As we noted during our spring camp preview, this was surely transition time for the Army defense. Where the Black Knights had to replace their all-time sack leader in Josh McNary, two-time captain and leading tackler in Stephen Anderson, free safety Donovan Travis who pulled down 11 career interceptions, along fellow starters Mike Gann (nose tackle), Donnie Dixon (strong safety) and Jordan Trimble.
Spring practice served as an opportunity for several players, especially the underclassmen, to prove their worth to the coaching staff.
Now that spring practice is over, there a more distinguished sense of what the two-deep will look like going into training camp August 4th and the 2011 season.
GoBlackKnights.com takes a peek inside the 2011 Army defense and provide you with our two deep projections.
Quick Defensive End:
Jarrett Mackey (1st) & Quentin Kantaris (2nd)
No surprise that Jarrett Mackey moves to his more natural position at quick position that was vacated by the graduation of Army all-time leader in sacks, Josh McNary. The rising has tremendous upside and if anyone can live up to stepping into McNary's shoes, it's Mackey. In 2010, the 6-foot-2, 234 pound defender was often at a major weight disadvantage playing on the inside, but he compensated with his athletic ability and finished the season with 4 sacks, which was second on the team only behind McNary.
Others: Sophomore Clayton Keller can backup at either of the defensive end spots.
Quentin Kantaris (1st) & Clayton Keller (2nd)
Going into summer practice and until some other player(s) step up, it remains a three man rotation at the two defensive end spots, with Mackey, Kantaris and Keller. Clearly, it would be to the benefit of the defense to see at least two others step up this summer.
Others: Don't be surprised if 3-star incoming freshman, Ryan Alexander doesn't turn some heads upon his arrival.
A.J. Mackey (1st) & Bobby Kough (2nd)
Coming out of spring camp, this position remains up for grabs, so you can take your pick between Mackey, Swain and Kough, who was kept out a little bit this spring due to injury.
Others: Chris Swain's faces his final season to make a true impact upfront. The native of Oswego, NY will battle with Mackey and Kough for playing time.
Chad Littlejohn (1st) & Bill Prosko (2nd)
Very much like the defensive tackle role, you can take your pick between Littlejohn, Prosko and Schaff, although the former two have a slight advantage over Schaff.
Justin Schaff is a name to keep an eye on, but don't be surprised if A.J. Mackey and Swain see some time at the Bandit spot.
Steve Erzinger (1st) & Matt Luetjen (1st)
Senior captain Steven Erzinger holds down the Rover spot. In 2010, the Texas native finished second on the team in tackles, only behind Stephen Anderson. At 221 pounds, Erzinger is the mainstay of the defense and it will be his sideline to sideline play and blitzes that will ignite the Army "D".
Justin Trimble (1st) & Reggie Nesbit (2nd)
Between the Sam & Mike going into the summer training camp, it will be Justin Trimble and Reggie Nesbit, along with Lyle Beloney,
Others: N/A - No sleepers between the 3 spots of Rover, Mike and Sam.
This is a position that has three players in Aaron, Jackson and King who have all started at some point in 2010. But it is spot where all three need to see their game elevate to the next level.
Waiting in the cut is sophomore Casey Hughes, who still has a lot to learn, but should factor in on special teams. Where competition may really come from is the prep school. You have to consider Marques Avery, who physically has all the tools and at 6-foot-1 he is fast and has long arms. Ideally, Avery is what you look for at a corner. Also from the prep school you have Isaac Winters and Marcus Jackson. All three will be thrown to the wolves as soon as they make their way to campus
Antuan Aaron & Josh Jackson
Others: Richard King & Waverly Washington
These two have battle all spring for the starting spot at free safety and they are the ideal complement of one another. Dickson would probably be the first guy in, but like last year, it may be a position by committee. But when the dust settles by the end of each game, they will probably have played equal snaps, unless one truly begins to separate himself as the season unfolds.
Dickson is probably more athletic, faster and quicker, especially when cover more ground. But to Holloway's credit, he is very solid on the reads and in the right spot, however doesn't quite have the range as fellow sophomore, Dickson.
Both players will come up and make the hit.
Tyler Dickson (1st) & Thomas Holloway (2nd)
Others: Ty Shrader
Shrader was nursing a hamstring for most of the spring, but still would have remained behind the two aforementioned sophomores. The junior from Alabama offers true game experience if called upon.
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