Chaump hopes backfield in motion is an asset, not a penalty, for Navy


ANNAPOLIS -- In his customary, casual, oh-by-the-way fashion, Navy football coach George Chaump dropped his bombshell.

He is juggling players, he said, experimenting with position changes, a lot of them, even though the Middies are 2-1 going into Saturday's game against Boston College.

For starters, junior Rodney Purifoy, the team's No. 2 rusher last year with 620 yards and the No. 1 tailback at season's start this year, has been switched to defensive back.

Jason Pace, who gained 102 yards as a tailback in last week's win over Villanova, is going to dabble at fullback, as well. A plebe quarterback, Jason Van Matre, has been at least temporarily transformed into a tailback.

A sophomore tailback of enormous potential, Ivan Bullard, who has yet to play a down because of injuries, may finally see action Saturday. Another sophomore tailback, Vinny Smith, might get a carry or two.

The fullbacks are still oft-injured Kwame Moultrie and Dominic Flis -- unless Chaump, in an inspired moment, decides to use Pace.

"The idea behind moving Purifoy is to reinforce the secondary, because he's a good athlete," Chaump said. "Pace is coming along good as a runner and Bullard appears ready to come back."

And what was Purifoy's reaction to this?

"Exactly what you'd expect of a midshipman," Chaump said. "He said if this is what it takes to help the team, he'd do it. I gave him the option that if it doesn't work out, he can go back to tailback."

To sum up, Chaump said, fans on Saturday can expect to see a lot of Flis, Moultrie and perhaps Pace at fullback, and Pace and Bullard at tailback.

Chaump has talked longingly about Bullard for weeks. A 225-pounder from Hinesville, Ga., Bullard missed all of last season after major knee surgery and has been plagued since by hamstring and abdominal muscle problems.

A week ago, Chaump said that Bullard might remind some of Napoleon McCallum, the former Navy star who's now with the Los Angeles Raiders. As a plebe in the summer of 1989, Bullard was running at times with the first team when he was injured.

"I'd like to get Bullard in a game," Chaump said.

Chaump has been frustrated ever since he arrived because a number of "big-play players that we were counting on heavily" have been injured or sick.

Bullard is one. Others are Moultrie (chickenpox), offensive tackle Michael Davis (broken foot) and guard Carl Voss (out for the season with a back problem).

Just the other day, Davis, Navy's best and biggest lineman at 279 pounds, hurt his ankle, but is expected to play against Boston College.

"This slows you up a bit," Chaump said.

Chaump is known for his wide-open offense featuring a lot of passing, but against Villanova he was obliged to resort to running to salvage the game. Quarterback Alton Grizzard passed for only 88 yards, and Pace went over 100 yards rushing for the first time and Flis contributed 62 yards.

"I'm not a slave to my philosophy," Chaump said. "We'll do what's necessary to win.

"The truth is, I believe in balance. You use whatever works at the time, whatever the game dictates.

"Grizzard did have some troubles against Villanova, but he's gifted. It's our job to find what his gifts are and use them."

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