Things have really changed with the Navy football team.
Gone are the days where you wonder if the Midshipmen can be good. Here are the days where you wonder just how good they can be.
The program, which blossomed under Paul Johnson and hasn't skipped a beat with Ken Niumatalolo at the helm, has progressed to the point where the goal of spring drills is to tweak, not build.
Oh, and there's one other goal. A big one.
"The best thing about tonight was that nobody got hurt," Niumatalolo said after the spring game. "We had a couple of guys get dinged up, but nothing serious."
Of course, they played the game without star quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who went through spring drills but didn't have contact after January surgery to repair a cracked kneecap. Dobbs is one of the most dynamic players in the country and, if healthy, could be a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Could? Should. This kid is special.
The Mids, who should be ranked or sit close to the top 25 when the season begins, have some key players to replace. They lost their top four linebackers and their guards, so important in the running of the option, took a hit. But this is a good football team, and there's no reason to think an eighth straight bowl game isn't in the cards.
The Mids, 10-4 and winners of the Texas Bowl last season, will go to the Dec. 23 Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego if they are eligible.
Write it down. They're going.NOTES, QUOTES
--QB Kriss Proctor, a year behind senior-to-be Ricky Dobbs in eligibility, was the clear standout of the spring game and again showed the coaches what he can do with a huge spring game. "Kriss Proctor is a talented kid, we've all known that about him," said coach Ken Niumatalolo. "He and Kaipo (former QB Kaheaku-Enhada) are probably the fastest quarterbacks we have had here and I thought he played well." He was even 8-for-11 through the air. "Kriss threw the ball well tonight," Niumataolo said after the game. "He really improved this spring and with Ricky being out it has been a blessing in disguise, because Kriss got about 1,000 reps this spring and he got better."
--Safety Dylon Porlas was the winner of the Vice Admiral Mack Award as Navy's most improved player in spring ball. The sophomore-to-be from San Diego came out of nowhere to earn the third spot on the depth chart. "Dylan had an impressive spring. He runs well and has a nose for the football," said coach Ken Niumatalolo. "He has a great chance to be a key contributor next fall." Said Porlas: "I wasn't expecting this at all. I actually didn't even know there was an award like this so it really surprised me. Winning an individual award like this is really not my focus. I just want to do whatever I can to contribute to the team."
--Navy opens its 2010 season with a game against Maryland in Baltimore. The home opener is the following week against Georgia Southern and then comes a three-game road swing to Louisiana Tech, Air Force and Wake Forest. The schedule also includes a meeting with Notre Dame at the new Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey.
QB Kriss Proctor -- He is No. 2 (to star Ricky Dobbs) on the depth chart but was No. 1 in the hearts of the coaches in spring ball, capping things off with 99 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries and 8-for-11 for 105 yards and a score passing in the spring game. "The great thing that happened with Ricky being out was it allowed us to give Kriss a thousand reps," said coach Ken Niumatalolo, noting Proctor has increased his arm strength and sharpened his throwing accuracy. "Kriss got a ton of repetitions and was solid. I'm proud of him. He showed a lot of leadership."
LB Collin Sturdivant -- He made the move from defensive end and is a promising sophomore-to-be.
SL Mike Stukel -- Stukel made the move from quarterback and became part of a deep slot position, always vital in the running of the option attack.
S Wyatt Middleton -- He will enter his fourth year as a starter and has been named to the watch list for the Lott Trophy as the top defensive player in the country, on and off the field.
The Navy LBs -- The team took a real hit with the loss of the top four tacklers at this spot, led by Ross Pospisil (107 tackles) but there is depth and talent. Aaron McCauley and Caleb King stood out in the group. "I think we're going to be OK at linebacker," Niumatalolo said. "That was an area of concern because of what we lost, but I was impressed by the potential of the young guys coming up."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our main goals will remain intact -- winning the (Commander-in-Chief's Trophy) and winning the bowl game. It doesn't really matter what we as coaches want. It's about the goals and aspirations that (the seniors) have, so it'll be interesting to see what those are." -- Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo on his team heading into the 2010 season.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: Bowl games have become commonplace at Annapolis. Now, though, it's about more than this program just becoming bowl eligible.
The Midshipmen will enter the 2010 season led by one of the best players in the country, quarterback Ricky Dobbs, and the roster is filled with talented players who know how to win, with the Mids coming off a 10-win season and a seventh straight bowl game.
There were some key losses, like six starters on defense and the starting offensive guards, and the schedule is tough, but this is a good team.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Even with a cracked kneecap, Ricky Dobbs was dynamic, starring in the Texas Bowl rout of Missouri. He's healthy now and there's no reason to think he can't be a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. But there's more to this option attack that is deep at the slot and has a big-time fullback in senior-to-be Vince Murray. This option can hit you with the pass, too, with Dobbs and backup Kriss Proctor both more than willing and able to put it up. There is serious depth at a slotback spot led by Marcus Curry. "That's the most competitive position we have," said coach Ken Niumatalolo. "The depth chart changes daily. One kid can have a good day and move up the next day it will be someone else. It goes back-and-forth all the time."
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Midshipmen were hit hard by losses at linebacker, with leading tackler Ross Pospisil and the next three tackling leaders at the position gone, but things should be fine. "We are very deep at outside linebacker," said coach Ken Niumatalolo. They also have defensive leader Wyatt Middleton anchoring (pardon the Navy pun) the group from his safety spot. The shift of Mario Washington from the deep wide receiver spot to cornerback helps the depth situation.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Niumatalolo has no worries when it comes to his kicking game. "I feel good about where we're at," the coach said heading into spring. "Joe Buckley had a great season and we're looking for a better year from him. Jon Teague did a great job kicking off and (punter) Kyle Delahooke is one of the most steady guys we've had on our team over the last two years. He's been a rock and has excelled at his position week in and week out." Fullback Alex Teich was the leading candidate as the kick returner and young players were in the mix to return punts.
--QB Ricky Dobbs, who had surgery to repair a cracked kneecap in January, took part in spring drills but not in contact drills. He will be fine for the fall.
--CB Kevin Edwards sat out spring ball after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.
--SL Marcus Curry got into some trouble in the offseason when he tested positive for marijuana, but was able to prove he didn't know the cigar he was smoking had pot in it. He sat out the spring game but is fine.
--Among the position changes: Mario Washington went from WR to CB, Cory James from SL to CB, Collin Sturdivant from DE to OLB, and Fran Archibald from DL to OG.
--LB Matt Warrick had six tackles in the spring game.
--CB David Wright had a strong spring.
--OT Joe Ryan was added to the roster.
Previous Report: 03/24/2010