February 20, 2010

Army Spring Preview: A peak inside the Defensive Backs

When you glance at the top 5-6 cornerbacks on the Black Knights' roster, they are almost clones of one another and for Cornerback Coach Tony Coaxum that is exactly what he is hoping for.

Typically the boundary corner has responsibility for the short side of the field (less area to cover). Very often, he is receiving help from the Mike linebacker and free safety on slants or posts routes.

Conversely, the field corner is the wide side of the field cover guy. Virtually it's where you find him on an island by himself, with no help. In Army's defense, you want to put your best cover guy at field because you have more field to cover and again, no assistance. In the basic Black Knights' defense, the free safety is going to cheat towards the Boundary.

"I have six guys back there who have played," shares Coaxum, who relishes the competition that is unfolding with his crew of corners. "But the players can change on a daily basis and move guys around � they know that. We have that flexibility where the guys can play both sides of the ball; All six of these guys can do both sides.

Guys are almost carbon copies of one another, but can come up and physical and come up and hit you. But they are good enough athletes and can cover you as well."

CORNERBACKS

As of the first two practices, returning starter Antuan Aaron is occupying one corner, along with Rich King, who is returning after sitting out last season due to concussions. King who appears to be the heir apparent to spot left vacant by the graduation of Mario Hill.

Then you have sophomore to be Josh Jackson, who gain game day experience as a freshman in 2009 as the number three corner in the rotation.

However, there are at least three others corners who are looking to impress the staff this spring and the staff is always looking to see who can step up and make a name for themselves.

"L.B. Brown is someone who will have a chance to show what he can do," Coaxum shares with GBK.com. "Marquis (Morris)[/db] can absolutely do something for us. He came out � he's put together pretty well, he's an athletic kid who has good football sense. Then there's James Whittington who came from the prep school and we want to see what he can do."

SAFETIES

With starters Donovan Travis and Donnie Dixon returning at Free Safety and Mike (strong safety), respectively, the experience, leadership and talent is there. Add to the mix, Jordan Trimble and the ability of the staff to have fresh bodies in the game is a luxury that has not always existed.

"I know that coach has those three older guys (Travis, Dixon & Trimble) rotating through those two spots to gain some position flexibility a little bit and see what the young guys can do," declares Coaxum on the seasoned trio, but not forgetting about sophomore to be, Ty Sharder who came on late in the season.

"Shrader kind of proven himself a little bit," says Coaxum, when speaking about the smallish, but hardnosed free safety. "But he's still young and we have raised the bar on him like everyone else to see what they can do to getting more reps. This will allow us to see where we are before going into the fall before we bring the plebes in and insert them into the rest of the team."

OTHERS

Other prospects such as current freshmen, Robert Speidel (R.J.) and Kyle Ulses will both have an opportunity this spring to show the staff where they have progressed.

Then there is George Fletcher (Fletch), Jack Finan and Sean Maag. "Fletcher is playing some Sam which he started to do at the end of the year," shares Coaxum. "We know what he can do physically and we know he is a guy who will hit � an aggressive guy. But we need to see him learn the position and see what he does over a whole spring.

"Sean is going to get some reps at Sam. He was with me last year at the boundary corner and has a history of playing safety, he's a young guy and we want to see what he can do.

We have Jack Finan back who sat out the year due to injury. He had a nagging injury and we let him rehab that injury. So he's coming back and a guy we need to test to see where he will fit in."

It is still very early in the spring practice assessment period, but without a doubt the coaching staff has the benefit of having one season under their belt and a better feel of what many of the current players can do. That said and what often happens from one season to the next, a young player's first year or two, results in his maturation and hence his ability to shine in front of the coaching staff. Without question, that is the expectation that the staff has for its players for the spring practice of 2010.


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