The short men of the world would glady exchange places with 6-foot-5 Rick Bott, who wishes he weren't quite so tall.

Bott, a senior, will be the starting center for Navy Saturday when the Mids open their football season at home against The Citadel. It will be his first experience snapping the ball in a game since he was a sophomore at Parkland High in Allentown, Pa.

In his Navy career, Bott has made more shifts than Hurricane Frederic. He was a starting offensive tackle as a plebe, a rare honor on the Severn, before moving to guard as a sophomore. Last year, it was back to tackle and now he is the center.

"I liked guard best, but I knew I wouldn't last there as better guys moved in," Botts said. "There is so much more variety, pulling and going for the linebacker. But guards tend to be shorter, built lower to the ground, it's easier for them to run and get under the linebacker.

"I wish I had more speed and wasn't so tall, so I could have done it easier. But I'm happier at center than I was at tackle. The tackle basically handles the defensive tackle on every play. At center, I pick up a lot more inside stunts with the nose guard and linebacker jumping around. There's a lot more happening on the inside."

Although The Citadel was upset by Presbyterian Saturday, Bott expects a formidable test in his debut as a middle man.

"They'll be up for us after losing that one, and offensively we have to work hard to get ready for their defense," Bott said. "They use the widetackle six -- I guess they and Maryland are the only ones who do -- and they change before the snap and make it tough for everybody in the line. You have to know what you're doing or they're through and you've got a 10-yard loss.

"A couple of them -- a long punt return, a big play -- and you're behind before you know it. We've got to aim for a good week of practice and be ready Saturday. We'd be foolish not to. We can't look past anybody."

Besides shifting positions, Bott has trimmed his weight by 15 pounds, to 240.

"The coaches never said it, but I think they're happier that I lost it," Bott said. "I feel a lot better. I think it's helped me to adjust to playing center. I have to think about two things now, quickness in snapping the ball and getting off to beat a guy just inches away, where before I just went with the ball to take the tackle."

Like most of his teammates, Bott was affected by the virus that upset much of Coach George Welsh's practice schedule this fall. Welsh called off the final scrimmage last week because of the ailment, as well as injuries.

Because of the lethargic practice sessions that resulted, nobody is sure what to expect from Navy this week. Welsh misses the intensity that gripped the team a year ago and Bott concedes this is not a rah-rah club.

"We're a team that doesn't do a lot of cheerleading," Bott said. "We'd rather concentrate our efforts and energy on what we have to do. Occasionally, you do need somebody yelling at you, enough to keep you going in tight situations. Phil McConkey was that guy last year and we'll miss him, both his ability and the way he kept us going."