October 12, 2012

GBK: Frosh DT, T.J. Atimalala continuing to learn

"It felt great," was T.J. Atimalala's reaction to getting the starting nod on Army front d-line in the Black Knight's must win encounter with Boston College last Saturday. "My first experience being out there on the field as a starter ... it was a great feeling."

But for T.J., as he's called by coaches and teammates, it was that moment when he found out he was starting that begin to put everything in motion for the freshman. "The beginning of last week," states Atimalala, when discussing when he initially received word of his new assignment. "Coach Mumford told and we had our Monday meeting ... he told me to get ready to run with the ones for Tuesday's morning practice."

But for the frosh, whose collegiate experience is just 5 games young, said that you didn't need to a veteran to sense that there was something different about the pre-kickoff atmosphere than previous contest ... even before the first defensive series of the game. "Honestly, the vibe that we had in the locker room before we hit the field, it was a whole different vibe that we never felt throughout the season," shares Atimalala. "Coach Ellerson, he's been telling us just go out, play hard and have fun."

And it only took that first hit to make native of North Las Vegas (Nev.) realize that he was now playing big time college football and it was showtime. "It was one of the greatest feelings I ever had because just thinking back when I was a kid and watching college football," adds Atimalala. "Just knowing that I'm actually in the position where I wanted to be when I was a little kid. Experiencing that feeling that I had on that first contact being on the D-line and everything like that was nice."

The spark-plug tackle, who tips the scales at 5-foot-11, 265 is a product of the USMAPS, and his start last week against Boston College of the ACC is a true indicator that Atimalala is continuing to take steps in the right direction. Of course, this is consistent with the expectations the staff had for the lineman, as he nurtured and developed his skills at the prep school.

Freshmen Brotherhood

However, he's not the only freshmen that has started and/or will be starting on Saturday. Cornerback Chris Carnegie appears to be a permanent fixture at the boundary, while Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires returns back to action at free safety after missing the BC game due to injury and you can add Rover, Alex Meier's name to this list.

"Sometimes when we get together, we kind of remind each other that hey, we are freshmen and we're actually starting," declares Atimalala, who says he continues to work hard to get better and is not taking anything for granted. "So we have to make sure we know our respective jobs so that we can maintain our spots."

"Each practice, I just keep trying to get better with everything thing the coaches are instructing us to do with our eyes, hands and feet. I just have to continue doing what I have been doing, but honestly, I am not focused on me but just being a member of the team. So if we all do our jobs, trust on another, go out and have fun ... we will be fine."

Kent State

Make sure you keep your eyes on No. 92 against Kent State, because it won't be unusual to see Atimalala playing both inside and out, Army revised d-line scheme.

When the Black Knights take the field on Saturday, their front line will consist of Atimalala, Bobby Kough, Richard Glover, Zach Watts and of course, Nate Combs.

Like Atimalala, Glover continues to improve, which has lead the sophomore tackle to get the nod over Mike Ugenyi.

The 6-foot-0, 247 pounder provides the staff with a more quickness, physical play, along with the consistency and play making ability that they weren't getting out of Ugenyi.

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