March 10, 2011

GBK: Brief Evaluation coming out of Spring Camp

The holes that need to be filled on the Army football team are as obvious as those along the Palisades Parkway. And by Wednesday night's controlled scrimmage at West Point, all but a couple seemed to essentially be filled in.

Let's take a look.

Offense Line: With 80 percent of the starters on their way out the door, this seemed to be the most daunting challenge. Not so. Coach Rich Ellerson couldn't say enough good things about this unit, which returned only one starter, junior-to-be guard Frank Allen.

But up stepped senior Joe Bailey at the other guard position, senior Brad Kelly and junior Derek Bisgard at tackle, and soph Will Wilson at center.

"Overall,'' Ellerson said before the lights went black on Blaik Field Wednesday night, "it doesn't look like we've lost much there.''

Defensive Line: This foursome graduated three starters, but the lone returnee, current sophomore Jarrett Mackey, is all set to replace Josh McNary at rush end. The other spots, especially in the middle, remain a question mark. Freshman A.J. Mackey and sophomore Chris Swain are certainly in the mix, along with Corey Watts and Brian Zaineraitis. Freshman Quentin Kantaris may well end up starting at the other end position.

Because of some injuries, Ellerson was not able to assess the players battling for those crucial spots.

"We were kind of generic in our adjustments,'' he said about early on in spring camp. "There's a little bit of a discovery phase, as we find out where our strengths and weaknesses are before we start to maybe adjust things and tailor things to take advantage of this personnel set.

"The interior did not get resolved, so that will be a concern going into training camp. So that's something we'll be scratching our heads about. But it will be our defense; we're not going to move that (formation).

Safety: There seems to be no question that upcoming sophs Tyler Dickson and Thomas Holloway will step in for graduating seniors Donovan Travis, Donnie Dixon and Jordan Trimble, with Dickson at free safety. That's good news, seeing how opponents threw over the top of the Army secondary so often last season.

A pleasant surprise in the secondary was upcoming sophomore John Hughes. A wide receiver as a freshman, he was moved to corner during the spring and caught the staff's attention. "Plus,'' Ellerson cracked, "we like people who can catch the ball.''

Linebackers: Some big hits here with captain Stephen Anderson graduating. Steve Erzinger is moving to the middle from Rover, and Chad Littlejohn and Zach Watts seem to be ahead for the other two spots along the second line of defense.

All other positions on the team, for now, are essentially defined, although a punter has yet to emerge.

The consensus after the game was that this offense looks as strong as everyone anticipated, with the offensive line being a very pleasant surprise.

On defense, again, the interior line is the biggest question on the team. But there are numerous candidates qualified to step in.

What is no longer a question is that the Black Knights have come out of spring practice looking like a team that can compete with anyone on their schedule.

In about 175 days we will start to find out.

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