What's the hurry Army?

The Army Black Knights opened the 2011 season with a disappointing effort by losing in a blowout 49-26 loss to Northern Illinois last Saturday. The struggles of the inexperienced and undersized Army defense weren't a surprise against the Huskies potent offense. What was a surprise were the first half struggles the offense experienced.

It was interesting to see the changes Army's offensive coordinator Ian Shields made to the scheme. Army used a wishbone formation with two wide receivers much of the game.

Ian shields has shown himself to be an innovative coordinator not adverse to making changes. He moved up the coaching ranks running a spread option double slotback offense at Eastern Oregon, St. Mary's and Bucknell before joining Rich Ellerson at Cal Poly. Shields exciting high powered attack spread option attack featuring Ramses Barden, currently of the New York Giants, and averaged over 40 points per game his last two years at Cal Poly. In his inaugural season at West Point in 2009 he ran the same offense with freshman quarterback Trent Steelman. He decided to make some changes before the Army-Navy game that year. He had the backfield lineup in a half wishbone look with a Wing T like back in slot. This offense became the basic set in 2010 which saw the Black Knights offense nearly double its offensive output (2009 averaged 15.3 ppg. to 2010 averaging 26.6 ppg.). The staff liked the fact that in running the new fly sweep out of this formation in a direct handoff to the C-Back the football "disappears".

Last Saturday I was surprised to see Shield employ a wishbone backfield on so many plays. I have nothing against the wishbone. I became an Army football fan when my cousin attended West Point during the Jim Young era. Seeing the wishbone makes me feel young again. Okay not really, but it's an offense that was the genesis for many winning seasons under the Hall of Fame coach. Ellerson hinted at the move during our recent interview. It (the change) was frankly the ability to load at the first level and for now, of course, with what they've done (NCAA blocking below the waist rule changes) to block at the second level. I think using the wishbone is a good formation. What surprised me was to see Army run a no huddle attack out of the wishbone and their other sets.

The hurry up offense has been the rage for the last few years in college football. Auburn and Oregon are the two most successful college programs running the hurry up. Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn brought the hurry up from Tulsa and won a national championship last year. It was interesting the see Army employ the no huddle as Trent Steelman looked to the sideline for the plays. The concept is sound. It can allow the Army offense to take advantage of its conditioning by keeping the opponents defense on the field. It limits defensive substitution during long drives. No huddle has been employed before in an option offense. Navy started using it in the 2009 Texas Bowl when they crushed Missouri 35-13. Navy's offensive coordinator, Ivin Jasper, implemented it to take the responsibility of reading the defense out of quarterback Ricky Dobbs hands. Dobbs had struggled with his reads the two previous games. Navy used it at the beginning of the 2010 season before abandoning the idea.

I'm a big fan of offensive coordinator Ian Shields but the decision to use the wishbone with a no huddle offense at least against Northern Illinois made the first half disaster on defense so much worse. Army, in my opinion, needs to limit possessions not try to lengthen the game. The defense is undersized and the offense needs to limit its time on the field. Obviously it was only one game against a talented team where everything possible went wrong. It will be interesting to see if Army's hurry up option approach works as the season progresses.

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