February 26, 2010

Army Spring Preview: A peek inside the Linebackers

THE LINEBACKERS

There would little debate when it comes to acknowledging that the trio of Stephen Anderson, Andrew Rodriguez and Steve Erzinger are as good as any three linebackers assembled on the field at one given moment for the Black Knights in recent memory.

With Anderson, A-Rod and Errrrrzinger setting the pace at the Mike, Whip and Rover respectively, there is little concern with what these three can do. However, Anderson's late season injury and winter surgery confirms, as well as points to couple of known football facts. One, injuries are an inevitable part of the game and secondly, depth, with or without injuries is extremely important component to the success of any Division I football program … especially for the Black Knights.

So GoBlackKnights.com takes a peek at what is brewing at the three linebacker positions for Army.

MIKE

Bill Prosko in Anderson's position and moved over Kingsley Ehie from FB .. they will trade some one reps as well.. [db]Josh Powell is banged up right now, but he will be back soon. and LaTarrance Young at the Mike spot. Moved Brandon Marroney over and getting some reps at the Mike spot.

At this time Prosko has a slight advantage over Ehie because he has played the position. So he knows what he is looking at and what he is doing. However, athletically, Ehie has everything you need to play the position and he has been picking it up very well. Playing the running back and the Mike position is like putting a mirror at the line of scrimmage and flipping it. He has the eyes to do it, and has shown he can do it. Now it is about getting him in situation where guys are trying to cut him, getting around blocks, running in the alleys making plays and stopping guys who are running with bad intentions.

Powell is out, but does have the athletically ability and safety background, so he has the eyes for this role. He knows how to run and he's good at playing with depth. The staff expects for him to show up once he returns from being a little banged up.

WHIP

So far this spring, Rodriguez is looking great and has become a leader on the squat. He is a smart player and does exactly what the staff ask of him. He simply works hard at everything during practice, which is was evident by his team leading 85 tackles in 2009.

Junior Chad Littlejohn is currently behind A-Rod and is getting his fair amount of reps. Also, Zach Watts is getting his shot at making a dent in the depth chart. However, last year's experiment of getting more sideline to sideline speed this positon by converting wide receiver Kyler Martin to this role has ended. The speedy Martin is back at receiver.

ROVER

Some fans may forget that Erzinger, like fellow junior backer Rodriguez were starters for the first time in 2009, where they both started every game last year as a sophomores. The Houston (Tx) native continues to show progress and the staff is looking for him to have an outstanding junior year.

Behind Erzinger is senior Sean Westphal, who has shown flashes of athleticism and is doing well so far this spring.

Then there is C.J. Shelly, who has also shown flashes this spring. For Shelly it is now just a matter of him picking up the schemes. He has been moved from Mike to Rover and now it's a matter of getting his eyes right and playing full speed. Once he gets an understanding, he should be able to turn it loose.

Also, don't count out Josh Jones, who spent the majority of his time as the Black Knights primary punt returner. The converted quarterback is a solid athlete, it is now just a matter of finding the ideal fit.

Leadership Stepping Up

With vocal leader Anderson on the shelf, other players have begun to step up to the plate and take their rightful spots as leaders on the team.

One such player is Andrew Rodriguez. He is your "bring your lunch pail to work kind of player". Although he can be vocal, he is demonstrating this spring that he is the type of player that leads by example. Surely the younger guys, as well as the upperclassmen see it and it forces everyone around him to work just as hard.

Over the last couple of practices, free safety Donovan Travis has stepped up his voice recently. Compared to a Mike Gann or Anderson, most anyone might be considered subdued. In Travis' case, he has started to grab the reins in that leadership role.

The ever vocal Gann has done a great job this spring in showing the ropes to players like Chris Swain, just in terms of work ethic.

Although unable to practice, Anderson presence can be both seen and heard by his teammates.

NOTABLES

Junior linebacker Andre Shinda has left the team for undisclosed reasons, but will remain at West Point.

Saturday's practice will be more in the turn it loose mode where there will be some live action taking place.

Stayed tuned to GoBlackKnights.com as we bring you coverage from tomorrow's spring practice.

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