Proctor has large shoes to fill

Kriss Proctor (GM/Alison Althouse)

Navy has made one thing perfectly clear: as important as it is to get to the program's ninth straight bowl game, the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy series remains the priority heading into the 2011 season.

The Midshipmen surrendered the trophy because of a loss last season to Air Force, ending Navy's seven-year grip on the thing.

They host Air Force Nov. 1 and, of course, end the regular season with the game against Navy, in Landover, Md.

But there is other business for the Mids to take care of before they face Air Force in Game 4. It all starts with a home game against FCS (1-AA) 2010 national runner-up Delaware, before road games at Western Kentucky and South Carolina. The latter of those two games should be an early test before Air Force.

Kriss Proctor, who has experience and has also shown he can be a star of a game, is the latest quarterback running the Navy option. And while he might not be Ricky Dobbs, this kid can play. The left-hander did run for 201 yards in a game Dobbs missed last year, and he is a senior who has waited his turn.

"The thing I love about Kriss is it always bothered him," coach Ken Niumatalolo said recently. "Kriss wanted to play. Even though him and Ricky were good friends, I could always tell it bothered him that he wasn't playing. But I liked that. I love that. I'm glad he wasn't in the background with the towel and eating Reese's cups. He wants to get out there. That, to me, is what I'm looking for in a quarterback."

Fullback Alexander Teich will help Proctor run this offense effectively, while end Jabaree Tuani is the leader of a defense that took some hits.

The Mids are playing eight 2010 bowl teams, plus the runner-up in the 1-AA playoffs which means the road to a ninth straight bowl, and even another Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, won't be an easy one.

NOTES, QUOTES

--DE Jamel Dobbs, a starter, is a distant cousin of now-former Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs. The two grew up living near each other but separated by divorce. They met for the first time during a Jamel Dobbs recruiting visit to Navy.

"I had heard about him a little when he was in high school, but I never thought we were related," recently told the Baltimore Sun. "There are a lot of people named Dobbs down there."

The two figured out their grandfathers were first cousins.

--After having 252-pound Shane Bothel at nose guard last season, Navy now has three players in the 300-pound range at the position, led by 6-5, 297-pound starter Jared Marks.

"It's nice to have some size. We have three guys around 300 pounds. We've never had that many before," says defensive line coach Dale Pehrson. "What's even nicer is that they're all pretty athletic. They can all run and have good agility."

--After going a combined 3-32 from 2000-02, Navy has gone 70-33 and gone to eight straight bowl games.

--Coach Ken Niumatalolo has 27 wins in his first three years running the Navy ship, the most victories recorded by a Navy coach in his first three years.

--Navy has a pre-set spot in the Dec. 28 Military Bowl in Washington D.C., against the No. 8 team from the ACC. The Mids have to get to six wins before their game against Army to be eligible.

--Both Navy and Army, two of nine programs selected, will wear new advanced uniforms manufactured by Nike, in the game between the two academies at FedExField in Landover, Md.

SERIES HISTORY: Navy leads Delaware, 8-7 (last meeting, 2009, 35-18, Navy).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Ricky Dobbs has ended his illustrious Navy career and his backup, senior Kriss Proctor, takes over the offense. The book on Proctor is he doesn't throw the ball as well as Dobbs but he might be a bit better at making the option reads. Still, Dobbs was a star, and fullback Alexander Teich figures to make a run at passing the 863 yards he ran for last season. Going against a 1-AA opponent, albeit a good one, is probably a good way to Proctor to further settle in.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Mids bring back only three starters on this side of the ball, but one of the newcomers is 6-5, 297-pound Jared Marks, who takes over at nose guard, a position that's been small in the past but is now huge. End Jabaree Tuani should have a big senior year but it should be noted last year's Navy team had a three-game stretch that saw the Mids allow 106 points in going 2-1 over that stretch.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I hate losing in pickup basketball. This is way more significant than that. Nobody here can describe the pain of losing that game last year." -- Coach Ken Niumatalolo on losing to Air Force last year, costing Navy its stranglehold on the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Navy vs. Delaware, Sept. 3 -- The Midshipmen step down a level for their opener, but in doing so face the team that lost the FCS title game last season. Kriss Proctor is now the Navy quarterback as the Ricky Dobbs Era ended, and Proctor is more than qualified. A road game against weak Western Kentucky follows so the Mids need to take care of business in the opener to head to South Carolina in Week 3 with a 2-0 record. At one point during the preseason camp, after a scrimmage, coordinator Buddy Green said, "We're not close. We got a long way to go. I thought our effort and intensity wasn't what I want at all. So we've gotta get better. We've gotta get better pad level and intensity, better angles in tackling. We gotta clean it all up. Today was a good start."

