Injuries at several skill positions, including quarterback, and in the defensive line have forced new Navy football coach Charlie Weatherbie to take a wait-and-see attitude about the Midshipmen, who will complete spring practice tomorrow with the Blue-Gold intrasquad scrimmage at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
Junior Ben Fay, expected to succeed record-breaking Jim Kubiak at quarterback, suffered a toe injury early in practice and did not return until yesterday.
"It gave us a chance to look at some of the other kids, and we were impressed by Howard Bryant and Chris McCoy," said Weatherbie, who has introduced his spread offense to the Mids.
Bryant, a junior, saw action last year at defensive back, but was an option quarterback in high school. McCoy, a sophomore, is also a converted defensive back who played on the plebe team last year.
The top two veteran flankers, Matt Scornavacchi (hamstring) and Ross Scott (foot), also have been sidelined by injuries. But Weatherbie was encouraged by the pass-catching of junior Astor Heaven, Corey Schemm and Billy Simmons, elevated from the 150-pound team.
Hickman, who resigned from the academy in December, can play immediately in the NFL, after agreeing to pay in excess of $70,000 in academic costs for being relieved of his five-year service commitment.
Weatherbie had to evaluate some underclassmen for the defensive line after holdover ends Andy Person and Colin Echols underwent shoulder surgery. Both are expected back in the fall. Backups Cal Quinn and Nate Johnson also were slowed by injuries.
"We got some solid play out of David Vigi, Mark Hammond and Chad Holzaphel," said Weatherbie. "We should have some depth in the line.
Linebacker could be the Mids' best position, with Fernando Harris and Clint Bruce as proven veterans.
The Navy running game, rather anemic the past two years, will have to play a more pivotal role in the option game. Weatherbie was encouraged by the efforts of power-running junior tailback Omar Nelson and sophomore Patrick McGrew, who scored five touchdowns as a freshman.
"I think the guys have got a good idea of what we're trying to do on both sides of the ball," said Weatherbie, the former Utah State coach who will make his Navy debut against Southern Methodist in Dallas on Sept. 9. "I believe we've got the opportunity to have a pretty good team, and we're still setting a bowl appearance as our goal."