For two seasons, Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor was a more-than-capable replacement when starter Ricky Dobbs went down with an injury. He stepped in to lead the Midshipmen to a pair of wins in three career starts, and when Dobbs returned to full health, stepped back to the sidelines just as quickly.
Now, with Dobbs' illustrious college career completed, Proctor enters his senior season listed as QB1 on coach Ken Niumatalolo's depth chart, taking the keys to Navy's triple-option offense and trying to continue the success he saw in his previous role.
Niumatalolo said Proctor has had a good spring, one in which the senior is adjusting to the responsibility of finally being "the guy."
"Knowing you're the guy brings a bigger burden," said Proctor, who will quarterback the Blue team in Navy's annual Blue-Gold Spring game Friday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. "I have to bring a lot more to the table. More energy, executing plays more, all those things. It definitely means something to me."
Proctor had three years to prepare for the starting job. Senior co-captain Alex Teich, the team's leading returning rusher and starting fullback, said he sensed Proctor's frustration in years past.
"Anyone who calls himself a player wants to be on the field and make plays," Teich said. "It's been hard for him to sit behind [Dobbs] and not play, but every time he's had the opportunity, he's made the most of it."
In seizing those opportunities, Proctor earned the trust of his teammates, who already know what to expect from their new starter.
"We don't doubt his capabilities," said Gee Gee Greene, a junior slated to start at slot back for the Midshipmen. "This past year when Ricky went down, he did great. It's important for us to know that he knows what he's doing."
Proctor's first start, an October 2009 home game against Wake Forest that Dobbs missed with a knee injury, presented its chalenges. But Proctor's eyes lit up as he recalled the rainy afternoon when he ran for 89 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner, in a 13-10 Navy win that avenged a loss in the previous season's EagleBank Bowl.
His lone loss came the following week against Rutgers, but Proctor rebounded in his next chance, running for 201 yards and a score in a 38-37 win over Central Michigan, his only start in 2010.
"That's definitely a confidence booster," Teich said. "He's kind of a secret to everyone else. But to us, watching him in practice for the last three years, he's kind of unstoppable."
In six career games, he has compiled 527 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. But despite Proctor's impressive numbers, Dobbs was the face of Navy football for the past two seasons. Dobbs lead the Midshipmen to two bowl games, setting the single-season NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 27 in 2009. Sitting behind Dobbs has helped Proctor become more familiar with what's expected of a quarterback at Navy.
"Things slow down when you're sitting back there, not on the field going a hundred miles per hour," Proctor said. "It slows down in practice, and in turn it slows down in a game."
But Proctor didn't have to learn the triple-option from scratch. Along with starring on the baseball and basketball teams at Big Bear High School in California, Proctor quarterbacked the Bears' triple-option offense for four seasons, giving him seven years of experience to draw on. As a result, Proctor said running the option is "like riding a bike" for him.
"It fits my style of football, my attitude," Proctor said. "I'm a hard worker, a go-get-'em kind of guy. It fits who I am."
While his job is — in its simplest form — to replace Dobbs, Proctor has already distinguished himself from Dobbs this spring.
"He's probably faster than Ricky," Niumatalolo said. "Ricky was more of a power runner. Kriss is a little faster."
Said Teich: "I think Kriss might be one of the fastest guys on this team. Plus, Kriss has this swagger. I call it his 'Cali swag.' He's a little more upbeat [than Ricky], a lot like myself. With his and mine together, we can get this offense going."
Proctor said that starting alongside Teich, his best friend, in his senior season means a lot. The two hope the relationship they've spent the past three years cultivating in Annapolis will pay dividends on the field.
"They call the quarterback-fullback connection in the triple-option the 'mesh,'" Proctor said. "We definitely have the mesh, both on and off the field."
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