Army Preseason Camp Notes: Week 2

Earlier in the week Rich Ellerson joined the plebes in the long march back from Camp Buckner to West Point. A few days later the Army defense suffered a major setback. Junior cornerback Antuan Aaron, who was a three year veteran and expected to be the boundary cornerback this season, suffered a career ending back injury.

This was a huge loss to a secondary which had already graduated both safeties, lost Richard King to an off field incident and saw sophomore Casey Hughes, who played well last spring, leave the program.

Even before Aaron's injury the staff had moved junior Justin Allen from wide receiver to cornerback. Allen had played very well this past spring at receiver and excelled at blocking. He was expected to challenge for a starting spot this summer. The first week of practice Allen, who was never a natural pass catcher, did a Roberto Duran "Hands of Stone" routine dropping far too many passes. The staff decided to move Allen back to cornerback where he played on the JV team as a plebe. Allen runs a 4.55 forty yard dash and is very physical. Allen has the athleticism to play cornerback but is behind the others since he hasn't played the position in nearly two years.

With the conclusion of Beast Barracks the football roster has been updated. A few new freshman faces appear. Jay Brownfield appeared on the roster as a defensive back and is being tried at boundary cornerback. Brownfield was an honorable mention All-State quarterback and an accomplished wrestler from Columbus, Indiana. Brownfield attended the United States Military Academy Prep School last year and appeared on the roster as a linebacker but never played due to an injury. He has been banged up a little this summer but he is currently practicing with the A team.

Walk-on plebe quarterback Parker Hite is a transfer student from Newberry College in South Carolina. He was a redshirt freshman last fall. He ended up starting several games as quarterback last season and was expected to start this fall. However, as the son of an Army veteran he decided he wanted to transfer to West Point. Recently elected South Carolina's freshman congressman, Jeff Duncan, had one slot left and nominated Parker. His father, Davy, is a world renowned champion bass fisherman. Last season Hite played in five games and started two games. He completed 57 of 97 passes (58.8%) for 665 yards while throwing five touchdowns against 6 interceptions. Hite also ran for an additional 96 yards and scored three touchdowns.

The week opened with Monday's practice focused solely on special teams after the morning walk back from Camp Bruckner. Kicker Alex Carlton looked in midseason form as he hit all three of his attempts from 42 yards. His backup Eric Osteen hit two of three attempts from the same distance. Holder Kolin Walk demonstrated excellent hands fielding two low snaps. Brian Cobbs and Raymond Maples were the first team kick off returners backed up by Malcolm Brown and Brian Austin. Josh Jackson and Jonathan Crucitti handled punt returns. Excellent special teams player senior Josh Jones is still not recovered from his off season knee surgery and will not return until midseason at the earliest.

Mike linebacker Nate Combs was limited early in the week by injuries and had better be careful or he'll be Wally Pipped by incoming plebe Geoffery Bacon. Bacon was the defensive player of the year last season at the United State Military Academy Prep School playing Mike linebacker. Bacon is a 6-2, 205 pound player and was a dominate defender at USMAPS. Army co defensive coordinator Chris Smeland mentioned before camp opened that Bacon was one of the 4-5 defenders from the prep school he planned to give serious reps to see what he could offer. Bacon is a terrific athlete with speed, instincts quickness and agility. Bacon runs a 4.56 in the forty and has sideline-to-sideline range that a Mike linebacker in the double eagle flex needs. I'm not sure if Geoffery will win the starting job but he will probably make the two deep ahead of last year's backup Kingsley Ehie. In my opinion Bacon has the ability to emerge as an impact player in the coming years.

The sophomore wide receivers have collectively stepped up their games with senior Austin Barr still recovering from an injury he sustained in the bowl game against SMU. Early in the week offensive coordinator Ian Shields might have experienced flash backs to his Cal Poly days when Jared McFarlin looked like the second coming of Ramses Barden out jumping starting cornerback Josh Jackson to snare a pass. McFarlin is 6-foot-5 and was a player we mentioned this spring to watch. He has good hands and speed and has benefited from a year in the weight room.

Anthony Stephens continues to catch everything throw his way. Stephens made a great diving touchdown catch on a pass from Max Jenkins early in the week. Anthony is the best route runner on the team and if he can improve his blocking he has the ability to make an impact in the passing game. E.J. Tucker has been the biggest surprise. Tucker was tried at slotback this spring but has played himself into the mix at receiver this summer. Tucker hauled in a 30-yard touchdown from quarterback Max Jenkins in Saturday's scrimmage. Tucker has only average speed but has really improved in all phases.

Offense ruled the day in this Saturday's scrimmage with the Army offense dominating the defense at the point of attack. The secondary made some plays in drills with Reggie Nesbitt returning an interception 50 yards for a touchdown. Cornerback R.J. Spiedel had an interception and a nice return. Steelman had a 29-yard touchdown run to open the game. The Black Knight defense struggled getting off of blocks and at times gave ground blocking the linebackers inside out pursuit. The Army first string offense consistently averaged five yards a carry against the second string defense. The defensive front continues to be a major concern in my eyes.

With reality shows the rage on television the Army-Navy classic was added to the list when CBS and Showtime announced a documentary series on the lead up to the game. Film crews will be embedding with the teams. The show titled "A Game of Honor." will incorporate footage and interviews leading up to the game and the results. It will air on Dec. 21. The film crews were at practice this week. The partnership between CBS sports and Army football has been a huge improvement over the previous relationship with ESPN when Army games were often difficult for fans to find on television.

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