May 6, 2011

Tyler Dickson knows that Army is on the rise

When you step on the campus of West Point, you think big, and Tyler Dickson is no exception.

The free safety is part of a rising sophomore class that during the next couple of seasons will be leading this year's plebes and prep school players. How good can the Black Knights be by his senior year?

"Before I graduate, maybe we'll see a BCS bowl game,'' Dickson offered. In other words, national rankings.

"Who knows,'' he said. "Anything can happen.''

Many people are expecting a lot to happen when it comes to Army football, and a lot of Dickson's classmates will be a major reason if those expectations are met.

"We have a lot of good players,'' he said of his classmates. "Coming from the prep school made us a little more tightly-knit, but even the new class that came in, it didn't take long for us to get real close. As a team we're real close, and we're already stepping up and accepting leadership roles. Obviously we hope to continue having winning seasons.''

His class knows nothing but that, even if they've only played one year. But a winning record and a bowl victory is a pretty good way to start.

The bar has been reset, and despite several key losses to the defense, Dickson is confident the remains of the day can carry the day. "I know there is a lot of talk about the graduating seniors and how we're going to miss them, and it's true,'' he said. "They had a big impact on leadership and playing on the field. But I think the group we have here is solid, and I think we're ready to get it done.''

As far as the defensive backs unit, cornerback Jordan Trimble will graduate, as will safeties Donovan Travis and Donnie Dixon.

Before I graduate, maybe we'll see a BCS bowl game .... In other words, national rankings.

- Free Safety, Tyler Dickson

Dickson is slotted at free safety right now, with the strong safety looking to be rising soph Lyle Beloney. Starting corners should be junior Josh Jackson and senior Antuan Aaron. Depth will come from sophomores Justin Trimble, Thomas Holloway and Matt Luetjen, among others.

"It took a while to get used to the Army defense,'' Dickson said of the Double-Eagle Flex. "In high school I never played safety; I was recruited as a wide receiver. So it took a while to get acclimated to safety, but I think this year is totally different with two years under my belt.

"It's a complex defense,'' he added. "It's changed every week with a different opponent, and sometimes it's difficult to understand.''

Obviously Dickson has grasped the basic package, and the hard-working native of Ohio will be a real bonus to have around for the next three seasons.

Asked to assess his brand of ball, Dickson said, "I try to fly to the ball and I try to make the right reads all the time. I guess I'm pretty good at run support, and pretty good as pass support, too. I think I'm pretty quick and able to get to the ball in space.''

He played in only a few games last season, but said his improvement will be noticeable. "A lot has changed, from the aspect of how to get by here and how to do well academically,'' Dickson said in comparing now to this time a year ago. "I had to learn how to manage my time, lifting, sleeping patterns. With the seniors gone I'm going to have a lot more responsibilities put on me. But I think I'll do well.

"I'm looking forward to it and playing this year. I feel like I'm really ready.''

He will enjoy about two-and-a-half weeks next month, then return to Fort Buckner for military training. One of the things he'll try and do on his break is take in a ball game at either Cleveland or Cincinnati. Or maybe both.

However, any moments during his break will likely not match the emotional experience of late Monday night, when everyone heard the news about Osama bin Laden.

"The announcement came over CGR (Central Guard Room), and everyone went crazy,'' he said about the intercom system piped into the cadet areas. "People were celebrating outside. It was a great time to be at West Point. It was great. It made you appreciate coming here.''

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