QB change a constant for Mids

A knee injury to Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs was a surprising development this week. The Midshipmen started practice with the impression that he was healthy, but that quickly changed.

During running drills Monday, Dobbs felt tightness in his right leg, the same pain he felt throughout last week’s game at SMU. An MRI revealed a small crack on his right kneecap, keeping Dobbs in a leg brace all week.

But Navy (5-2) isn’t fretting the midweek change, even though sophomore Kriss Proctor will make his first career start Saturday against Wake Forest (4-3). The Mids are prepared for this situation. Knowing the quarterback takes a hit on nearly every play in the triple option, they have had the long-standing policy of splitting snaps in practice evenly between the starting quarterback and his backup.

“The basis of it is to have two guys ready to play because of the nature of the offense,” offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper said. “Our starter and our backup get the same amount of reps. It’s back-to-back. He gets the same looks. So to me, although it’s not in a game, the backup plays. Hopefully it pays off when he has to go in the game.

“Looking at it over the years, it has worked out for us.”

This will be the fourth season in a row that injuries have forced Navy to use multiple quarterbacks. In 2006, two-year starter Brian Hampton blew out his knee midway through the season. Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada filled in ably. The following season, Kaheaku-Enhada was entrenched as the starter but became increasingly banged up and shuffled in and out of the lineup as the season wore on. Backup Jarod Bryant saw action in 10 games and made one start.

A hamstring injury hampered Kaheaku-Enhada all of last season. Bryant started the first two games and six overall; Kaheaku-Enhada made six starts, and Dobbs even made one as a sophomore.

Through all the shuffling, the Mids accomplished their two primary goals: winning the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and reaching a bowl game. So even though Dobbs has been the heart of their attack all season, they aren’t expecting a drop-off against the Demon Deacons.

“I got confidence in Kriss that he can get it done,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He and Ricky are different. Ricky is a stronger runner, and Kriss is pretty fast - he’s faster than Ricky. It’ll present some different positives for us.”

Proctor said his appearance against Rice - in which he played most of the second half and had 82 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries - helped him get a feel for the speed of the game. The showing gained more trust from Navy’s coaches, who already were impressed with the way the sophomore looked in spring and fall camp last year.

“He ran the option in high school. He’s been versed in it, so what I say to him he’s already heard,” Jasper said. “He has a foundation he can always go back to. A lot of reading the option is just the kid’s instincts and having a feel for it. We talk about reading the body language of a guy, but it comes down to just having a feel for it.”

The safeguards were in place, and Navy certainly feels Proctor is properly prepared. All that’s left is for him to show it on the field.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but I can’t let that affect the way I play,” he said. “I have to have confidence in everybody around me, and I think they have confidence in me as well.”

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