Quarterbacks always seem the focus on a football team. Its unmistakable that Trent Steelman in his third year as starter is the face of Army football. This team reflects Steelman personality. It isn't very physically talent but is determined and resilient. The most noticeable improvement in Steelman own game is his physical development. Steelman is not only this team's leader but also one of its hardest worker in the weight room. That dedication is obvious as Trent seems noticeably faster and stronger running the ball. He still has that odd running style, like the cartoon Roadrunner, where his head leads his feet as if he's about to stumble. It may not be very pretty but it is effective. Steelman has rushed 109 times for 536 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and leads the nation in with 11 touchdowns by a quarterback. Steelman has demonstrated terrific leg strength. In the Northwestern victory he consistently moved the chains by breaking free and making key first downs.
Steelman usually does a very good job in reading the option but this season he's had more mistakes than in previous years. He has lost far too many fumbles. He had some miscommunication on the mesh with B-back Jared Hassin. A number of games he forced pitches that weren't there. Despite his mistakes Army's offense has improved. This team is ranked third in the nation in rushing and is averaging 26.8 points per game. Steelman struggled passing the ball the first four games. Since then senior Davyd Brooks and Austin Barr replaced the faster sophomores who started the first four games and Trent has completed eleven consecutive passes and threw two touchdown passes. Steelman on the season has completed 52.8 percent of his passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Last season Steelman has made excellent decisions to throw the ball away and has shown good pocket awareness. This year in losses against Northern Illinois and Ball State he threw two interceptions into coverage that broke the back of his team in both games. Trent Steelman lives up to his surname having started every game in his three years while setting a West Point record of 31 consecutive starts. Steelman is the most irreplaceable player on this team. If he didn't leave the San Diego State game with an injury and the Miami (Ohio) game with heat related cramps, Army would have won at least one more game.
Backup quarterback Max Jenkins has the respect of the coaches and his teammates. He is the perfect cadet; smart, knowledgeable and prepared. He's rushed six times for eight yards. Jenkins has completed 2 of 10 passes for 20 yards with one touchdown. Jenkins threw a few solid passes on the final drive against San Diego State that were dropped but in the end the drive imploded with him in charge. The reality is that when Jenkins replaces Steelman, Army experiences a huge drop off in play making ability at the quarterback.
Last season's offensive team MVP was B- back Jared Hassin. At the midway point in 2010, Hassin had rushed 80 times for 393 yards and has scored six touchdowns. The 6-3, 235 pound Hassin has battled with a sore back and isn't running with the same authority as last season. So far Jared has rushed 59 times for 287 yards (4.9 avg.) and scored only one touchdown. He wasn't been a factor in some games rushing for less than four yards a carry in three games .Jared rushed for over 59 yards just once this season as teams key on him and his back limits his burst through the holes. Unlike last season, he's been a nonfactor in the passing game with no catches. Army has benefited from the emergence of plebe backup Larry Dixon. Dixon has rushed 28 times for 123 yards (4.4 avg.) and scored one touchdown. He demonstrated his speed and power against Tulane with a 25-yard run after a short reception.
Dixon was the MVP at USMAPS last season. He has an explosive burst, is extremely physical and is difficult for one man to tackle. Third string fullback Hayden Tippet ran well late in the Tulane blowout (7 att., 37 yards) but isn't nearly as talented as Hassin or Dixon.
Slotback Malcolm Brown has battled through injuries this year. Brown has rushed 42 times for 324 yards. He averaged 7.7 yards a carry and scored a touchdown. Brown probably has the best hands on the team and is a weapon in the passing game. He caught a 45-yard touchdown pass against Miami (Ohio). Last year Rich Ellerson declared "Malcolm Brown is one of our best football players. "He is and Army needs to keep him in one piece. The other leading C-back is direct admit Terry Baggett. Baggett (10 att.,53 yards, 1 TD) started the year as third string A-back but has the speed to run the fly sweep. Like most direct admit tailbacks, Baggett is still adjusting to catching the pitch and learning how to block on the move. Trenton Turrentine saw playing time in the first three games (21 att. 98 yards, 4.7 avg. one td) before being sideline d with an injury. Turrentine is a strong downhill runner who runs hard once his shoulders are squared. Turrentine has inconsistent hands and needs to improve his ball handling on the pitch. Scott Williams (4 att. 18 yards) started the season playing for JV and has been moved up to varsity. This group has run the ball well but there have been too many fumbles.