KEYS TO THE GAME: Whenever a FBS teams steps down to play an FCS opponent, it's usually a matter of the FBS team merely imposing its will. But academy teams aren't as big as others and need to rely on skill to take care of games like this. If Navy is efficient in running its option, the Mids should open with a win.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Kriss Proctor -- So much of what Navy did last season was built around Ricky Dobbs. But Proctor has shown he has the ability to be a star player in this season.

FB Alexander Teich -- He started just seven games and still ran for 863 yards last season. He is also a good pass catcher. He's not what Navy has been used to size-wise, at 6-foot, 217, he's quick and can also take the hit. "Navy got spoiled with (Kyle) Eckel, (Adam) Ballard and (Eric) Kettani, the big, physical bruisers who all could run well," says fullbacks coach Mike Judge. "(Teich) is a hybrid."

--DE Jabaree Tuani -- One of the best defensive lineman the program has ever had, he is fifth in Navy history with 10.5 sacks and sixth with 30 tackles for loss. "He could become the best defensive lineman this school has ever had," said coach Ken Niumatalolo.

--SB Gee Gee Greene -- We love the name, and really feel this junior is going to have a breakout season. "Gee Gee is one of the smartest players on the team football-wise. He really understands the game," slotbacks coach Danny O'Rourke said at the start of preseason camp. "He is very skilled with the ball in his hands, but still needs to improve his route-running and blocking."

ROSTER REPORT:

--OT David Sumrall, who suffered a concussion in preseason practice, wasn't a sure thing for the opener. The depth chart listed Sumrall OR Graham Vickers or Andrew Barker.

--LBs Matt Warwick and Matt Brewer, boyhood friends, were in the hunt for starting inside linebacker spots with veterans Caleb King and Max Blue, and both were listed as starters for the opening game. "We feel good about four guys," coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "In my mind, they're all starters. During the course of the game, they'll all be playing. None of us should flinch or blink. We've got great confidence in all four of them."

--Senior Kwesi Mitchell has moved from cornerback to rover and replaces the graduated Wyatt Middleton. Big shoes to fill. "Kwesi has become the leader back there and we like him in that critical spot," says Niumatalolo. "One of the reasons I moved Kwesi to safety was to have a seasoned guy who would get us all on the same page. Kwesi has played a ton of repetitions at all the positions and really knows what he's doing back there. It's a good feeling to have someone back there you can trust to make the right checks, get us in the right sets."

--Senior LB Jarred Shannon has fought through shoulder injuries to earn one last shot with the Mids. "This is the dream season right here," Shannon said. "A kid who has been hurt year in and year out gets one year under his feet and realizes he can stay healthy for a season."

--Freshman P/holder Pablo Beltran is slated to start at both positions in this, his rookie season. He will be the first freshman to start at punter for Navy since 1992 (Brian Schrum) and one of seven true freshmen starting for FBS teams this season.

--Freshman Joe Cardona will long snap on punts, while senior Brian McKenna will snap on placements.

--Senior WR Bruce Andrews, who has never played for Navy, worked his way onto the depth chart as a backup for the opener.

--The Mids listed 14 seniors among the 22 starters on offense and defense.

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