This spring's practice competition will be telling, as four players each have a legitimate chance of being named the starting quarterback. Below is a recap of the key loss at quarterback, followed by information on four players in the mix for 2003.
Reggie Nevels, 6-0, 188, Incoming JR. Reggie was a key recruit for Todd Berry shortly after he was hired in December 1999. After a year of academic preparation at the Prep School, Reggie arrived at West Point for his plebe year in July 2001. In 2001, Reggie earned a letter, mostly as a special teams player, but he also rushed for 80 yards and he was 4-10 passing for 74 yards and a touchdown. The success of Army's 2002 season rested squarely on Reggie's shoulders in 2002 as the only returning quarterback with any game experience. Unfortunately, Reggie went down with a hamstring injury with Army up 14-6 in the season opener against Holy Cross. The fortunes of Army's 2002 season went down with Reggie as well, as Army lost to Holy Cross enroute to a 1-11 season. Reggie returned to start 5 additional games in 2002, but he was never 100% healthy. He finished with 53 completions in 102 attempts for 617 yards and four touchdowns. While still enrolled as a cadet, Reggie announced in February that he was leaving the football program. Although there is a chance he could return in 2003, the fact that he has left the team and is not practicing this spring leads me to believe that his career as a Black Knight is finished.
It is too soon to call. However, the starting quarterback will be one of the following remaining quarterbacks competing at that position this spring. All other quarterback prospects have either switched positions, (Barton and Sherk) or left the team, (Logan and Bowerman):
Zac Dahman, 6-0, 167, Incoming SO. Zac came to West Point with superb prep credentials. He was a Rivals Top 50 National QB recruit and a Max Emfinger First Team All-American sleeper at quarterback. He finished his prep career with 5761 career passing yards. Zac was thrust into a prominent role after Nevels' injury to become the most productive plebe quarterback in Army football history. His development in 2002 will pay dividends in 2003 and beyond, however, his future as the starting quarterback is far from a sure thing. He garnered 4 starts in 2002 and he finished with 89 completions in 184 attempts for 1039 yards. He had 5 TD tosses, but he also threw 9 interceptions. Not surprisingly, the inexperienced plebe got off to a rocky start, but he improved as the season progressed. He authored the second most productive quarterback game in Army football history when he threw for 353 yards and 4 TDs in a road loss at Houston. His other season highlight came against UAB when he engineered a long 4th quarter drive to give Army the lead against UAB, only to see that game slip away on a last play TD pass by UAB. Zac is an accurate passer, but he lacks the size and speed to be a consistent deep downfield passing threat or a running threat. Nevertheless, he has the skill, experience and leadership to move the Army offense.
Matt Silva, 6-1, 206 Incoming JR. Matt was a walk-on quarterback in 2001 who came from the pass happy California High School prep scene. He was overlooked as a Division I-A prospect in that talent rich state, but he made his mark early as a plebe walk-on competing against 4 other recruited plebe quarterback prospects. 2 ½ years later, he is the only one of that group still at quarterback, with two being switched to tight end, (Montagliani and Sherk), and two leaving the team or Academy, (Dixon and Nevels). He garnered 2 starts in 2002 after Nevels and Dahman were both down with injuries. He demonstrated a strong arm, a credible field presence, and some physical toughness. He finished the season with 32 completions in 80 attempts for 402 yards. However, he threw 7 interceptions and only 1 touchdown. Nevertheless, if given the opportunity in 2003, he could prove more than capable of leading the Army offense. His performance last spring was deemed better than or equal to Nevels by most observers. His biggest obstacle is overcoming the stigma of being a walk-on at a position that has several prominent recruits. With the departure of Nevels, Matt has the most practice experience in the program. He will make the most of this opportunity as the team prepares for 2003.
Laron Bybee, 6-2, 202, Incoming SO. Laron is a guy who is capable of making a major impact at the quarterback position. His stock could rise considerably with a strong spring showing. He has an exciting combination of size, speed, passing, and running ability. He authored a stellar prep football career in talent-rich Texas. He was 25-3 as a starter and passed for 4087 yards in his high school career. He also had 524 yards rushing. He is a total package player who most closely replicates the skills lost by the departure of Nevels. He saw game action 3 times in 2002 and was 4-8 passing for 69 yards. Reports indicate the Laron could make a major push for a significant role in 2003. Keep your eyes on this exciting prospect. One other point, Laron's brother is a USAFA graduate and his father is an Army veteran. Count on him to stay the course in his cadet career and make an impact on the gridiron.
Connor Crehan, 6-0, 208, Incoming SO. Connor is an exciting quarterback prospect from the tough New Jersey Catholic League who has built himself up considerably during the off-season. He has the size and talent to make a run for a prominent role in 2003. He is also the grandson of an Academy graduate. Connor had 1 game appearance in 2002, misfiring on his only pass attempt. During his high school career, he posted lofty numbers, passing for 1502 yards and rushing for 300 yards with a 10 yards per carry average. He is the type of quarterback who is capable of being successful in Army's pass oriented, sometimes option offense.
Army looks to be in fairly good shape at quarterback heading into 2003, especially considering the lack of experience at that position heading into 2002. Each of the four prospects appears to be capable of leading Army's offense. They will be joined in the fall by several plebe prospects. The starting position appears to be clearly up for grabs. Count on someone from this group to be the starter in 2003. Collectively, this group gives Army the on-field leadership and the durability that appeared lacking at times last season from the starter. If