If there was one designation anointed upon Jarrett Mackey coming into his freshman year in 2009, it was that he appeared to be the heir apparent to All-American defensive end Josh McNary.
Jarrett, who is part of the Mackey brother combo for the Black Knights, where he is joined by brother A.J., did all that he could last season to live up to his end of the apprentice and understudy bargain.
All who watched him play during his plebe season, had to walk away feeling comfortable knowing that once McNary graduates in after the 2010 season, his vacancy will be the capable hands of the 6-foot-2, 230 pound Mackey who hails from Snellville (Ga.).
But as spring practice unfolded, Coach Rich Ellerson had other plans for the now sophomore defender.
Moments after stepping out of his physics class and preparing for Wednesday's practice, GoBlackKnights.com had a chance to catch up with Mackey to discuss his transition from defensive end to
Defensive tackle (Bandit); playing next to his brother A.J. and of course, Army's upcoming game against Air Force.
"Coach E (Ellerson) came to me one day and say we are going to put the best front we can on the field, and if you are one of those people, we are going to try and find a spot for you," says Mackey as he describes the initial conversation surrounding his position change.
"After having a pretty good spring ball, well I guess I had a pretty good spring ball so the spot opened when Vic (Ugenyi) left."
It was clear to the staff that although Mackey isn't going to tip the scales at 270 pounds in the manner of Ugenyi, he is the type of lineman who is athletic, explosive and strong along with becoming a technician on the inside.
"I'm trying to step up and I hope I'm doing a good job
coach said I'm doing well. Some games I feel that I can do better than what I did."
"Since I'm undersized, I'm trying to focus on technique that Coach Lyles he tells me use since I'm dealing with 315 pound dudes," notes Mackey, who . "I'm not going to overpower them, but if I have correct technique I can go toe-to-toe with them all day long. For me it's really been less about power but technique."
After handling the role for eight games this season, Mackey also knows that he will have to add on additional size (muscle) in order to effective endure and maintain for the long haul.
"I'm trying to get up to a solid mid- 230
no more than 240, but at the same time I'm trying to keep speed because that's the name of the game and I know that's what Coach E preaches all the time," he declares.
"I'm trying to get faster, but at the same time put on little bit of weight some I'm durable during the season."
However, don't be surprised when spring practice comes around that Mackey hasn't gone full circle and actually steps back into the role of replacing McNary.
"I have been thinking about that a lot actually," states Mackey. "That's a position that I've always wanted to play when I came in and found about the defense. Especially after last year seeing what Josh did and then this year playing along side of him and seeing firsthand what he does during the game
it's a good learning experience. Big shoes to fill, but I think I would be able to do that."
Getting Air Force Ready
Like Josh (Jackson) I talk about
we always tell each other to stay hunger and don't get complacent and that's what I'm trying to do for this game.
- Defensive tackle, Jarrett Mackey
But the talented sophomore, who continues to mature as a ball player knows that such possibilities take a back seat to the team's current task at hand, which is Air Force.
"For this game I just want to "ball out" and coach always preaches this is that the current game is the most important game," Mackey says. "But definitely this game by far is one the biggest games that we have had this season.
It's been sold out weeks in advance; I have my family coming up
And for me personally, I'm just trying to stay hunger."
"Like Josh (Jackson) I talk about
we always tell each other to stay hunger and don't get complacent and that's what I'm trying to do for this game."
Mackey also realizes that last year when the Black Knights visited Air Force, the team's first half tatics worked well, but then they took a 2nd half nose dive as the Falcons prevailed. "Coaches have revamped the defense," says Mackey. "They have taken what we did last year
the strong points and corrected the weaknesses. I think what we will be showcasing on Saturday we will have everything covered
the run, the dive, the pitch, the reverse speed option, all the trick plays they like to run. I think the coaches have done a great job in setting us up for success, we just have to execute."
Each year when you look down the Army roster, there always seems to be a brother combination or two mixed in there; from the Grevious', Trimble's, Bentler's and now the Mackey's.
Defensive tackle A.J. has not seen the feel as much as he probably would like, but he remains ready for when his number is called. Of course playing behind season veteran Mike Gann also has something to do with it, although he was able to receive some significant playing time against VMI that Jarrett was quick to acknowledge.
"He (A.J.) got some good PT last game when Mike (Gann) went down with an ankle sprain, so that will help him for this upcoming game," says an excited Jarrett, as he reflects on being on the field with his sibling.
"I can't put it into words
I know when I got done with the game (VMI) I had friends and family blowing up my phone saying it was so good seeing you two playing together like the old days."
"I don't see it during the game, but when I'm watching film I see my brother right next to me, it gives me such a good feeling and brings me back to our pee-wee days or high school where we have been side by side and I'm' looking for that chance again. I don't know why, but when we are both on the field
. I know when A.J. may need some help or encouragement we look at each other and I may say to him don't let this scrub in front of you get the best of you. We pride ourselves in our brother connection and if I see him knocked down, I will go to him and say A.J. what happen and he will say that it won't happen again. And we also compete to see who can make the most plays."
We couldn't conclude our conversation with Mackey without getting his take on the Army's
"For me personally, as long as I have the Army and West Point on my jersey I'm fine with it," says the defensive tackle.
"But I will say that every time we wear a new uniform
at Duke we came out with the all white and we did a good job, the camos against VMI and we did a good job, so I am hoping to do the same against Air Force."
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