2003 Army runningback preview

Army fans can look forward to a cohort of talented, experienced running backs in 2003. Surprising starter Carlton Jones returns for his second season as a Black Knight and he will be competing with three other candidates for the starting running back position in 2003. None of Army's incumbent running backs are in their last season of eligibility, so Army fans can look forward to steady performance from this position in 2003 and beyond.

Below is a recap of key losses, followed by players in the mix for 2003.

Key losses:

Josh Holden, 6-1, 215, SR. Josh was a starter or key back-up for the past three seasons. He rushed for 515 yards in 2001 and 490 yards in 2002. He was an excellent blend of speed and power and he had the highest yards per carry average of any Army running back during the past two years. He also rushed for 13 TDs in his career.

Marcellus Chapman, 5-9, 195, Incoming SR. Marcellus was a speedy running back who sufffered minor injuries throughout his career. He was always on the three deep when healthy and finished with 36 carries for 124 yards and 1 TD in 2002. He elected not to participate in 2003, possibly due to the anticipated loss of playing time in 2003.

The starters:

It is too soon to call, but the starting running back in 2003 will likely be any one of the four following backs:

Ardell Daniels, 5-9, 191 JR. Ardell is a speedster from Florida who can flat out fly. He was injured most of his plebe season in 2001, but came on strong at season's end to rush for 131 yards and a touchdown in Army's win over Navy. Last spring, he appeared to have the inside track as the starter in 2002, but he ended up having to sit out the fall season due to academic difficulties he encountered at the end of the spring term. He returns in 2003. He has 3 years of eligibility remaining.

C. J. Young, 5-9, 207 SR. C.J. is a tough kid from the Detroit Public School system who had a breakout campaign his sophomore season in 2001. He garnered 8 starts and rushed for 556 yards on 158 carries. He had 192 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns in Army's win against Tulane and followed it up with 104 yards and 2 touchdowns in Army's scare at Air Force the following week. He is capable of gaining yards between the tackles and is quick through holes. His running style reminds me of Mike Mayweather. C.J. sat out 2002 due to academic difficulties. His return brings great depth to the running back corps. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

Carlton Jones, 5-10, 196, SO. Carlton took advantage of his opportunity in 2002 to play and eventually start as a plebe due to the loss of other candidates to academics, injuries, or a tendency to fumble. He did not disappoint. A North Carolina native and a product of the prep school, Carlton had 8 starts in 2002 and he was the team's leading rusher 611 yards on 161 carries. He runs with power and he has also built himself up in the off-season. He'll definitely be in the mix to start in 2003.

LaBerrick Williams, 5-11 192 JR. LaBerrick was an all-state RB from Alabama, who along with Reggie Nevels, was one of Todd Berry's key recruiting gains after being hired in December 1999. LaBerrick went to USMAPS along with Nevels and he arrived at the Academy in the summer of 2001. His plebe campaign was hampered by injuries, which limited his impact and development. Last spring, he was poised to make an impact in 2002, before going down to a knee injury. He did not return until late in the 2002 campaign, but managed to make several game appearances, rushing for 28 yards. LaBerrick has yet to shake off the rust from his spate of injuries. However, if he remains injury free, he is capable of making an impact in 2003 at the same level as the above three backs. LaBerrick's best days as a Black Knight are ahead of him as he heads into his final two campaigns.

Others in the Mix:

D.J. Blackledge, 6-0, 207, JR; Ricardo Evans, 5-7 187 SO; and Tyson Roy; 5-8 185 SO. All three of these players add quality depth and some speed. They will have to work hard to make the three deep. It is also possible that one or more of these players may be moved to defense by the end of the spring.

Overall Assessment:

Army looks to be in good shape at running back heading into 2003. Army fans can look forward to watching any of three players who have 100-yard rushing efforts already logged during their cadet careers. A year ago, Army looked to be in similar good shape heading into the spring 2002 season, only to lose 3 players to academics or injuries prior to the start of the fall. I don't perceive a repeat of that misfortune in 2003. Consequently, I expect Army to be overall improved at running back in 2003. Expect nearly 2000 yards rushing from Army in 2003, as Army strives to have credible balance on the ground and in the air. Additionally, Army will be bringing in several highly regarded running backs that are certainly capable of making an impact in the years ahead, if not sooner.

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