October 1, 2009

QB, Steelman starting to set records

Trent Steelman, Army's freshman quarterback, is rapidly approaching setting or breaking several Army football records. He has already been the first plebe quarterback in the modern era (since 1944) to start and win an opening game, when he piloted the Black Knights to their 27-14 victory over Eastern Michigan last month.

The athletic quarterback also has joined Pete Vann, Zac Dahman and Carson Williams in starting four games as a freshman. All expectations are that Steelman will remain the starting quarterback for the Army team though the remaining of this season and in just a few games he will tie and then break the overall record for number of games started as a plebe. And he should tie or break the record for winning games too.

Update: Plebe Quarterback Records

If you refer to the article, Plebe Quarterbacks, (GBK.com - 3/23/09), it was noted that there were 19 players who had started at quarterback as freshmen. But if you read the weekly game notes, it says that Steelman is the 17th plebe overall to start. In coordination with the Army sports historians, we have discovered that three of these individuals were not truly freshmen.

First, in 1901, plebe Charles Daly started the first game of the season against Franklin & Marshall, and started a total of six games that year. But Daly played for Harvard for three seasons (1898-1900), was Captain in 1900 and was named to at least one All-American team in 1900. The USMA admission standards of the day allowed for the 22 year old Daly to become a Cadet, and the eligibility rules allowed him to play football for West Point. But because of his previous college football playing experience, Daly should not be considered one of the 17 plebes who have started at quarterback for Army.

Second, in 1914, plebe Elmer Oliphant started two games at quarterback against Maine and Springfield. These were the only games he started at quarterback, as he spent most of his career starting as a halfback and other positions during his four letter winning seasons for West Point. But Oliphant played four seasons for Purdue (1910-1914) prior to being admitted to USMA. Plus he graduated from Purdue with a BA. Based upon his previous college football experience, the 22 year old Oliphant should also not be considered as one of the individuals who started as a freshman.

Several of Army's star football players had previous college football experience up to the World War II seasons, but it appears that none of the other ten individuals who started as freshmen at quarterback played at other colleges.

Finally, the previous article described the exploits of turnback plebe Fred Meyers during the 1951 season, who started the first two games at quarterback against Villanova and Northwestern, and then started versus Penn and Navy. Meyers was a member of the 1950 Army football team and played on its scout team, but did not play in a regular season game in 1950. By modern standards, he would have been considered a redshirt freshman and has been excluded from the list of starting plebe quarterbacks.

An Update on the 1951 Season

Speaking of the 1951 season, I spent the summer reading three books on Army football that I would highly recommend. The first was The Red Blaik Story by Army Head Coach Earl Blaik. The second was Return to Glory: The Untold Story of Honor, Dishonor, and Triumph at the United States Military Academy 1950-53 by Bill McWilliams. The third book was On Brave Old Army Team: The Cheating Scandal that Rocked the Nation: West Point 1951 by James Blackwell.

What I discovered was that Blaik utilized separate offensive and defensive platoons during the 1951 season. Furthermore, he also employed a strategy to utilize the opening game kickoff and quick kicks (punting on first, second or third downs) in order to either gain subsequent field position or have the opponent turn the ball over. So reviewing the published newspaper accounts of the 1951 games, plebe Pete Vann is listed as starting the Dartmouth and Harvard games. Junior Dick Boyle is listed as starting the Columbia, USC and The Citadel games. My conclusion is that Boyle started the Columbia game as quarterback but that Vann started at quarterback in the games versus Southern California and The Citadel, while Boyle played the safety position. So Vann becomes the fourth plebe in the modern era to start four games at quarterback.

The Steelman Record Tracker

5 Games Started at QB as a Plebe: Assuming Trent starts the Tulane game, he will tie Hugh Murrill (1915) and Edwin Johnson (1921) for starting a total of five games as a freshman. Army's record was 3-2 in both seasons. Steelman currently is tied with Vann (1951), Dahman (2002) and Williams (2006) for the modern record with four starts.

6 Games Started at QB as a Plebe: The record holder is Enoch Garey, who started the third game of the 1904 season versus #5 Harvard. Garey started five of the remaining six games, including victories over #2 Yale and #13 Navy. Army's record was 4-2, the losses to Harvard and #6 Princeton.

3 Wins as a Plebe Starting QB: The win over Tulane will allow Steelman to tie Bob Hyatt (1908), John Wood (1908), Murrill (1915) and Johnson (1921). Trent is currently tied with Jerryl Bennett (1980) for the modern record of two wins.

4 Wins as a Freshman Starting QB: The fourth Steelman victory will tie him with the record holder Garey (1904).

Freshmen Quarterback Starts

1. 1900 Vaughn Cooper 1-0-0
2. 1904 Enoch Garey 4-2-0
3. 1905 Ronald Johnson 2-1-1
4. 1907 Kenneth Kern 1-0-0
5. 1908 John Wood 3-1-0
6. 1908 Bob Hyatt 3-0-1
7. 1915 Hugh Murrill 3-2-0
8. 1917 Harry Barrick 1-0-0
9. 1921 Edwin Johnson 3-2-0
10. 1925 William Hall 1-0-0
11. 1951 Pete Vann 1-3-0
12. 1978 Jerryl Bennett 2-0-0
13. 1980 Bryan Allem 0-1-0
14. 1987 Bryan McWilliams 1-0-0
15. 2002 Zac Dahman 0-4-0
16. 2006 Carson Williams 0-4-0
17. 2009 Trent Steelman 2-2-0


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