Army Spring Football- Week 3 Recap

The Army Black Knights continued their spring football practice this week with four sessions. This past Monday and Wednesday the team had limited contact practices that focused on positional drills and teaching.

On Friday the team practiced without any contact. On Saturday the offense and defense squared off in a controlled scrimmage that pitted the offense against the defense in structured down and distance situations. Once again I've listed all the players in the notes below by the class year they'll be entering this fall to provide a better perspective of this year's team and to avoid confusion.

This week's scrimmage saw most starters see limited reps; they were held out of most contact drills. Jared Hassin and Raymond Maples saw very limited action while Malcolm Brown and Brian Cobbs didn't play at all. Cobbs's reason was that he competed with the Army track team in 60 meter dash this weekend. Running in the IC4A championships Cobbs ran a 7.10 in his heat finishing last among the 34 sprinters that competed. The staff seemed to be in evaluation mode as they looked at certain players in different positions. James Holland, who was recruited as a wide receiver, has moved to slotback. Junior Kelechi Odocha saw a lot of time this week at C back. Senior CeDarius Williams and junior Dan McGue split snaps at B back this week.

On the offensive line Joe Baily has pushed to reestablish himself at guard. Baily won the starting job in 2009 only to lose it after three games. Derek Bisgard, a 6-1, 252 junior who was converted from defense last year has been very impressive this spring. Fellow tackle sophomore Dan Whitaker (6-3, 250), who played on the JV last year, has moved up the depth chart during practice. Shelby Jackson, after playing defensive line last year and center at the prep school, has impressed with his strength and athleticism but is still learning how to play tackle after being moved there a few weeks ago.

Austin Barr's injury, which caused him to miss spring practice, might be a Wally Pipp moment for him. If you remember the story, Wally Pipp was the New York Yankee first baseman who took a game off because of an injury and lost his starting spot to a rookie first baseman named Lou Gehrig who started the next 14 years. Among the receivers, sophomore Anthony Stephens has seen most of the playing time with the first team in place of Barr. Stephens is 6-2, 190 and a smooth route runner with sure hands and is pushing for a starting job.

Senior wide receiver Justin Allen is also in the mix and is having a very good camp. Allen made a terrific catch in Saturday's scrimmage. Allen is 5-10, 179 and seems to have finally found a home at wide receiver after being tried at both cornerback and slotback. Sophomore EJ Tucker (5-11,205) from Marlboro, New Jersey played on the JV team last fall and had his best showing since he came to West Point. He scored two touchdowns in the scrimmage Saturday. Tucker was originally recruited as a wide receiver by Stan Brock but saw time as a linebacker and safety on the prep team. Tucker runs sprints on the Army track team but is actually more quick than really fast.

The staff has looked at other receivers giving playing time to sophomore Robert Wright, Patrick Laird and Jared McFarlin. Wright is a 6-2 180 possession receiver from Tennessee who has impressed and played well in Saturday's scrimmage. Local New York natives, sophomore wide receivers Patrick Laird and Jared McFarlin who showed some promise last summer, have struggled to create separation and make any consistent plays so far this spring.

On the defensive side of the ball a number of backups are also receiving the bulk of the playing time. With overachieving junior Ty Shrader out with an injury the free safety battle is currently between two sophomore players, Tyler Dickson and Thomas Holloway. Dickson, who was the prep school's defensive MVP in 2009, is probably the most talented of the free safety candidates. Dickson is 6 foot, 195 pounds with 4.6 speed but needs to become more consistent. Holloway is a 5-11, 190 pound safety who captained his Oak Mountain high school football team. The Alabama native Holloway originally committed to The Citadel before deciding to play FBS football instead with Army. Holloway is a fine athlete who is a smart, aware player with good range. Holloway, a direct admit in 2010, was named his high school's team's MVP and selected to the All-Region team in 2009. Holloway posted 61 tackles, had three sacks and broke up five passes last year for Oak Mountain. Holloway isn't as naturally talented as Dickson, in my opinion, but seems to have very good instincts and reads plays well.

On the defensive line some of the players expected to assume lead roles have been out with injuries. Junior AJ Mackey who is expected to be the nose tackle position had surgery on his hand and has been held out this spring. Brian Zalneraitis has seen an increase in playing time. Zalneraitis is an undersized (6-2, 220) sophomore lineman from Round Rock, Texas. The staff switched junior Tom Houser from offensive tackle to defense this spring. Houser is 6-3, 240 and adds depth to the thinnest position on the team.

A couple of interesting prospects up front on the interior defensive line are sophomores Kyle Maxwell and Shane Finnan. Maxwell is a 6-5, 220 terrific all-around athlete who played football, basketball and track in high school. Maxwell was more highly regarded tight end recruit his senior year and didn't play much on the defensive side. Maxwell shows a good burst off the ball but needs to improve his technique, watch his pad level, learn the position and get bigger. The sophomore Finnan is an active player, who like Maxwell probably won't make an impact this fall, but if he can get bigger and stronger can possibly provide depth by his junior and senior year. Finnan recorded 100 tackles his senior year in high school. Finnan knows how to play the position but even by current Army standards he's undersized. Sophomore Victor Ripley, who impressed Rich Ellerson last summer before missing the season with shoulder injury, hasn't done much and appears to have not moved up the depth chart like expected.

On the recruiting trail Rich Ellerson added an exciting prospect late in the process when running back Terrence Baggett committed recently. Baggett is a two sport star who last year rushed for 1,933, averaging almost 12 yards a carry, while scoring 32 touchdowns for Whitney Young High School in Chicago, Illinois.

The Spring game will match the offense and defense in a controlled scrimmage that will focus on game situations. The game will be played this Wednesday March 9th at 6:00 PM. Follow ArmySports.com for our continuing spring practice coverage.

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