I want people to remember the 2009 Army football team as one that finally stepped up, not allowing anything to get in the war and find the will to win.
- Linebacker, Steve Anderson
Last season Steve Anderson became the face of the Army defense and his play earned him Sophomore All-American honors. That style of play was aggressive and emotional, which has now become the identity of his manner of leadership that has demonstrated from his off-season workout to spring practice and how he projects the attitude of the team going into the 2009 season.
GoBlackKnights.com had a chance to go one-on-one with Black Knights' linebacker to discuss several topics pertaining to the 2009 football season.
Linebacker Steve Erzinger is and upcoming player for the Black Knights and someone you were paired up with during off-season workouts. What are you thought about Erzinger and his progress? "Steve is coming along great," states Anderson. "He's a raw talent, with lots of potential there, great frame to build on, great kid, smart kid, has an intelligence of the game that definitely set him above most of the other freshmen. He has a strong will to learn and is coachable. He takes what I say and doesn't just blow me off. He's excited about this year and it will be nice seeing him out there."
The 5-foot-10, 230 pound Anderson spent a moment to breakdown where he and the other linebackers fit into Coach Ellerson Flex defense.
"I'm playing the Whip linebacker and Josh (McNary) is playing the Quick linebacker, and we are considered hybrids," states Anderson. "We are linebackers that are strong enough and quick enough to play defensive line, but at the same time we can help in pass coverage - cover guys man on man."
"Erzinger is playing the Mike linebacker, where he will usually be to the weak side, depending on the formation. I guess you can call Josh the strong side linebacker and I'm the weakside linebacker."
"Rod Murray is playing the Rover. Rod runs great, he's a converted linebacker from safety and has a real nose for the ball ... so it's nice having him back there."
"Then the Sam position is like a strong safety, which is Donnie Dixon as of right now and its like another linebacker."
Having five or six linebackers on the field allows for the Army defense to have guys go down and show a three defensive line look or five defensive line look. At the same time with same people the Black Knights can show three defensive linemen and five linebackers.
And as Anderson pointed out, "It's all about explosiveness, getting from point "A" to "B", creating penetration and chaos. We use our strengths... for example Josh McNary is probably one the most chaotic defensive linemen, because he has great strength, quickness and at 235 pounds, he is very tough."
"It really meant a lot knowing that there is someone out there that was watching some of our games and thought I could play a little," says Anderson as tries to redirect the attention from himself to the team and need to continue to get better. "But going forward, it always goes back to hard work."
EMOTIONAL JUNIOR CLASS
"I went to the prep school before I came to the Academy and we had a defense that was pretty intense," shares Anderson about his year at the USMAPS. "We had guys like Rod Murray, Donovan Travis, Richard King, Josh McNary and Marcus Hilton, who will be fighting for some time this year. Our mentality there was that football is a fun sport and you got to have fun while you are doing it and if you can't be yourself, no matter if you are a quiet or a high five kind of guy, jump around or celebrate with teammates person ... whatever it is, you have to do whatever makes football fun. For me, making a play and then looking at my brothers or them making a play, it's exciting and gets me pumped up and we feed off of it."
OTHER PLAYERS STEPPING UP
"A lot of guys knowing that we had the coaching change felt they now had a second chance," states Anderson. "Richard King, who had hurt his ankle, then his shoulder and got into the doghouse a little bit ... plus I read about it on GoBlackKnights.com," shares a laughing Anderson as he discusses the progress of his teammate and best friend. "He's definitely stepped up, he worked hard in the off-season, stayed healthy and now he's our boundary corner. Rich is the fastest guy on the team ... they had to find a spot for him."
On the other side, manning the field corner is senior Mario Hill who is now a two year starting, should he maintain his spot as we project. "Hill is an experienced corner who is very poised and he doesn't get rattled," defines Anderson of the seasoned cornerback. "It's really nice to have him back there."
Anderson is quick to point out that all position are open and it doesn't really matter to much what you did in the past that will get you on the field. "It should be interesting to see how things play out this spring," states the junior-to-be linebacker. "Chip had a great quote in his Rivals article the other day, when he said that it is not so much where you are at the beginning of spring practice, but where you stand at the conclusion. and that is true.
GETTING THE SWAGGER BACK
"There were some games last year we lost because we weren't use to winning," says a very candid Anderson. "We have guys in the program who are winners and competitors, but never experience winning on a consistent basis. Look at the Buffalo game from last year ... we had that game won, but it seems we opened our eyes and lost the game somehow - that was a heart breaker"
Anderson knows that re-establishing a winning attitude within the program will take lots of work on all levels, but also feels that his junior classmates have a special chemistry that will assist in the process. "It goes back to what we developed at prep school and the junior guys previously mentioned," states Anderson. "We were 8-2, we beat three top ten prep school teams in the nation and a top junior college. We played and beat Milford Academy that had LeSean McCoy who's going in the NFL draft this year, they had in the backfield as well, Greg Cooper (Miami Canes) and 11 other Division I commits.
I'm now starting to feel like it was when we were at the prep school together and when we are on the field together ... we are connected - I feel it and hear it.
The swagger has resurfaced with us. Maybe a lot of people didn't like that kind of swagger from a freshman or sophomore who got the starting position, but never really proved himself. But we (junior classmates) are going to be us. We are a bunch of guys that love to compete, we have a will that stronger than the average football team to win and we don't let anyone try to crush our spirits - we play with emotions. We want to be known as the defense that will get you to rattle and lose your poise."
KEEPING IT REAL
"There are a couple of guys on the defense that I can't get emotion out of," shares Anderson who chuckles as he points to cornerbacks, Hill and King. "Mario is not the kind of guy that's not going to come and head-butt me and even Richard is not a huge hoot & holler kind of guy. But we let them be them ... we can't make them something they're not, because that's fake and we don't like fake - we want you to be you.
But when we get on the field, it's about winning and competing against the guy across the ball, and it's great to know that we have guys who are confident that everyone will take care of their business.
Everyone is excited to play with each other and when one guy makes a play, everyone is around him ... not just two or three guys."
"I want people to remember the 2009 Army football team as one that finally stepped up, not allowing anything to get in the war and find the will to win," concludes Anderson.
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