Like most place kickers, Navy's Tim Shubzda has always dreamed of kicking a game-winning field goal. After spending his first three seasons in the shadow of starter Tom Vanderhorst, the senior finally may get a chance.

As his coaches are quickly learning, however, Shubzda also can give Navy something it has lacked for years -- a kicker who combines strength and accuracy. Vanderhorst was an accurate short-range kicker but had difficulty converting from 40 yards or more.

After watching his kicker make 13 of 16 field goal attempts, including two from 47 yards out, in Saturday's scrimmage, Coach Charlie Weatherbie beamed at the possibilities.

"I think Tim Shubzda can be as good a kicker as we've had since we've been here," said Weatherbie, entering his fifth year at Navy. "I think that if we can get to the 30-yard line, we can get points. He's got a good strong leg, and he's been very accurate."

Primarily a kickoff specialist during his varsity career, the Sachse, Tex., native has consistently shown he can put the ball into the end zone. Now, at last, he's getting the chance to show he can do much more.

"I feel comfortable with [the coaches] having confidence in me, and I just feel more relaxed this year," Shubzda said. "I'm not putting so much pressure on myself. I've never been in the position to kick a game-winner. If it comes down to it, I'd like the opportunity."

Shubzda said he has strengthened his leg with more long-distance running and less weight training.

After hitting six of eight field goal attempts in his first three seasons, including a career-long 37-yarder in a 10-6 win over Rutgers in 1996, Shubzda said he's ready to air it out.

"No wind, I feel comfortable from 53 or 54 in," he said.

Said Weatherbie: "We've always known that he has a real strong leg, and knew that when he was a senior he'd be the guy. He's really worked hard on his consistency and has become a real consistent kicker."

New Voices on the Line

Weatherbie said one of the bigger challenges of Saturday's scrimmage was working in a game situation with his reshuffled coaching staff, which includes new offensive coordinator Mike Vaught, new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter and new assistant head coach Sammy Steinmark.

Trying to simulate a regular season game, Weatherbie had Vaught, quarterbacks coach Mitch Ware and tackles and tight ends coach Todd Spencer sit in the coaches' box and communicate with the sideline through headphones.

"We're trying to get a good feel for one another," Weatherbie said. "We did it this spring; we needed to get back in the groove of things."

The Midshipmen (3-8 last season) have another scrimmage Friday at 8 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium before opening the season at home Sept. 4 against No. 11 Georgia Tech.