ANNAPOLIS Navy wide receiver Chandler Sims returned to his room after running a series of 75-meter sprints at the end of a 21/2-hour practice Monday and collapsed into bed by 8 p.m. And his new coach called that an easy practice.
So goes life under Rick Lantz, who took over in the interim when Charlie Weatherbie was fired Oct. 28 and has worked on the Midshipmen’s conditioning since. The players understand the reasoning: Navy’s last four losses have been by six or fewer points, and former Marine Lantz isn’t going to stand for a continuation of that trend.
“[Practicing like that] was a good feeling,” Sims said. “It’s something we haven’t done in a long time. … He sees us dragging in the fourth quarter, so he got us ready. It’s just his way of doing things: ‘We’ve got three games left, so let’s get ready for that.’”
Said defensive end Michael Wagoner: “We come into practice tired from academia, and we did more running last week than since two-a-days. We need that when we come down to the fourth quarter.”
Navy (0-7) had an open date last weekend, and Lantz used the extra time before Saturday’s final home game against Tulane (2-5) on conditioning. The Mids spent last week running “gassers,” medium- to short-distance sprints with little rest in between.
“We had three practices last week,” Lantz said. “I thought each got better than the one the day before. We changed a bit of their attitudes. It was an open week, so we weren’t worrying about any one team. We got good leadership from the [seniors during the sprints]. I didn’t think it was that much [running], but it was without a lot of recovery time.”
Time is something Lantz hasn’t had much of in his transition from defensive coordinator to coach. He will maintain his role coaching the defense and will leave most of the offensive play-calling, with the exception of fourth-down decisions, to first-year coordinator Mark Hudspeth. Lantz spent a lot of time planning last week enough that he said he felt like he’s been a coach for “4-to-6 months” and even tried to drop in on the offense.
“I’ve been over to the offensive field,” Lantz said. “I went over there after I thought we had gotten some things accomplished on defense [to see how they were doing], and one of the players told me to ‘go back to your own field.’ I don’t think he was being a smart-aleck. Maybe he thought I would make him run more.”
Lantz told the anecdote for a laugh, but it demonstrated something he’s learned in his first week on the job: A coach can’t do everything by himself.
“I’ve spoken to a bunch of people about that,” Lantz said. “I have to turn over responsibilities to other coaches because of game management, but I’ve been working on that. [Former Navy and Virginia coach] George Welsh called plays, and he would spend Thursday and Friday in isolation. He wouldn’t worry about the defense until the end of the game.”