April 21, 2010

Offense: Pre-summer camp 2-deep projections

There is optimism going into the 2010 season, but the Army offense cannot afford to come out of the gate with their barrels empty. This is not an offense that has a proven homerun hitter, at least not yet, so until then … every offensive possession will be significant as the Steelman lead offense takes time off the clock, puts points on the scoreboard and allows for their top rated defense to catch their breath from time to time.

THE OFFENSIVE LINE

Center

Zach Peterson - The stalwart senior started all 13 games at center and the team is fortunate to have him returning for another season.

Thomas Hagen - The senior returns as the back up at center.

Will Wilson - The sophomore was expected to push Hagen, but Wilson hasn't practice since shoulder surgery and missed the entire spring practice sessions.

Right Guard

Seth Reed - Like Peterson, he started all 13 games at right guard, which only adds to the expected continuity of the interior line.

Matt Villanti - at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, the sophomore guard brings explosiveness, power and size to the equation. One of the stronger guys on the team, has hit a max bench of 400 plus pounds.

Left Guard

Frank Allen - Allen is part of a trio of sophomores that include Villanti and Will Wilson, who are making a name for themselves. Allen continues to impress and like Villanti, is a 400 plus pound bencher. Of the three, Allen is the first to break into the starting rotation, but the future is bright for the other two young players.

Mike Weich - Plagued by injuries throughout much of his career, Weich has never been able to really get going. But senior will add much needed experience as a backup to Allen.

Right Tackle

Jason Johnson - The senior tackle was out for the spring ball, but will be back at his familiar right tackle spot. Johnson joins Peterson and Reed, all who started each of the 13 games in 2009.

Mike McDermott or Brad Kelly - Not only do both players have game experience, but they have starting at some point in 2009. Look for Kelly or McDermott to also back up Merzi at left tackle.

Derek Bisgard - You can add Bisgard's name to mix at the tackle spots. Clearly the staff is anticipating the converted defensive tackle to compete for a backup role, whereby he should push both McDermott or Kelly.

Left Tackle

Anees Merzi - As a junior in 2009, he started the first 3 games of the season at left guard, then regulated to backup duties until he started the final seven games of the season at left tackle.

SUMMARY

Last year this time, there were major concerns with this unit and the obvious was their inexperience running the newly implemented offense. Well, with one year under their belt, the bar has risen and if the offense is going to be consistently productive this season, it will start up front. The starting five is set and the staff is excited about having the bulk of his entire upfront unit returning.

The plus side with this group is that there is plenty of depth, and it's depth that is interchangeable. Whereby the guards are pretty interchangeable and you could see Weich or Villanti getting game reps as backups at either guard positions.

The same can be said for McDermott and Kelly, who are the primary backups at either of the tackle spots, with Bisgard pressing both seasoned players for backup responsibilities.

Not to be forgotten is Joe Bailey, who started three games in 2009 … one at right guard and two games at the left guard position.

USMAPS product Shelby Jackson is one freshman who could add depth to the offensive line. Although projected as a center, Jackson could play any of the five positions.


THE WIDE RECEIVERS

Davyd Brooks - The 6-foot-3, 200 pound receiver has all of the physical tools to be a top notch receiver. This spring was spent connecting the physical to the mental aspect of the game, where Brooks improved his ability to focus on and eventually making the catch. Although not a burner, he has enough speed to be a deep ball threat. To be an effective triple option receiver, Brooks will need to do a better job with his downfield blocking.

Austin Barr - Barr will enter summer camp starting opposite Brooks. Like his counterpart, the 6-foot-4, 203 pound junior has the size and offers a nice target for Steelman. Barr is your classical possession receiver, who has reliable hands and runs solid routes.

George Jordan - Jordan seems to have pulled himself together academically and should be ready to finally show what he can do. If he is ready, we see him as backing up both Brooks and Barr, because the receiver roles are interchangeable.

Kyler Martin - The speedy sophomore is back at receiver after being moved to inside linebacker during the final quarter of the 2009 season. The California native missed one half of spring practice due to his commitment to the track season.

Justin Trimble or Chris Swain - The staff is excited to have the third Trimble to wear the Black & Gold. They are hoping that his career will manifest itself as it did for Jeremy at wide receiver, who ended his career as Army's all-time leading receiver. Although not a blazer, Trimble has the ability to extend a play with his YAC talent.

SUMMARY

THE RUNNING BACKS

Slotbacks

A-backs

Patrick Mealy - Mealy pretty much can play any of the three running back positions, and has. And because of his experience, he can do a little bit of everything and will be called upon to contribute in various roles as the opportunities present themselves.

