Shields was also impressed by last year's direct recruit Jonathan Crucitti. According to Shields, Crucitti offers position flexibility, is a very good blocker and played a key part in the victory over North Texas last year. Shields calls Crucitti an "unsung hero and an ‘X' factor for us."
At "C "back he believes Malcolm Brown is a great all around player and one the best football players in the program. He says backup Brian Cobbs is a good football player with the ball in his hands but isn't on the same level as Brown blocking or catching the ball. Junior Brian Austin played well this spring. Shields states that Austin is on Cobbs' heels but Cobbs is still a better runner.
I asked about discussing some players who he thought emerged this spring but are not yet on the radar of Army fans. Coach Shields mentioned sophomore wide receiver Rob Wright who he says had an excellent spring. According to Shields, "No one ever talks about him but he runs well." Shields says "Wright made some plays with the ball in the air. He had some rep with the big boys and made good on them."
Shields also praised senior quarterback Jimmy Reitter for his improved play.
"He's on depth chart (third) and he has some skills throwing and running the ball," said Shields. "He competed this spring. He got the team in the right play, took care of the football, which has been an issue with him. I would be comfortable with him out there."
Overall Shields's post spring practice impression is that he feels the arrow still pointing up despite a more difficult schedule this fall. He cites the fact that the Black Knights were one of the most improved offenses in the country last season. (Scoring offense in 2009 ranked #117, in 2010 ranked #60). Shields is proud of the fact that "We also made plays in the clutch when we had to, our third down (made 44.6%)and 4th down (63.2%) conversions over course of year were right up there with the best in football." He mentioned that while the team did some things very well there is certainly room for improvement. Shields adds, "I think we're going to make some strides and take another step forward and I'm excited about it."
I asked coach Shields if he had any concerns about the decline in offensive production the last three games of last season. After averaging 31 points per game over the initial ten games, Army averaged just 12 points per game over the final three contests. Shields wasn't concerned about the teams poor showing against Notre Dame. He said that performance was more of a result of injuries which limited what the Black Knights could do. He said that if they play like they did against SMU in the bowl game without any penalties and committing no turnovers they're usually going to win.
Shields is not able to discuss new recruits by name joining the program until R-day. He did mention that he is looking forward to some of the players the staff has recruited and targeted to play in system joining the Black Knights. Ian acknowledges recruiting at West Point is different.
"Even when they do show up you have to be patient," said Shields. "It's different because of plebe year. You don't see how guys are going to present till even the yearling [sophomore] or cow [junior] years. You're going to have to hedge your bets . You have to wait and be patient with guys but we're excited about young class coming in here. The prep school is going to be here. [The prep school is moving from its Fort Monmouth, N.J. post to a site recently built at West Point] It just going to get better and better. If we can keep stacking the Ws (wins) then recruiting gets easier obviously. "
I mentioned the play he called very early in the bowl game against SMU when he ran a great misdirection against SMU. SMU's defense played the Black Knights the way they played Navy with the free safety covering the pitch back. Shields called a counter that caught them flatfooted and Pat Mealy ran for 22 yards. I said that play should would been a touchdown if Mealy had any speed. Shield mentions, "that stuff shows up all over the tapes. When we have some of the players we've recruited on the field it could get exciting."
PART I | Subscribe to ArmySports.com
Arrow pointing up for Army offense: part II
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