Shields: Arrow pointing up from Army offense

In an exclusive interview with ArmySports.com Army offensive coordinator Ian Shields shares his thoughts on the state of the Black Knight offense after spring drills. Shields extols the progress made by some players while pointing out areas of needed improvement for others. Look inside for part I of this exclusive interview with Shields.

In his second season as offensive coordinator Ian Shields helped the Army Black Knights post their first winning season since 1996. Last season Shields revamped his offense from the double slot option offense to a modified Wing-T look. He introduced the "fly" sweep series which was very effective. Army did a great job with misdirection and mixing up the pitch and dive back with veer backfield sets at times.

The results of the transformation speak for themselves. Army's offense struggled in Shields inaugural 2009 season as offensive coordinator, scoring only 184 points. Last season his offense produced 346 points. Army is expected to return seven starters including all skill positions but needs to rebuild the offensive line.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ian and discuss the offense after spring practice. Shields felt the team had a productive spring. He was glad that they are able to use their indoor field house to finish early and without any serious injuries. Entering spring Shields biggest concern was the offensive line which is graduating four starters. By the end of the Black & Gold spring game the staff was "pleasantly surprised and really encouraged by the line's performance".

Junior Derek Bisgard had a tremendous spring at right tackle and won the starting job. Joe Bailey and Matt Villanti have a healthy competition going on at right guard. Shields states they are both going to play. The competition is so close that you can flip a coin over them. He says whoever doesn't start will back up both guard positions.

The lone returning starter, Frank Allen, was having a great spring until he injured his groin. Allen was held out of the Black & Gold scrimmage for precautionary reasons. Center Will Wilson play was a pleasant surprise for the staff. Senior Brad Kelly came away at left tackle as the probable starter. Senior Mike McDermott and sophomore Dan Whitaker are still in the mix at left tackle.

At wide receiver junior Justin Allen emerged as the best receiver according to Shields. In his opinion Allen is probably the most complete receiver on the team especially because of his effectiveness as a blocker. Shields says that Allen is easily the most physical receiver and has improved greatly as a pass catcher.

In discussing returning wide receiver starters Davyd Brooks and Austin Barr are players he feels are proven quantities. Shields knows what they are capable of, what they've done and hopes they can continue to improve.

When discussing talented sophomore Anthony Stephens Shields doesn't pull his punches, "We are waiting for the light to come on from a physical standpoint. He has to block in this offense."

Shields also mentioned Jared McFarlin as a player with ability. Shields describes MacFarlin as "a big kid, who catches ball well. McFarlin needs to get him stronger in lower half so he can hold up". McFarlin had a good spring but Shields believes Jared needs to improve physically to emerge as a factor.

At running back coach Shields raves about the hard work Raymond Maples has done this offseason in the weight room. Maples had a hard time staying healthy last year but the staff hopes that's behind him. Shields says Maples had a great spring and that he's faster and stronger. Shields commented on Maples.

"Maples is a complete player; he's an exceptional blocker, has great hands," said Shields. "He can run the ball so we're expecting big things out of him this year."

In part II Shields discuss strides made during the 2010 season and excitment over several yet un-named players coming up from the prep school. He also continues his discussion of the performance of several current players.

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