March 3, 2010

Army Spring Preview: A peek inside the Offensive Line

As the Black Knights' staff continued to look for the right balance and mix for the offensive line during the 2009 season, at times it appeared to be a crazy game of musical chairs. However, in essence the line-up was relative consistent throughout the year, albeit inexperienced and at times not as productive as the staff would have liked.

In trying to find the correct blend there were some minor adjustments to the starting line-up throughout the campaign.

For example, Zach Peterson (Sr.), Seth Reed (Sr.) and Jason Johnson (Sr.) started all 13 games at center, right guard and right tackle respectively. The only exception was Reed missing game three of the season. In addition, Anees Merzi (Sr.) 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.

Then you have Joe Bailey (Jr.) returning, who started three games in 2009 … one at right guard and two games at the left guard position.

Not to be forgotten is Mike McDermott (Jr.) who started 4 of the first 5 games of the season at left tackle, before Merzi was moved from left guard to McDermott's tackle spot.

Finally there is junior Brad Kelly, who started game four at left tackle and the only player that the staff is losing from the starting group is left guard Fritz Bentler, who will be graduating this summer.

Yes, last season saw the staff shuffle through the players while trying to find the right results - especially on the left side of that line, where production was not on par with where Coach Ellerson would like it to have been.

With seven players returning that have starting experience, along with three upcoming sophomores in guard Frank Allen (So.), guard Matt Villanti (6'3, 290) and center Will Wilson (6'2, 280).

The combination of the returning veterans having one year of Ellerson's triple option under their belt, along the mix of the talented trio of making their presence felt, there has been a degree of optimism coming into spring practice versus the uncertainty this time last year. had a chance to catch up with Offensive Coordinator, Ian Shields to get an idea of how the two-deep on the offensive line was unfolding.


"Zach Peterson is our starting center, Frank Allen at left guard, Seth Reed at right guard, Jason Johnson, he's out for the spring but will be back at right tackle and then at left tackle and Anees Merzi is pretty locked in there," shares Shields, who is enjoying having the bulk of his entire upfront unit upfront. "We are pretty set with that group."


At the tackle spot, are Brad Kelly and McDermott, who not only have game experience, but have starting at some point in 2009. "They are pretty interchangeable as far as which side," Shields declares, as he breaks down the balance of the 2nd unit. "Tom Hagan (Sr.) is the back up at center, where he was as well last season.

Villanti is the back-up at right guard. He's a kid on the rise … he is still figuring it out but he has a ton of ability. Him and Frank (Allen) are physical presence in there and explosive kids, and that a plus to have the young guys in there.

Mike Weich is in there and getting back to where is full speed, although not as physical as Frank and Matt."

Center Will Wilson is another sophomore who made strides last year, and was looking to move his way up the charts this spring. However, the Great Falls (Va.) product has been sidelined this spring due to an injury and will have to make up lost time during summer's practice.

Stay tuned to as we continue our Army Spring Football Coverage.

Coming next … A peek inside the Running Backs.

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