When Raymond Maples joined the program in 2010 we mentioned in the incoming plebe article that Maples had the chance to be the best Army back in a long time. After a rather quiet first two weeks he's playing like the dominate player I saw at USMAPS in 2009. Maples set a personal single game rushing high in the win over Northwestern when he rushed for 95 yards. He surpassed that total the next two weeks when he rushed and has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the last three weeks. Maples is running with confidence. He is quick productive runner with tremendous vision; he has excellent feet, reads blocking well and runs to daylight. He has good acceleration in the hole but is not a true burner. He's finishing his runs, breaking tackles and has a good forward body lean to pick up extra yards. For the season Maples has rushed for 534 yrds (6.5 avg.) and 4 touchdowns. While he did have a costly fumble against Miami (Ohio), Raymond usually has good hands, can catch the ball and is a terrific blocker.
Jonathan Crucitti (105 rushing yards 4.8 avg.) is viewed as a jack-of-all trades by the staff. He understands his assignments and usually executes them well. He is a very versatile athlete with good ball skills and is a good blocker. Junior Kelechi Odocha (50 yards, 8.3 avg., 1 TD) has played well when used. Odocha is small but solidly built and has decent quickness. He was recently passed on the depth chart by plebe Stephen Fraser. Fraser was rewarded with a promotion for his outstanding play on the JV team. Fraser is quick with good speed; he's a north-south runner who can accelerate and always looks to turn the ball up the field. He catches the ball well and doesn't make many mistakes.
Wide Receivers B-
Since Army is a run oriented option team that runs the ball on 90 percent of its offensive plays. The first measure you judge Army wide receivers by is how well they block. On this front the Black Knights receivers have earned an ‘A'. The perimeter blocking has been excellent.
The pass catching part hasn't been as productive as hoped. Army opened the year with two new wide receivers as starters in sophomores Jared McFarlin and Anthony Stephens. McFarlin had an excellent debut when he caught 4 passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. Since that game he has caught just three passes. McFarlin hasn't been able to hang onto the ball in traffic but he has ability and size. Stephens (1 catch, 24 yards) is a good route runner and was open deep a number of times but Steelman never connected with him.
Through four games Steelman has completed only 32 percent of his passes with no touchdowns. Army replaced the sophomores with last year's slower but experienced senior duo of Davyd Brooks (4 rec., 95 yards, 23.8 avg., 1 TD) and Austin Barr (1 rec, 9 yards). It's worked; over the last two games Steelman has completed all eleven of his passes, throwing for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Talented plebe Chevaughn Lawrence (1 rec., 9 yards) has seen some playing time and blocked well. Patrick Laird made a nice 14 yard catch in traffic during the final drive against Miami (Ohio).
Offensive Line A
Army has rushed for over 300 yards a game every game this year and leads the nation in rushing. They've accomplished this feat despite having to replace three opening day starters on the offensive line due to injury. Offensive line coaches Gene McKeehan and Bill Tripp deserve a lot of credit for the high level of play of this group. Plebe Ryan Powis has assumed the center spot and don't expect him to lose it. Powis was the best player at USMAPS last year and has continued to improve. Powlis is 6-1, 265 and is very quick and explosive off the snap. Ryan is tough, competitive and has played well. Will Wilson replaced an injured Michael Kime at center before moving to right guard to replace another injured player, senior Joe Bailey. Robert Kava has been a pleasant surprise, playing both tackle and guard at a high level. Physical Frank Allen continues to be a rock of stability at left guard. Brad Kelly was a high school tight end and has demonstrated the ability to get to the second level to make his blocks.
Special Teams C
Army punter Chris Boldt has averaged 41.1 yards a punt with two punts inside the 20. Army's punt coverage has been outstanding. Army had a Kolin Walk (41avg.) punt blocked in the opener which was returned for a touchdown. The Black Knights have allowed only 17.5 per kickoff return .Inconsistent Alex Carlton has struggled with his accuracy again this year. Last year he was able to get on track and hit 11 consecutive field goals to close the year. This year he has hit just one of four field goal attempts and didn't connect until week five. Carlton has also missed two extra points. Eric Osteen has been a huge improvement over last year on kickoffs. Osteen has averaged 63.3 yards on kickoffs and has recorded seven touchbacks. The staff needs to stop having him directional kickoff. He's put two out of bounds in key situation giving the opposition the ball at the 40 in key spots. Kick returners Scott Williams (21.2 per KOR) doesn't have top end speed but he is quick, has great hands and does a nice job maximizing kickoff returns. Josh Jackson has averaged 4.1 yards on punt returns. He has reliable hands but hasn't had a lot of room the last few games.