After a season in which Navy's defense ranked 107th in the nation, Coach Charlie Weatherbie is entering fall practice with a new 3-4 scheme, as well as a new philosophy: Keep things simple.

Weatherbie, who watched his secondary get burned for big plays countless times during a 3-8 campaign, said it is time to write complicated assignments out of the playbook.

"We're going to keep it very simple, and give them an opportunity to go play instead of think," he said at yesterday's media day in Annapolis. "If they don't have to think a lot, they're just going to play that much better and have less missed assignments."

He said the 3-4 defense fits Navy's smaller, quicker players better than last year's 4-2 scheme. It will allow the Midshipmen to use four linebackers instead of two, while taking a defensive lineman off the field.

"Defensive lineman and corner are probably the hardest to recruit," said Weatherbie, who believes the scheme will help his beleaguered pass defense, allowing the unit to play more zone and less man-to-man, and keeping it from giving up as many big plays. "If we can keep everything in front of us, we might give up 10 yards but hopefully not the home run for the touchdown."

Having more quickness also should give the defense a better shot at sacking the quarterback, which it did just 13 times last season.

Players say they are excited about the change, which they will begin practicing in earnest when two-a-days kick off this morning.

"It's better suited to the players that we attract," said strong safety Jamie Doffermyre. "It's more of a pro defense, and it will really help the defensive backs and safeties."

Vaught Moves Up

Weatherbie named slotbacks coach Mike Vaught offensive coordinator Monday, completing a string of coaching changes that began shortly after the end of last season.

Vaught, who also will coach the wide receivers, replaced Ken Niumatalolo, whose contract wasn't renewed. Weatherbie will call plays, with Vaught handling administrative duties such as running meetings and planning practices.

"It's a good situation for me," said Vaught, who has been a coach at Navy since 1995.

Also during the offseason, the Midshipmen hired Tim DeRuyter from the University of Ohio to replace defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas, who left to accept a similar position at the University of Houston. Sammy Steinmark left Air Force to become assistant head coach and slotbacks coach. Mitch Ware shifted from receivers to quarterbacks coach.

Holley Shifts Gears

The situation has changed considerably for Steve Holley, who began last season as the starting quarterback.

After losing that job after five games last year to Brian Broadwater, the senior was shifted to slotback this spring, where he now stands third on the depth chart behind a pair of Maryland natives, senior John Vereen (Pasadena) and sophomore Dre Brittingham (Berlin).

Holley, who rushed for 395 yards and five touchdowns last season, said he welcomes the change.

"It's easier than I thought it was going to be, at least so far," he said. "As far as the position goes, it's a whole different speed, but it's also a lot less pressure. I just want to have fun and try and contribute." . . .

From time to time this season, the Midshipmen plan to deviate from their usual offensive scheme by inserting a tight end, most likely 6-foot-6 senior Dave Rautenbach.