Raymond Maples - Faster than Maples, but like Mealy, the incoming frosh played some B-back at the prep school. Clearly Maples is coming in to add his presence at the slot position and the staff will not want to stretch him too thin - too soon, where they want his transition to be comfortable.

C-backs

Jameson Carter - With Carter, what you see is what you get. He will not "woo" you with any game breaking type runs, but he is a steady performer, who adds value with his receiving potential. Until someone steps up to the plate and pushing him off the block, the senior back from North Carolina will start the season opposite Mealy.

Malcolm Brown - Has moved back to his slotback role after the spring experiment at wide receiver. He can do either position and now that he has background with both roles, don't be surprised to see him receiving game reps at the wide-out from time to time.

Brian Cobbs - Showed progress this spring and is one of the fastest guys on the team. He will be in the mix at some point this season and like Brown, he could see reps on the A-spot.

Others

For both sophomores to be Lonnie Liggins[/db] and Kelechi Odocha[/db], they will need to impress this summer as they attempt to make their way up the charts. If 100% healthy, Liggins could surely be in the mix. Although Odocha he is short, he is a physical back with decent speed … he probably will never be at the front of the line, he does provide depth. Odocha fits more in the A-back group behind players like Mealy and

Other competition could come from incoming prep product is Kyle Dravis[/db]. Davis is a well rounded back and it should be interesting to see how he performs this summer.

Another possibility is Julian Crockett[/db], who will be coming up this summer from the prep school, along with his twin brother Jordan who plays corner.

SUMMARY

With the versatility and interchanging of backs at the A & C spots, there could be a healthy bottleneck for playing time. Although the differences between the two slot positions may viewed at times as semantics, players will have to know them both.

The differences? When the Black Knights are in the double slot sets there is no difference.

However, in the wing set, the A-back is in the wing-bone (half bone player). They are getting the ball in different places and the play timing is somewhat different. But if there is any really noticeable difference, it would be that the A-backs are the more physical backs and "C" is probably a more slot type receiver (e.g., Carter).

Fullback

Jared Hassin - Hassin's on boarding is a welcome addition to an Army offense that had a difficult time convincing defenses last season that it had an inside running game. No one is getting the bust ready for Canton, Ohio just yet, but Hassin should be an improvement inside for the Black Knights.

Jacob Bohn - Is the primary backup after coming off of a quality spring session.

CeDarius Williams - It appears that Williams, who tips the scales at 203 pounds, wasn't 100% during the spring. Either way, he must show what he can bring to the party this summer, because Bohn continues to impress and Hassin will be receiving the lion's share of carries/reps.

THE QUARTERBACKS

Trent Steelman - Although quarterback Steelman is technically still a freshman, year number two of his college campaign has already begun. This spring saw Steelman taking more than just a role as Army's starting quarterback. The USMAPS product will called upon to lead the offense to that next level for the 2010 season. The athletic quarterback is also aware that his up and down season, especially in the area of passing is behind him and he is already holding himself to a higher standard of play. The 2010 could be an exciting one for the Army fans to see how much the signal caller has developed as a player.

Chip Bowden - It appears that the senior signal caller is on schedule as he recovers from end of season surgery. Bowden brings experience, demonstrated that he can manage the huddle, move the team and has the composure.

Max Jenkins - Despite missing the last part of spring practice due to the untimely death of his father, Jenkins had a solid spring. Physically he runs well, although not super fast. He is as smart as they come and he's a player you can trust with the ball in his hands, and that is what you want from your 2nd & 3rd string quarterback.

Cody Jackson - Last season saw Jackson make a name for himself at USMAPS. The 6-foot-0, 200 pound Jackson is a good player and has the background of running Ellerson's version of the triple option while at the prep school. Add to that is his experience at San Mateo (CA) Junipero Serra High School, where he ran a similar style offense. The staff is excited about his skills and it will be interesting to see where he falls come summer practice. The incoming frosh is probably the best passer of the aforementioned quarterbacks.

SUMMARY

With sophomore Trent Steelman returning as the starting, the proverbial question becomes, who will be his backup. And if history prevails, being second on the depth chart is a very significant role based on the physicality of being the quarterback of a triple option offense. This was noted on numerous occasions when Steelman was knocked out of various games in 2009 … albeit only for a series or two.

CONCLUSION

There is little doubt that the strength of this year's team is its defense. However, in order for Army to have success in 2010, the offense must be more consistent throughout. The offensive line will have to set the stage; the running backs must do just that and that means run with results; the receivers need ensure Steelman that they can be depended on as was his comfort level with graduating receiver, Ali Villanueva; the offense needs to be red-zone productive and the kicking game has to be a legitimate threat.



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