The optimism is high at the Naval Academy to better the 5-6 debut ofCoach George Chaump.

The feeling is positive even though Navy doesn't have a returning quarterback who's played the position on the varsity level, and it has had to reassess the sputtering offensive patterns that was not as high-powered as hoped in 1990.

In addition, many of last year's nine starters are involved in a host of position changes.

The reasons for the optimism were spelled out by the personable Chaump in describing how far ahead this year's squad has progressed in team attitude, spirit and physical strengthrequired to achieve both offensive and defensive balance.

So significant was the issue of developing a physically stronger team this year that Navy hired Phil Emery, a successful strength and conditioning coach from the University of Tennessee.

Full drills began Aug. 15, and the sorting-out process has been taking shape on a daily basiswith sights set on the opening game Saturday night with Mid-AmericanConference contingent Ball State.

About the only certain lineup factors are that junior Brian Ellis and sophomore Jason Van Matre willbe the leading competitors for starting quarterback and that seniorsB.J. Mason and Byron Ogden will co-captain the team.

In a highly competitive situation, however, it appears that the Mids could field their biggest and physically strongest team ever.

They have such offensive linemen candidates as Bill Bensch (258 pounds), Mike Davis (268), Dan Dunaway (252), David Lillefloren (240) and Carl Voss (270),and a defense led by All-East candidates Ogden (212) and Bob Kuberski (267) at linebackers.

Junior Duke Ingraham and sophomore Billy James played well in the spring and might start at running back.

The 1991 schedule has a more realistic and balanced appearance that yetfeatures clashes with two Top 10 powers, Notre Dame and Virginia.

Division I-A Temple, Tulane, Army and Air Force will be met along with Atlantic Coast Conference's Wake Forest.

Two formidable Mid-Continent opponents in Ball State and Bowling Green come to Annapolis asdo Division I-AA teams William and Mary and Delaware.

North Carolina, Vanderbilt and Rice have been added in 1992 and upcoming Louisville and Southern Methodist in 1993. This is a schedule that possibly could put Navy back in the bowl picture.

Earl Schubert, a free lance writer, is a Baltimore native who lives in Annapolis. A former football coach, he was a secondary school administrator in Missouri and Montgomery County, and worked for 17 years as a senior official in the U.S. Department of Education. His "Navy Blue and Gold" column appears every Friday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.

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