There can be little debate about the weaponry that the Army offense will be bringing into the 2012. Conversely, there is little argument that jury is still out on what the Black Knights will offer up defensively, although there are plenty of young, but seasoned players who believe that things are coming together from their time this spring and bouncing right into summer practice.
Today, the players wore shells, which consisted of helmets, shoulder pads and short ... and on Sunday, it will full gear for the first time.
Running with the 1st team defense today were cornerbacks Josh Jackson and Tyler Dickson with Geoffery Bacon in the middle at linebacker, Nate Combs at Bandit, Josh Trimble at Rover and Ty Shrader at free safety.
Up front you had tackles Bobby Kough and Joe Drummond, while locking down the end spots were Holt Zaineraitis and Zach Watts, in the absence of captain Jarrett Mackey, who slowing transitioning as a precautionary measure from his 2011 surgery.
GoBlackKnights.com had an opportunity to chat with several key members of the "D" after Saturday morning's practice.
"We had a pretty good practice today," shares sophomore middle linebacker, Geoffery Bacon, as he discussed his transition into his second campaign as a Black Knight.
"I feel more comfortable playing with the guys and playing that role ... being able to know how to react to different things and I feel like I trust myself more."
The comfort level also translates to Bacon becoming more vocal as well.
"I feel like I have the opportunity to be more verbal now, from being more comfortable with the guys now," says Bacon. "They know that if I say something, they know what I mean. And it's vice versa ... me and I Ty (Shrader) we talk a lot now, with the Mike and the Free (safety), because we do so much together on the field within the defense."
"Me and Nate Combs, we talk a lot as well. Within the course of the training camp and then the season, me and Nate it's going to be to the point where if we see something on the field we can just go with it or just call a stunt or a blitz, we will be able to do that."
"What you see right now with experienced but younger players like Bacon and Pierce (Hayden) right now ... where last year it was like me mentoring Bacon and Pierce by instructing on how to take the right steps or Erz's (Steven Erzinger) trying to help Pierce out," says Combs, confirming Bacon's assessment. "But now you can kind of see those guys trying to help out the younger guys, where they are more confident in their position.
"Bacon's right, our communication is really on point right now. There's not much like, 'what's the play, what's the strength' ... we really got that down. A lot of us have played together last season so it makes it a lot more fun and my maturity level is the same way. I like having a lot of fun out there, talking to the guys and seeing the young guys grow up as well."
With that, Combs, who is returning from shoulder surgery, he feels that defense is showing real swagger and camaraderie out there.
"Getting back into the swing of things ... things aren't too different, I'm doing fine and shoulder's great," adds the native of New Albany (Ind.). "I can speak for the defensive side of the ball, things are coming along well. We have a lot more experience with the young guys moving up and getting back into the swing of things is not bad at all ... meaning the transition from spring ball to now and even from last season to now."
"I think we have guys that are out there that need to be out there. We are drilling the plays and now it's just making sure that our details are perfectly executed, guys are in the right spot and I think we are hitting that pretty well. Right now we are getting a lot of turnovers on defense which Coach (Ellerson) emphasizes a lot and we are having a lot fun ...I'm really excited the season ... this is going to be a great season."
Like Combs, Bobby Kough is knocking off some rust after missing the entire 2011 season and had this to say about Saturday's session.
"Today we just went out there and it was a lot of detailed stuff," says the 6-foot-4, 253 pound tackle. "We are just trying to get the plays down, our fronts down and going out there working on pass rush. It's pretty much the basics right now. We are just trying to get ready for our 'real' practices when comes down to pads."
"I'm feeling alright, but I'm not content with where I'm at yet. I still want to get better, I still have a lot of work and I want to compare myself to the better guys. So I want to get to that level of play and to be able to go out there on Saturday and help out the Black Knights."
One player on defense who is making transition from last year to present date is frosh cornerback, Chris Carnegie, who shared his thoughts after practice.
"The transition is not too bad ... it's a much faster pace practice wise and everything," declared Carnegie, who measures in at an even 6-foot-0 and tips the scales at 190 pounds. "But again, it's not too bad, especially knowing the scheme from prep, so it's way easier to pick up things."
Carnegie is presently playing boundary corner and should be in the mix once the dust settles. "I know that Tyler Dickson is the number one guy on that side and then there's Justin Allen and Isaac Winters."
But the newcomer to the defensive backfield says he is working diligently to make his mark this summer. "I'm really aiming high, trying to get in the mix, get the games ... right now my first baby step goal is the make the plane (traveling squad)," offers Carnegie, who says there competitive spirit throughout the defensive unit.
"I can tell that as a unit, everybody is hungry and everybody is moving fast. Everyone is focused, I see a lot of people in the film room on our down time. I can tell that everyone wants to get after it and ready for the season."
According to Carnegie and in the same context noted by Bacon and Combs, the mentoring and communication with the ranks only enhances closeness and development as a group.
Seasoned corners, Josh Jackson and Lamar Johnson-Harris' (LJ) experience and mentoring have served rookie defender well during his rite-to-passage summer training camp.
"They are making sure that I know the coverages," he said. "They pull me aside at practice and tell me how to get my hands right and things like that. And when we have down time, LJ will ask me if I understand the coverages or if I need to go over anything ... they have really been helpful with that."
The Black Knights are back on the practice field on Sunday in full pads, followed by an off day on Monday off.
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