In the midst of an Army defense that has giving up 42 & 41 points to San Diego State and Northern Illinois respectively, both resulting in an 0-2 start for the Black Knights, one would have to wonder if there is anything promising defensively.
Well, if sophomore Mike linebacker Geoffery Bacon's two game performance is an indication of what's in store this season, it could turn into an exciting autumn.
Bacon, along with senior Bandit linebacker Nate Combs are playing a different level than most others on defense and are the shining stars right now. For the 6-foot-, 210 pound Milwaukee (Wisc.) native, Bacon looks as though he is ready to turn in his best season as a Black Knight.
Bacon is coming off two solid performances against San Diego State and Northern Illinois, where he lead the team in total tackles with nine in each of those ball games.
But what has also caught the attention of the Army fans is the aggressiveness and excitable style of play that is becoming Bacon's signature.
However, Bacon is the first to admit that even with the maturation of his game, he still comes out there each Saturday with those 'first time' butterflies in the pit of his stomach.
"Last year, I don't want to say it was a lot of nervousness, because I still get nervous .... I get nervous for every game," declares Bacon. "I feel comfortable out there and I feel that I can compete with anybody we face. I feel like the guys around me are so good to the point where they make me look good. I feel like if I'm the smallest guy and I'm surrounded by ten other giants, why do I need to be scared. You know, playing with this defense, I feel comfortable out there.
I got guys that are going to hold me accountable and they are going to push me. You know, a lot of times, me and Larry Dixon talk about 'man, there's a lot of pressure out here.' But RG III had a shirt that said, 'no pressure, no diamond'. That's something we tell each other and that helps us step up to the plate. The coaches expect a lot out of us, so we aren't trying to disappoint them. We have those relationship with our coaches that man you are feeling, I can't let this man down. If he (coaches) is doing his job, then I need to do mine job too. Just being out there, I feel comfortable ... I feel like I can see everything, my body feels good and I can react to everything.
Although small by college linebacker standards, Bacon has watched and embrace players who with or without the 'required' size, no how to bring it and that is the mentality that he offers each Saturday.
Growing up, I was a Packer fan and although he's not a middle linebacker, Charles Woodson was a guy I always looked at. Because he was one of those guys that wasn't scared to get behind the line of scrimmage and make a play. He isn't scared to hit somebody and that's something I like. So from that aspect I just try to play like him.
Although Ray Lewis isn't that small," says Bacon, talking about the prototype middle linebacker. I kind of look at him a lot as a guy who is not the fastest or strongest, but someone who plays with the intensity and tenacity and drive ... he just wants to hit somebody, you know and somebody has got to get hit. So I look at guys like that don't talk about the athletic ability all the time, but the mental aspect of the game.
Stakes Are High
Although head coach Rich Ellerson, along with Bacon himself had pointed out that his game is just another on the schedule. There is this proverbial feeling amongst the Army fans, that his is a must win game for the Black Knights.
"It's very important, but I don't think it's anymore important than any other week, it's a football game ... we approach it like that," says the hard hitting backer. "I don't think we need to approach it like it's a championship game, because it's not. I think we just need to go out there, play hard and of course play better than we did the first two games. Play more consistent and I think we will get that 'W' there. That's what we need to do and that's what we plan on doing."
In order for that to occur, the defensive will have drop the youth mentality and be accountable for making their presence felt on Saturday.
"I feel that we are mature now," says a very stern Bacon. "We can't use that excuse that we are young anymore. Of course we have freshmen playing but they can't use that excuse either, in my opinion. I could have used it last year, but if you are a baller, you are a baller, period. If you are going to make plays, make them. There are a lot of freshmen around the country making plays. So to say that you are any different I think is doing yourself an injustice. We look at it like we can compete with anybody and why should we feel inferior to anyone. So, to say we are young or to use that as an excuse ... well to be honest with you, that's nonsense."
However, there is a strong possibility that one Army's seasoned defenders will return to action this Saturday, as captain and defensive end Jarrett Mackey will be making his 2012 debut after completing extensive rehab to his surgically repaired knee.
Of course, 2011 was Bacon's frosh year and sophomore linebacker had this to offer regarding Mackey's return and the opportunity to play together.
"Oh, I'm excited," adds Bacon. "Jarrett, he's like my big brother. Like him and JJ (Josh Jackson) ... ever since they (Army) had been recruiting me, those two took me under their wings. Last year when I wasn't playing, I got frustrated and Jarrett would hit me up a lot and said hey man be patient and be ready when they call you number. So, I'm looking forward to playing with him."
"Little brother gets to play with big brother," says Bacon as he laughs at the idea the mentor-mentee connection on the field together for the first time. "I'm looking forward to it and I know he is looking forward to it. We talked about it today a little bit. We are getting back a guy who's a baller."
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