ANNAPOLIS -- Advisory to Navy football fans: Don't be late for the season opener here Saturday. The new coach, George Chaump, has a knack for making things happen in a hurry.

Against Chattanooga late in 1986, Chaump's first Marshall team scored from 80 yards on the first play from scrimmage. How to top that? The next year against Chattanooga, Marshall scored on the opening kickoff. With that in mind, expect bombs away against Richmond shortly after "Anchors Aweigh."

"If the NCAA ever had records for scoring on the first play," Chaump said in his office the other day. He drew silent for a moment, then narrated what had blindsided his thought: "We should have scored on the first play of the {1987 Division I-AA} national championship game. The kid was open by 20 yards; he dropped the ball."

From his memories, Chaump switched to his mind-set, saying, "You can fall flat on your face" with reverses and across-the-field laterals on kickoffs and go-for-broke passes on the opening play from scrimmage.

"Some people like to start slow and be basic, warm up and get in the mood of the game. I say: 'Hey, let's not wait around. We're ready. We should be in the mood.' I go big the first play. I feel that way with everything."

If his playbook is how a coach best expresses himself, Chaump is a daring and free thinker. In more than 30 years at a profession inclined to let the most surehanded player lug the ball behind his largest buddy 30-some times a game, Chaump has reverses, double reverses, reverse passes, flea-flicker passes, about every version of the screen pass and double passes, where the first pass technically is a lateral.

Chaump at times speaks so softly an insomniac could doze blissfully half a yard away. With formations that include H-backs and I-backs and, occasionally, no backs at all, he makes loud statements.

One got him fired, for about 22 seconds, during an important meeting his first season as a college assistant.

Fresh from winning 58 of 62 games as a high school coach in a tough league in central Pennsylvania, Chaump in 1968 had the temerity to state the obvious to Woody Hayes: His Ohio State offense was stale as week-old oatmeal.

That wasn't exactly how Chaump put it. But when he suggested that what Hayes had in mind for a group of immensely talented young players was wrong, the great man told him to leave. Which Chaump did, until Hayes caught him a few yards down the hall.

"Listen to me," Chaump recalls Hayes saying to him. "I never fired a coach in my life and I'm not going to break my record on you."

Later some other Ohio State assistants followed Chaump's lead and Hayes loosened the reins on the formation insiders called The Dead T. With an offense that included Rex Kern, John Brockington and several other future pro draftees, Ohio State won the national championship.

Burying the Wishbone

Chaump insists his unconventional ideas are sound, that double-team advantages and other appealing matchups are created. Besides, concern about chaff at the flanks helps make the good-grain stuff inside more effective.

So much for theory -- and what also has worked for Chaump during head-coaching stints at Marshall and Indiana of Pennsylvania. Implementing a full-throttle attack quickly here will be especially difficult for several reasons, the main one being that Navy ran the antithesis the last several seasons.

Under Elliot Uzelac, Navy used an offense even deader than the Dead T, the wishbone. Navy ran the wishbone until everybody wished it wouldn't, then ran some more. In 1987, Navy averaged 59.4 rushes in 11 games -- and lost nine times.

The question even Chaump considers is: Can you teach assault troops to fly in -- counting spring practice -- about two months? Who knows. Uzelac might be right about the wishbone, because every other service-oriented team uses it.

One positive about the wishbone for teams lacking talent is time. Because the clock keeps running after each run is stuffed, the margin of defeat can be kept deceptively close. Not that Navy's schedule this season, without Syracuse and Pitt, is loaded with killers.

Still, an ineffective pass-oriented team, its increasingly tired defense having to snap to action so soon after clock-stopping incompletions, might turn a relatively respectable 21-7 defeat into something 42-7 ugly.

Even worse for Chaump, about a half-dozen fine players are injured, many seriously enough to miss the entire season.

"I could turn gray overnight after the first couple of games," he said, "or be a happy guy. It's going to be interesting to see what happens."

If Chaump weren't his own man so forcefully, some say, he might be in his 12th season as Ohio State's coach. But that would be unfair to Earle Bruce, the aide who replaced Hayes after that horrifying blow the coach delivered to a Clemson player during the 1978 Gator Bowl. Chaump watched the incident from the assistant coaches' booth in the press box.

Chaump is where he would like to have been about 17 years ago -- at the helm of a once proud football program in trouble. A throw-the-dice sort of fellow, he gambled that a big-time job would be available within five or so years after he left Harrisburg's John Harris High for Columbus. It wasn't -- and Chaump scooted to John McKay's NFL staff in Tampa shortly after Bruce was named to succeed Hayes.

Having worked for men close to the ends of the coaching spectrum, the conservative Hayes and the flamboyant McKay, Chaump retains traces of both. Off the field, he seems more like Hayes; on it, his teams resemble McKay's.

"I don't remember Labor Day being a holiday," Chaump said. "Always, it was either football or coaching." Ignoring the grandest view a person could imagine, boats bobbing on glistening water, he smiled and said: "I don't know how to take a vacation. My wife has accused me of that for 25 years.

"I've never taken my mind off the job. Never done it. Everywhere I go, I've got to buy a paper. See what's happening in football. Take a clipboard with paper and draw things. Many times I've taken a projector and said, 'You take the kids. I'm going to look at film.' When it's football season, I'm not going to go home and cut grass."

Chaump admits to being impatient and easily bored, saying: "Put it this way. I'm the type of guy who'd love to buy a lottery ticket and hit it. I know I never will. But it'd be great if you could get the money that way. Others say, 'I'm going to save a penny a day for a year, see how it comes out.' I like to see some things happen now."

Old Enough, Young Enough

That helps explain why Chaump took a drastic salary cut to leave the NFL as an assistant after the 1981 season to become head coach at low-level Indiana of Pennsylvania.

"I told my wife I'd go back to high school, if I had to, to be a head coach," Chaump said. "I was at Indiana until I was ready to declare bankruptcy. The job at Marshall was for a slight increase, although I turned it into a good-paying job. I did have financial worries until late in life."

At 54, Chaump is old enough to have become wise and young enough to stay ambitious.

"There's a cycle you go through," he said. "You get that period when you think you have all the answers. You get that period when you find out there's a heck of a lot to learn. Then you get that period, a twilight sort of time, when you've got about 10 or 15 years left. You say: 'Dammit, I hope I can make it to be real good.' "

Oddly, or at least to those not infatuated with football, Chaump finds peace during the hitting and hustle of practice.

"It's like a pianist plays the piano for relaxation or a poet writes poems," he said. "You go on the field with a hundred players and it comes alive. You've got people. They're human and they're all interesting. All great to be around. When you see them execute something and can say, 'Boy, that's the way to do it,' you feel good. Know what I'm saying?

"I think relaxing is just feeling good about something."

No other coach has a name that can so easily be manipulated to define his job. Pluck out the "u" and George is a Champ; remove the "a" and he's a Chump. "If I had my druthers," he said, "I'd rather be Champi. That was the family name at one time. But my grandmother changed it, because she owned a grocery store and there were so many Champis that the orders got confused."

As he will do at Navy, Chaump makes the best of what he was given. With a straight face, he says that anyone with an ounce of common sense will eat Wheaties for breakfast.

Why?

"Because it's the breakfast of Chaump-ions."