As the Black Knights head into the final stanza of their spring practice with the upcoming Black & Gold game right around the corner, this is an Army team that for the first time in almost a decade, that the fans can honestly see the light at the end of the tunnel. There are plenty of potentials that exist for this team, starting with concluding the 2010 season with a winning record, a bowl possibility and much more.
There is absolutely no doubt that the foundation for this team as they prepare for the 2010 season is the current group of starting seniors. They are led by Stephen Anderson, Josh McNary, Mike Gann, Donovan Travis, Zachary Peterson, Patrick Mealy, Marcus Hilton, Donnie Dixon, Seth Reed, Jason Johnson, Jameson Carter, Matthew Campbell, Jonathan Bulls, along with key backup and one time starter Jordan Trimble.
However, the uniqueness of this team is that there is a sophomore class that fits in the center of the foundation, as the building block.
When players like Trent Steelman, Jarrett Mackey, Josh Jackson, and Malcolm Brown made their way to the West Point campus last summer as part of the incoming plebe class, it marked Head Coach Rich Ellerson's first recruiting class. Albeit, that the majority of incoming freshman coming from the USMAPS and were recruited by former Army Head Coach Stan Brock. However, make no mistake about it, in areas where Brock may have lacked as a head coach, recognizing and recruiting talent wasn't one of them.
So as Ellerson and his staff opened the freshmen cupboard in 2009, they were presently surprise to see that it was not bare. As a matter of fact, they inherited a very impressive group of prospects, especially those that were coming up from the USMAPS.
Like the aforementioned senior class, the majority of the sophomore's bonding began at the prep school, and was solidified even more so when Stan Brock was removed as head coach of Army and replaced by Ellerson. One could say that the coaching transition only enhanced the players' link.
This is a group that bought into the mission and vision while at the USMAPS, which has been heighten under Ellerson's leadership and it's a class that is determined to add to the foundation of the current group of seniors, as well as juniors
to bring winning back to the banks of the Hudson.
After the 2009 season the Black Knights technically only lost three players on the offensive side of the ball, including two at receiver and on defense, they lose three players.
Of course not every recruiting class is able to cover the needs in one fell swoop and there will always be the proverbial work in process when it comes to restocking the cupboards. But many members of the sophomore class made strides towards doing just that, and have done well in ensuring that talent pipeline is open.
So it is imperative that this sophomore class step up this season and make their continued imprint on the program.
Once again, GoBlackKnights.com takes a look inside this class, concluding with our top five selection.
The selection process was based on two simple factors. First, it was the level of contribution in 2009, as well as our analysis and projections for 2010.
TOP TEN (Top Five)
5. Malcolm Brown, RB/WR
Size: 5-foot-11, 180
Analysis: As a freshman last year, Brown was making his mark at running back. He showed flashes of being a creative runner, but slowed during the latter part of the season. However, it is his athletic ability, along with the lack of pure breakaway threat at receiver that saw Brown moved to wide-out this spring. From a receiver's perspective, he can produce that run and yards after the catch. Which is the advantage of conducting an early spring practice because it allows for extra reps going down the stretch while they are still at West Point.
"Hopes are that he will add something there and the early results look favorable," declares Shields. "He also has the benefit of all summer and the rest of spring." - Army OC, Ian Shields
4. Frank Allen, OG
Size: 6-foot-4, 275
Analysis: On offense, part of the good news is that four-fifths of the offensive line returns and gets a solid impact sophomore in guard Frank Allen, who has the potential to an outstanding player up front.
Allen is highly thought of by the coaching staff and provides them with a youthful, but legitimate cornerstone on the line for years to come. The combination of Frank Allen, Matt Villanti, along with Will Wilson gives the Black Knights a solid base of talent up front for the next three years.
"Frank (Allen) is physical presence in there and explosive as well." - Army OC, Ian Shields
3. Jarrett Mackey, DE
Size: 6-foot-2, 225
Analysis:Solid upside is one way to describe Mackey. Although he knows that he is the backup to All-American quick defensive end, Josh McNary, the sophomore defender has taken advantage of every rep this spring as McNary recovers from shoulder surgery.
"With both (brother A.J.) have to work up
I'm underneath Josh, but I'm learning from him, so I'm learning from the best on the team right now," Mackey shared with GoBlackKnights.com. "It feels real good to get a chance to show what I can do. I don't mind sitting behind him another year and learning from him, but I'm to fight for a starting spot somewhere on the team."
2. Jared Hassin, FB
Size: 6-foot-3, 230
Analysis: Will 2010 be the year Rich Ellerson makes good on his reputation as an triple option guru? The addition of Jared Hassin at fullback will only make life easier for the second year head coach.
The transfer from Air Force appears to be the missing link that hindered the Black Knights' offense in 2009. At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Hassin brings explosiveness, power and size to the B-back position, and is a legitimate threat anywhere on the field. His presence changes the entire manner in which opposing defensive coordinators will prepare for Army in 2010.
1. Trent Steelman, QB
Size: 6-foot-0, 203
Analysis:As a freshman, quarterback Trent Steelman established himself as the offensive leader almost immediately. Playing at 185 pounds in 2009, his style of play was reminiscent of the vintage Timex commercial, where he took a licking, but kept on ticking. Now at 203 pounds, the Bowling Green (Ky.) native has demonstrated this spring that he is all set to take his game to the next level, which he has.
The addition of Hassin, the experience of the offensive line, along with a seasoned slotback in Patrick Mealy will only add to Steelman's arsenal and make him a more genuine threat offensively.
2010 could be the true evolution of Trent Steelman as the offensive mainstay for the Black Knights.
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