- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

When Reggie Campbell, Shun White or Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada turns one of Navy’s signature option plays into a long gain, camera angles on the replay almost always focus on the read by Kaheaku-Enhada to pitch the ball or keep it.

While the sophomore quarterback’s read and offensive line’s blocking are critical for an option play’s early success, the key to someone springing a long run is almost always out in front of the ball carrier. When there is a key block from the lead slotback, there is a pretty good chance that Zerb Singleton or Byron McCoy is involved.

Neither Singleton, a 5-foot-8, 164-pound junior from Decatur, Ga., nor McCoy, a senior from Liberty, Mo., who is listed at 5-10 and 181 pounds, possess all of the natural running back traits that Campbell and White exhibit, but the duo’s ability to cut block out in front of an option play is often just as critical.

“Those guys exemplify what this team is about,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “They are willing to do whatever to help the team win. They both play with great effort and they are the type of guys you want to have on your team.”

Singleton and McCoy are regulars in the team’s slotback rotation, though they rarely touch the football. They have combined for only 29 carries, but Singleton is the starter opposite Campbell, while McCoy sees about the same number of snaps as the other reserves.

“Everybody has a job. I mean, the linemen aren’t going to get the ball at all but they are going to out there and block,” Singleton said. “Me and Byron, well there is a chance that we might get the ball if [the quarterback] checks over, but if not we are going to go out there and block. If Reggie or Shun or one of the other guys score and we had that block, it is like we scored too.”

Navy’s philosophy of cutblocking to offset the size advantage often possessed by opposing defenders is unconventional and not always popular with its foes. While Midshipmen blockers don’t often pancake the opposition, Singleton and McCoy are proficient at “getting their guy on the ground.”

It isn’t always pretty, but they are extremely effective. If they don’t knock the defensive player down on the initial hit, the slotbacks stay with their blocks, moving forward on their hands and feet while trying to take the guy’s legs out.

“It is hard to explain, but a guy who goes out there with malice in his heart and wants to do absolutely whatever he can to get the guy blocked,” slotbacks coach Jeff Monken said of the technique. “It is not just, ‘Well I want to get in this guy’s way.’ They both block with great technique.

“You can’t just run out there and dive on the ground and the guy is going to fall over you. It is not that simple. They play with great pad level, keep their eyes up and they get their body in the right position.”

The process looks an awful lot like bear crawling — enough that Monken said if it were an Olympic sport, Singleton could win a gold medal. It is a blocking technique rarely used by high school teams — it is illegal in Singleton’s native Georgia — so potential slotbacks spend plenty of practice time at Annapolis honing the craft.

Repetition is the best way for the Mids’ slotbacks to perfect their brand of blocking.

“From the first day you come in and here and you are cut-blocking. That is all that they stress and you learn pretty quick that is your role,” McCoy said. “That is why we are out here in pads every day and throwing [blocks] until one day it kind of clicks. Once you get a few good ones you remember what it feels like and it gets a lot easier.”

Navy leads the nation with 327.4 yards a game on the ground, and the Mids will try to wrap up their third rushing title in four seasons when they close the season Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. against No. 23 Boston College in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Singleton and McCoy probably won’t have the ball in their hands much, but they will be an integral part of Navy’s attempt to move the football against BC’s 13th-ranked rushing defense.

“I think it is hard for an average kid who plays a skill position to understand that,” Monken said. “You play running back and you don’t care about getting the ball? People that watch it on TV think, ‘Gosh, that guy never gets the ball, that would stink.’ But those people don’t understand our kids.”

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