August 23, 2011

GBK: Two-deep for the Army offense

Five years ago when this schedule was put together, it might have been a good idea. But fast forward to 2011 and the Black Knights' first three games will be as challenging as any period of time on their schedule this season.

You're looking at Northern Illinois which is an 11 win team; San Diego State won 9 and won their bowl game by a healthy margin and Northwestern out of the Big Ten. The staff knows that they have their work cut out for them.

But this is also a staff that is optimistic and ready to get the 2011 season underway and one of the reasons for the upbeat spirit is the potential of the Black Knights' offense.

With just 11 days away from kickoff, GoBlackKnights.com takes a look at the offensive two-deep for Army.

The GBK Two Deep Offense


Quarterback

1. Trent Steelman
2. Max Jenkins

Summary: This is Steelman's ball club and behind junior signal caller is Max Jenkins, who is more than capable to step in when needed. All the players have confidence him and as such, he was voted one of the team captains, which speaks to Jenkins' leadership skills and the trust that his teammates have in him.

Number three on the list is Angel Santiago who is going to be a good player ... but he is a freshman. There's a lot to learn at this position, but the good news for Santiago, is that it doesn't have to happen today and he has the benefit of learning from two quality players.

The quarterback position is in good hands and the staff can rest easy.

Running Backs

Fullback (B-Back)

1. Jared Hassin
2. Larry Dixon

Summary: Shields has a trio of fullbacks in Hassin, Dixon & Dan McGue who all can bring it, but make no mistake about it, Hassin remains the main source.

Dixon is ahead of McGue in this group of fullbacks and has tremendous upside.

Slotback (A-Back)

Raymond Maples
Jonathan Crucitti
Kelechi Odocha
Terrence Baggett

Summary: On this side you have Raymond Maples, followed by a relatively surprising name that is pushing for some playing time ... junior Kelechi Odocha. For Odocha, his biggest challenge is being consistent. He may be short, but he is physical, good with the ball in hands and a quality blocker.

Then there is freshman Terrence Baggett, who is in the mix.

And then there is Mr. Utility Man, Jonathan Crucitti who is in the mix on both side. Honestly, he's half coach out there and if there is a designated back up to Maples, it would be Crucitti at this time just based on his game experience.

Slotback (C-Back)

Malcolm Brown
Brian Cobbs
Trenton Turrentine

Summary: Both Brown and Cobbs have been dinged up over the course of summer training camp. But by all accounts, both should be ready by the time the team travels to NIU.

But never assume with this game and in their absence from summer camp, freshman Trenton Turrentine has taken advantage of those reps in practice. So the USMAPS product is in the mix.

"He's making it pretty interesting, because he's a little more physical than those other guys and he's pretty good with the ball in his hands," shares Shields.

Wide Receivers

1. Anthony Stephens; Jared McFarlin; Davyd Brooks; E.J. Tucker; Chevaughn Lawrence.

Summary: "This is where I have really been pleasantly surprised during training camp," Shields shared.

"I think we are going to be improved out there ... everything points to that direction. I don't know who is going to take the first snaps, but I think there will be five guys playing out there."

Last year's starter, Austin Barr is still a wait and see health wise. He just starting his receiver drills on Monday. Even upon his return, he might be difficult for the senior to make his way into this possible five player rotation.

There is one player that has really caught the attention of the coaching staff and that is McFarlin.

"I think Jared McFarlin is going to be the creme of the crop when it's all said and done," shares Shields. "He's the most natural of the group and he's 6'5". He's a young Ramsey Barden (former Cal Poly WR) ... we're hoping. He's caught the ball well and having an excellent training camp. He keeps progressing. He is not a finish product by any stretch and the physical maturation is still a work in progress, but overtime and years to come he is going to be a weapon here."

"I like Chevaughn Lawrence, he's done a job, Anthony Stephens had a great training camp and Davyd Brooks is playing the best football of his career," offers Shields. "E.J. Tucker is a physical - tough receiver too, so I like that group. If there's anything in mind that has really dramatically change since a year ago, I think it's the depth and quality of depth at receiver."

Offense Line

There is some healthy competition still ongoing in the trenches and this week could provide the staff with a better idea as to who the front five will be against NIU.

More specifically, the battles are at the center and right guard.

Center

Will Wilson
Ryan Powis
Michael Kime

Summary: Will Wilson hasn't done anything to set himself back and should the season start today, he would most likely get the call. However, freshman Ryan Powis has a ton of ability. The native of Midlothian (VA) is powerful and quick.

But there is a name that has surfaced in battle at center and that is Michael Kime, commonly known as Mo-Mo and has performed well this summer.

There are three guys at this position and each bring something different to the table. At some point, just based on the offensive lines flow and continuity, the staff will have to make a decision this week.

Although in the long term Powis appears to be the answer at center, Offensive Coordinator Ian Shields indicated that Wilson still has a slight leg up on his competition.

"At this moment, Will still has the advantage."

Typically, the team only travels with three and so it will be interesting to see who makes the final two.

However, don't be surprise if by mid-season, Powis is running with the 1st unit ... he has that much upside.

Right Guard

Joe Bailey
Matt Villanti

Summary: Like the center spot, this position is a dog fight down to the wire as Joe Bailey and Matt Villanti are neck and neck for the #1 spot.

Bailey, who is a senior is a powerful blocker, whereby Villanti is a better athlete, more physical and a little bigger. The bump in the road for the 6-foot-3, 278 pound Villanti is his inability to date to "put it all together."

However, assuming that they Powis and Villanti continue on the upswing of their progression, there is a high probability that by week eight of the season both players could be in the starting lineup.

Left Guard

Frank Allen
Joe Bailey

Summary: At this position, there is no debate about who "the man" is. This is Frank Allen's spot. The junior mainstay is the nucleus of this unit and continues to get better year after year.

We it comes to Allen's backup, the reality is that would fall in the lap of Bailey and Villanti would maintain the right guard position.

Right Tackle

Derek Bisgard
Mike McDermott

Summary: Derek Bisgard has earned the starting role. Although the junior has been fighting a bout with some tendonitis, he should be good to go once the whistle blows.

Behind Bisgard is senior Mike McDermott, who will also backup Brad Kelly at the other tackle spot ... hence giving the staff a 3 for 2 package.

Left Tackle

Brad Kelly
Mike McDermott

Summary: Senior Brad Kelly locks down this spot and as noted, he will be supported by McDermott.

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