- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — It wasn’t too long ago Navy fans got to know a quarterback from Georgia.

Now, they have the chance to watch another one grow up.

Less than a year after Ricky Dobbs‘ final game, Navy turns to sophomore Trey Miller to make his first career start Saturday when the Midshipmen (2-5) visit Notre Dame (4-3).

“I have some huge footsteps to follow in,” Miller said. “I just try to go out there and have fun and do my best.”

He’ll need to for Navy to revive its flagging bowl hopes this weekend, even as regular starter Kriss Proctor is sidelined with a dislocated throwing elbow. Miller received his most extensive playing time in last week’s loss to East Carolina, throwing for 126 yards and two touchdowns after relieving Proctor.

That game was in the cozy confines of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Things will be different Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, where the Mids have won two straight against the Fighting Irish.

“He’s been a quarterback, obviously, his entire life,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He’s been in a situation where he’s used to having the ball in his hands. Those kind of kids, I think they’re used to that stuff. From AAU on, they’re used to being the guy making calls. [But] he’s never played in front of a crowd of 85,000 that knows exactly when to cheer and not to cheer. This is going to be different for him.”

Perhaps. Classmates, though, describe Miller as among the least likely people to be rattled by any situation.

Miller came to Navy as a quarterback accustomed to running a spread offense, not a triple option. He grew accustomed to the Mids’ preferred system while spending a year at the academy’s prep school, then didn’t play at all as a plebe while Dobbs and Proctor handled the quarterback duties.

Fellow sophomore Jamel Dobbs (a defensive end and Ricky’s cousin) described Miller’s adjustment from one scheme to the other as “an infant trying to live in an adult world.” But what stood out about the transition was how Miller responded to criticism.

“When he was first learning the triple option, coach would be in his face and blasting him out and he would still keep the same demeanor and wouldn’t change,” Jamel Dobbs said. “You’d never see him get mad and you’d never really see him smile, but you always know he’s always focused. He’s going to be a tremendous leader in the future.”

There were signs since the end of last season that Miller was maturing as a player. He was named Navy’s most improved player during spring practice, distancing himself from fellow sophomore Jarvis Cummings in the competition to emerge as Proctor’s backup.

It’s an especially significant role at Navy, which has not made it through a season using only one starter at quarterback since Lamar Owens did so in 2005. And even after some early hiccups, Miller led Navy from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take a 35-31 lead against East Carolina before the Pirates wrested it away.

“He’s a natural born leader,” slotback Darius Staten said. “Last week in the game, he was like ‘Guys, just give me some time to make something happen,’ and that’s exactly what he did.”

A similar performance Saturday would help the Mids, who have lost five straight games and can afford only one setback in their final five contests if they are to continue their eight-year postseason streak.

Many quarterbacks who make their starting debut on South Bend’s hallowed ground might blink. But the Mids don’t expect the low-key Miller to be too concerned with the surroundings.

“It does not matter at all,” Staten said. “This guy, he’s gifted. We all know he’s talented, but he’s very calm under pressure.”