From the moment he arrived at the Naval Academy, Ricky Dobbs was touted as a potential star in the football team's triple-option attack.
This year, he will have the opportunity to live up to those expectations.
After providing a glimpse of his potential last year, Dobbs will be the primary weapon in the Middies' attack as he will be counted on to run the offense and lead the Midshipmen to their seventh-consecutive winning season—and their seventh-straight bowl game appearance.
Last season, Dobbs finished third on the team with 495 yards rushing and second in scoring with eight touchdowns, despite only playing occasionally in relief and starting only one game.
In that spectacular debut as a starter, Dobbs—who replaced injured starter Jarod Bryant—ran for 224 yards and four touchdowns versus SMU.
"There is something special about Ricky. Players, coaches, fans, they just love this kid," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "I think our team will rally around Ricky as our leader."
Dobbs is a fast and powerful runner, and his strong arm makes him a legitimate double threat. Navy has led the nation in rushing for four straight years, but hasn't had a decent passing attack in quite some time. This season could be different.
Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper wants his quarterback to throw the ball downfield more often to prevent opponents from loading up to stop the run, an idea Dobbs has readily embraced.
"I would love to throw the ball on every down," Dobbs said.
That might also have more to do with necessity given the personnel losses Navy has suffered since last season.
Gone are seven offensive starters including fullback Eric Kettani, who rushed for 1,862 yards and 14 touchdowns, and slot back Shun White, who ran for 1,092 yards.
Many thought that the Navy rushing attack and effectiveness might slip after head coach Paul Johnson departed for Georgia Tech, but that didn't happen.
Niumatalolo—Johnson's longtime assistant and triple-option disciple—guided the Midshipmen to their sixth-straight bowl berth, while his team averaged just under 300 rushing yards per game.
The Navy triple-option offense has obviously given many teams a major headache over the past four seasons, but Navy has not seen a defense the caliber of Ohio State's during that span.
This 2009 "no-name" Ohio State defense, as some of the Buckeye players are referring to themselves, has drawn some comparisons to that of the 2002 OSU defense that helped secure the BCS National Championship win over the Miami Hurricanes in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.
The game may be close in the early going as the Buckeyes adjust their defense, but ultimately the Ohio State offense should be able to move the ball and score without too much difficulty.
Then again, the week before the USC game last year Ohio State nearly overlooked Ohio University in a too-close-for-comfort, come-from-behind-win. Never count your chickens before they hatch, as the saying goes.
I'm going with a semi-conservative prediction here and saying the Bucks win 38-20.
With the game just three days away, I'd like to remind everyone about the Take the Field Tribute, and ask everyone attending the game to show these young men their due respect during their pregame entrance.
After the kickoff, anything goes!
Good luck Navy, but go Buckeyes!
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