As the Black Knights' offense closed out spring camp and with summer/fall camp knocking on the door soon, most Army observers are excited about an Army 2011 offense that have few to no major concerns.
Yes, the offensive line remains a "let's see what they do come game time question mark", but if the spring is any indicator, this could be a very good unit up front, lead by offensive guard, Frank Allen.
The backfield, pretty much returns everyone, including 3-year starting quarterback Trent Steelman at the helm, plus 1,000 yard rusher in fullback Jared Hassin, accompanied by all purpose sophomore Raymond Maples at the "A" slot position and the combination of Malcolm Brown and Brian Cobbs at the "B" slot spot.
Yes, the backfield is loaded, and with Trenton Turrentine and Larry Dixon making their way from the prep school, this may be the deepest group of backs that Army has had in recent memory.
Then there are the wide receivers. There is no question that experience is there, but where there may be some concern is productivity on the receiving end, but perhaps even more so is the essential need to be more physical on the perimeter and down field when it comes to blocking within the triple option offense.
GoBlackKnights.com caught up with Army wide receiver coach Andy Guyader to discuss his corp of receivers and the 2011 season.
The 3rd year coach did not hesitate to jump right in and talk about his key players at receiver.
"Obviously we have David (Brooks) and Austin (Barr) coming back for their senior years," Guyader shared yesterday as he talked about his two veteran wideouts. "It will be very interesting to see how they show with another year under their belt. Austin is fighting through a little injury and we haven't seen him since the bowl game, but everything will be fine. He missed spring practice, but it's not a huge issue
the most important thing is that he is healthy and ready to go for the season."
"They are both seasoned and know what is expected of them and how to do it."
In addition to Barr and Brooks, two underclassmen will be pushing the vets, not only for reps, but even the number one spots on the depth chart. "Some of the younger guys like ustin Allen (Jr.) and Anthony Stephens (Soph.)," says Guyader of Allen who is a converted running back and Stephens who is a very solid athlete. "They had a real good spring, but it will interesting to see how they develop physically between the spring and fall game."
"They are in the mix and they will push and hopefully collectively the unit will take a step forward."
Probably the one component that will distinguish who gets on the field has little to do with the notable tools of any receiver, which are their hands. But when it comes to the Black Knights' offense, it is essential that the wideouts being able to add blocking to their resume.
"Perimeter blocking is the first thing we evaluate and strong indicator of who is going to be on the field," Guyader candidly confirms. "Who does that the best and I think that is always going to be improvement being made in that area. It's a physical ability to maintain blocks longer. Generally, as the offense matures, that my experience has seen
it naturally happens."
PICKING YOUR POISON
If the Black Knights' group of receivers are able to put it all together, there is no telling how impactful this season's offense can be. Contrary to popular belief, this is an offense that can see one of its receivers break-off numbers equivalent to that of the more pass oriented offenses
but someone will have to separate and step up.
"We ran it those last two years at Cal Poly and we had Ramses Barden (NY Giants) who broke some of Jerry Rice's records. So it's really not the system that limits if you will any passing that goes on. It's the ability of the offensive unit to play to their strengths."
And without a doubt, if all cylinders are working, the offense is one that offers huge match-up problems for any defense.
"You get one-on-one coverage and sometimes it's one on none," Guyader shares. "The ability to isolate a receiver on a single cornerback really with over half of the field and you can look and there is only two guys on that half of the field. Once you get that whole thing clicking
the pass component is unlimited because your match up will never change out there. And as soon as they do, they can't defend the other place (running game)."
SEPARATION OF TALENT
Again, in order for that to happen, Guyader is hoping that his summer's practice session will provide for a few clear separation from one or two players.
"You will have guys that have separated and not to sound cliché, but the two guys on the field will be those guys," he states. "Are we waiting for one? What we are hoping for as an offense unit, that we are able to take a step forward in the pass component of the game."
OTHERS IN THE MIX
I thought that this spring, some of the young guys, some guys stood out. As an offense staff we talked about Rob Wright quite a bit, Jared McFarlin as well. The other two guys are E.J. Tucker and Pat Laird
they all had their moments this spring.
One guy who will be making some noise this summer will be prepster Chevaughn Lawrence. The staff will finally have Lawrence in front of them so they can determine where he's at as a ball player.
The bottom line for players who will get on the field, it will be about those that want to hit people
it's that hard but yet that easy. As Coach Guyader indicated, it is the player that will compete the entire game.
Although Guyader was reluctant to name his top two, there is no doubt that the top four are Allen, Barr, Brooks and Stephens. And of course, look for the tree being shaken upon the arrival of Lawrence.
There is also some direct freshman talent coming on board, with the likes of Justin Newman , but he may be at least one year away from making a dent into the aforementioned group, especially when the essential factor is "blocking" and wanting to hit opponents.
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