Army kicked off the fourth season of the Rich Ellerson era when spring practice began last Saturday. Spring practice opened with snow flurries falling outside as the team did a basic walk through at the Foley center in shorts and practice jerseys. The focus was on drills, proper techniques and fundamentals.
Players rotated in units between the indoor practice field and back to performing strength and conditioning work. Both Monday and Wednesday's practices were held in a similar fashion but shortened since it was a class day. Due to NCAA regulations Army's players have yet to put on their pads and have only had non-contact drills.
Regarding the focus of these early drills, head coach Rich Ellerson stated very bluntly, "Frankly, those guys need it very badly. We had the ball on the ground a lot last year. When we talk about the fundamentals, in some cases, I'm talking about our older guys. We need to either get them right or beat them out." The very early practice schedule, which starts around 7:00 a.m., has been well received by the staff and the players. With practice and training ending so early, the players can focus the rest of their day on their cadet responsibilities and academics.
There were a few notable roster moves. Junior defensive tackle Bobby Kough has returned to the program. Kough was featured by ArmySport.com as a player to watch last spring. He experienced an extremely difficult plebe year. He suffered from the effects of Beast Barracks and was sick early in the year. He missed most of spring practice with an injury. Kough's father tragically past away his plebe season and Bobby fell behind academically. He did not play last fall but now he's back on the roster. Kough, a 6 foot-3 inch 250 pound, junior played defensive end at prep school in 2009 but was moved inside on JV team his plebe year. He moves fairly well for his size and can be a factor at defensive tackle.
A position shift of interest on the updated roster is Jon Crucitti who played running back and has been moved to wide receiver. The move makes sense because he spent some time there during training camp in the past. With the depth at running back, Crucitti's all-around skills aren't used enough. Jon's excellent hands and outstanding blocking ability would be a plus on the perimeter at wide receiver. Since Crucitti plays baseball we won't see him at wide out until the summer camp.
I received a few emails about some players like wide receiver Jared McFarlin, starting right guard Matt Valenti and C-back Malcolm Brown not appearing on the early depth charts. McFarlin is back on the field. The others are rehabbing from ailments that should not affect their availability this fall. In Valenti's absence sophomore right guard Stephen Shumaker is taking snaps with the first team. Shumaker was a teammate of Ryan Powis on the offensive line at the United States Military Academy Prep School in 2010. The six foot, 280 pound Milford, Connecticut native is strong, explosive and surprisingly quick. He is very fast firing off the ball. Stephen has a short, fire hydrant type build that belies his athleticism. While most fans are asking for news on the rehab of newly elected captain Jarrett Mackey from his knee injury, his brother A.J. Mackey is not on the spring roster and is expected to miss most of spring practice for the second consecutive year. A.J. was hurt very late in the Army-Navy game.
Brian Cobbs is no longer on the roster and is participating on the track team like he did last spring. Cobbs was moved from C-back to cornerback last year and was listed as the backup on the final depth chart. It's unclear at this time if he will play football this fall.
On the positive front fullback Hayden Tippett, who will be entering his junior year this fall, has continued to improve. He ran well (11 attempts, 77 yards, 7.0 avg. 1 TD) in limited appearances demonstrating both power and strength last season. He's worked hard in the weight room and looks more explosive off the snap early in spring practice. Tippett's powerful build is very similar to former fullback Collin Mooney. He's been moved to second string B-Back with former starter Jared Hassin currently moving over to A-back behind Raymond Maples. Hassin may still see time at fullback but see head coach Rich Ellerson's comments regarding fumbles earlier in the article. Hassin is clearly being sent a message that if he continues to fumble, he won't play. Tippett should see a lot more playing time at fullback this fall.
Army Spring Practice- Week 1 Review
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