Senior quarterback Ricky Dobbs is the central point of any discussion of Navy's 2010 football prospects, and understandably so.
He's the guy who set an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. He's the guy with the grassroots Heisman Trophy campaign. And he's the guy orchestrating an old-fashioned offense that still causes fits for opponents.
He's a guy Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen respects after having scoured film of the Midshipmen this offseason in preparation for the teams' Sept. 6 opener at M&T Bank Stadium.
But is he the single greatest thing the Terrapins must contain? Maybe not in a larger sense.
"I think the biggest priority you have to do is stop the fullback," Friedgen said. "To them, four yards, they're on schedule. Three yards, they're on schedule because they're going to go for it on fourth down. So that's the problem. What happens is you keep packing it in trying to stop the three yards and that's when it opens it up for a big one."
And that's where Dobbs so often comes in. Not only can he run (and run and run) to frustrate opponents, he's also arguably the best passer the Midshipmen have deployed under center in the Paul Johnson/Ken Niumatalolo years.
Not bad for a lightly recruited guy who figures to flummox more than a few teams this season.
"Dobbs is pretty good," Friedgen said. "He makes a lot of long runs. I think he's more quick than fast. I think he's a probably a 4.7, 4.6 guy, but he's very nifty and he'll break tackles. The thing that worries me is I think he's a better thrower than the guy [Joshua Nesbitt] at Georgia Tech. So now you're in that dilemma --- you have to commit to the extra guy to stop him and it opens up a lot of things in the throwing game. That's my concern."
Regardless of how dangerous Dobbs and his fullbacks are in the triple option, Navy's philosophy on both sides of the ball plays a role in the problems created for opponents as well.
While Navy's offense is content to eat clock if possible, its defense takes a sound approach that mixes in occasional blitzing with a secondary dead-set against giving up chunk plays. With foes stuck trying to eke out a few yards at a time, aggravation often sets in before long.
"What happens is people get impatient and they get a bad play and all the sudden they're punting and they don't see the field for another 10 minutes; that's the issue there," Friedgen said. "If they could take the fullback for four yards the whole game, that's what they'd do. They'd hand the ball off for four yards all game and think it was a great game plan. If I did that, they'd boo me out of the stadium."