GoBlackKnights.com takes a look Inside the Huddle spring practice and the Top Five position battles that have be taking place on the field throughout Spring practice.
1. Wide receiver
In our featured article on 2/29, it was noted that the door is wide open at this position with the graduation of Davyd Brooks and Austin Barr. The B&B duo leave behind a 2011 season that saw them combine for just 14 catches for an unimpressive 221 yards and one touchdown, for which the staff is hoping to see a somewhat significant statistical improvement. Who will get those touches this season and become Army's new featured receiver? The competition begins in the spring with E.J. Tucker and Patrick Laird in the lead. But knocking on the door is Chevaughn Lawrence, along with Anthony Stephens. This group could include Malcolm Brown as well if the staff decides he is better suited to play out wide than in the backfield. The spring will also be a chance for those players to build up their résumés before more competition arrives this summer from the prep school and direct, although at present, that would be long shot.
2. Defensive tackle
Will the days of the Ellerson-style smaller defensive tackle finally come to an end with some potential size within the pipeline (e.g., underclassmen, prep, etc.)? The answer is probably not a major size change, but significant enough that seeing defensive ends like Holt Zalneraitis playing out of position on the inside may be a thing of the past. As such, this spring has seen Bobby Kough return to action, where the 6-foot3, 255 pounder continues to shake of the rust from his one season hiatus, where he is currently holding down one of the DT spots. Manning the other spot during this midpoint of spring ball is 6-foot-0, 275 pound Rich Glover. His ascension is welcome spring surprise for the coaching staff, where he appears to be more faster and physical. To put things in perspective, even if A.J. Mackey were on the roster, with the presence of Glover and Kough, there would be no guarantees for Mackey. The other candidates who are in the mix are Mike Ugenyi and sophomore Joe Drummond, who was scheduled to be in the mix, but he has been hit with the spring injury bug. Shane Finnane, who is on the smallish side of the equation and if he were 3 inches taller, he might be one of the starters. Ironically, when the frosh class arrives this summer, it will be highly-regarded Evan Finnane battling his older brother for position on the depth chart. Speaking of incoming player, you clearly have to add the name Tala Atimalala from the USMAPS. And don't be surprised to see incoming (direct) freshman Khodadod Kia try and push his way through the maze of tackles. The 6-foot-1, 270 pounder out of Irvine (Cali.) is someone to keep an eye on.
3. Right Guard -
Right now you have Steve Shumaker who is doing a solid job this spring, where the sophomore has taken advantage of the vacancy due to the injury to incumbent Matt Villanti. Hence, it will be interesting to see how this unfolds when team enters into summer camp as these battle for the starting spot. Then of course, you have "utility" lineman, Will Wilson, who can be counted on to push others at almost all of the offensive line positions.
4. Boundary Cornerback -
The head to head battle at this spot offers up Tyler Dickson, Justin Allen and Waverly Washington. Between the trio, the safety turn cornerback, Dickson is probably the most athletic and has the size at 5-foot-11, 203 pounds. The favorite heading into the balance of spring is Dickson, but a lot of potential exists within between Allen and Washington, which allowed the staff to move 2011 starter L.J. Harris to the field corner spot. The battle to take reps away from Dickson now comes Allen, who is both athletic and physical and Washington, who has tenure, but has yet to break into the rotation on a regular basis.
5. Sam, Rover and Free Safety -
The biggest defensive battle this spring is coming on the back-end, there is competition at the Sam, Rover and Free Safety spots has become heated. That would include Hayden Pierce, Lyle Beloney, Kyler Martin, Ty Shrader, Justin Trimble and Thomas Holloway. All six of these players are constantly battling one another, because the aforementioned roles have a lot of carry over between them. Meaning, this positions are not necessarily interchangeable, but what you do at one of those positions can easily be "carried over" to one of the other two roles.
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