . .
Napoleon McCallum, a two-time all-American at Navy, has survived the Los Angeles Raiders' final cuts. McCallum, who last played for the Raiders in 1986, is expected to see action in Sunday's opener against Denver, despite a hairline fracture of the left wrist.