- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

There's no getting around that biting, humiliating record not when a team lost all its games in one season for the first time in its modern history. Not when that team is Navy, where pride in one's work and service to one's institution swells just a little more than at another school.
When that pride is stripped, as it has been from the Midshipmen over the last two seasons, when they've won a single game though that one victory was of the sweetest kind, over Army against 20 defeats, everything must be done to get it back.
And so the task is put to the Midshipmen and their new leader, coach Paul Johnson: Win football games and restore the pride.
"It's been kind of embarrassing the last couple years that Navy has lost a lot of its pride in football since we've been here just two years," junior quarterback Craig Candeto said. "We're just trying to restore that back, because you think about all the greats that played before us Roger Staubach, Joe Bellino and those guys some great Navy teams. We're just trying to get it back to where it was."
Realistically, the Mids certainly will not soon approach the levels that the great teams of the early 1960s did. But it's no accident that Navy has brought back the man who significantly contributed to Navy's last stretch of respectability prosperity, really. Johnson was the offensive coordinator during Navy's last winning season and bowl appearance, in 1996.
After that, Johnson coached Division I-AA power Georgia Southern to two national titles and a 62-10 record, becoming just the fourth coach in NCAA Division I history to win 50 games over four seasons. He was named Division I-AA coach of the year four times from 1997 to 2000.
Johnson won with offense, as he did when the Chris McCoy-led Mids racked up a 32.7-point average during the 1996 season. Johnson said the spread offense he'll employ this season, which features the option, has not changed much since he began running it in his first stint at Georgia Southern in 1985.
"Oh, it's changed some over the years depending on personnel, but the base is pretty much the same as it was when we started," said Johnson, a Newland, N.C., native who seems to have lost little of his Southern drawl.
Johnson has not come in and kept the status quo by any stretch. He instituted scout squads, a common practice in just about every football program in which players buried on the depth chart simulate the upcoming opponent's formations and plays for the first team to practice against. It was never done that way at Navy, where fourth- and fifth-string players would still receive repetitions in practice. Some players whom Johnson relegated to the scout team bristled at the demotion, but it was just a part of making Navy a better program.
Similarly, Johnson hasn't sugarcoated anything for his players. Another one of the sayings he constantly repeats is, "Show me, don't tell me." Johnson and his assistants are only concerned with results, and the players who produce are the ones who will play.
"I want to be honest on everybody," Johnson said. "I'm not going to tell them a bunch of [bull]. If they want to hear that they're really good and really special, they've got the wrong cat, I'll tell you that."
That philosophy goes for when mistakes are made in practice. The initial mistake is acceptable, players said, but repeating it will draw Johnson's ire. The way the coach sees it, a team that has one won game in the past two seasons doesn't have much room for error, so concentration, execution and minimizing mistakes are magnified even more than usual.
Athletic director Chet Gladchuk, who will mark his first year at the academy next week, has led an effort to complement Johnson's hiring with an all-around upgrade of the program. The first stages of a four-year, $40million facelift to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium have been completed for this season, including a new video scoreboard and wider, more comfortable seats.
In recent months, Gladchuk also has negotiated a new shoe and apparel contract with Nike and a new broadcast deal with WTEM-AM.
"We're trying to get momentum," Gladchuk said. "People are really optimistic that Paul can get this program turned around."
For that to happen, the Mids must improve in all areas. Candeto, who started two games last season, returns with weapons at slotback in Tony Lane and Brad Tepper and at wideout in Chandler Sims, the team's top returning receiver.
The defense is led by a strong front seven, anchored by tackle Josh Brindel and safety Lenter Thomas, who is recovering from a sprained knee but is expected to play in Saturday's opener against SMU. As always, however, the Navy defense is going to be outsized by every opponent, forcing coordinator Buddy Green to get creative in his alignments and play calls.
SMU starts a tough opening stretch for the Mids that includes N.C. State and Northwestern; unless they pull an upset early, the Duke game on Sept.28 is the Mids' first prime opportunity to win a game.
As if memories of last season are not stinging enough for returning players, reminders of some 2002 prognostications, particularly those of one magazine that ranked Navy 117th last among Division I-A teams, are displayed in the locker room. There is plenty of motivation to bring respect back to the academy.
"The last two years have been tough to struggle through," said senior offensive tackle Grant Moody. "You can't blame people on the outside if they don't respect us or they put us as the underdog. We went 0-10 and they're going to look at us that way. We need to start a new season, start it right and get some of that respect back."

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