Army spring practice schedule was altered this week with Monday's President's Day holiday. The team practiced on Tuesday, Thursday and scrimmaged on Saturday. Tuesday's practice opened with a 15 minutes high impact weight training session before practicing at the Foley Center. This was the first time the players wore pads this spring. Practice featured special teams units and then players broke out in specialized one-on-one drills. On the defensive side the players practiced stripping the ball from ball carriers. This was a skill that was noticeably missing from the defense last year after being very successful forcing turnovers the previous two seasons under Ellerson. The players were matched up in one on one tackling drills and surprisingly the quarterbacks participated. During receivers against defensive backs drills both sides of the ball showed rust as there were too many poorly throw passes and too many dropped balls by the receivers.
One wide receiver that has so far played well and moved to the top of the depth chart is local product
Patrick Laird. The 6-3, 222 pound junior to be saw spot duty last year as a tight end in an unbalanced look. Laird is a hard worker in the gym and has added almost thirty pounds since graduating from high school He made one tough catch late in the game near the sidelines for a first down last year late in the game against Miami of Ohio. Laird is the strongest wide receiver on the club and is the best blocker which is the most important trait for a wide receiver in an option offense. Patrick uses his size well, will catch the ball in traffic and has excellent hands. Catching the ball cleanly has been an issue with many of the Black Knight receivers the last few years.
After practice Black Knight head coach Rich Ellerson told Sal Interdonato of the Times-Herald Record, "You'd like a wide receiver to maybe run better, but the truth is he's (Laird) as tough of an individual as we have on our team. He's probably as good as anybody that we've got as far as winning the fight for the ball, and he's as good as anybody we have as a blocker." Ellerson continued, "He's the guy. Let's see if anyone is tough enough to take that job away from him. We wish he ran a little faster but he's not slow. The truth is our fast guys don't run by a lot of people. As long as you are going to be in a fight for the ball, I think I want Packy (Patrick) in it."
Patrick played at Monroe-Woodbury high school in New York with Jared McFarlin. It looks like they will not have the opportunity to team up again. McFarlin started early last season but suffered a concussion and struggled with other injuries. He lost the starting job. McFarlin was held out of some early practices this spring, dropped off the depth chart and this week he left the team. McFarlin no longer appears on the roster. It's unfortunate since Jared had the size and ability to help at receiver if healthy.
Thursday's practice started again at seven in the morning in full pads. The practice started with special teams drills. Afterwards the team moved to different areas as the offensive and defensive players matched up in very physical match-up tackling drills. It was interesting that the Army quarterbacks also took part in these drills again. There was a real focus on passing drills. The quarterbacks practiced throwing both dropping back and on the move. Wide receivers E.J. Tucker and Chevaughn Lawrence both had nice practices. The 6-4 Lawrence was Angel Santiago's go-to receiver at USMAPS in 2010.
On Saturday the team practiced for two hours inside the Foley Athletic Center. Practice began with special teams, offense and defensive drills by different units. After those drills the Army defense matched up against the Army offense which used different spread, I-formation, Run and Gun and Pro set looks that the defense would see during the course of a season. Wide receivers, Lawrence and Anthony Stephens played well. Sophomore Michael Hudson made a pretty over the shoulder catch on a fade route and did a great job of keeping his feet in bounds. Strong safety Hayden Pierce out leaped Stephens to record an interception during passing drills. Some ArmySports.com users had emailed us and asked if Pierce had been moved to linebacker. Currently the answer is no. The official army sports web site has mislabeled him as a linebacker since he joined the last season. However, in the double eagle flex the rover, strong safety and in some cases the middle linebacker spots can be considered interchangeable in regards to the type of athlete that could be used in those roles. In discussing changing roles, Tyler Dickson has been moved from free safety to boundary cornerback to see how he handles it. There is no word yet if he will stay yet at cornerback. Saturday's practice concluded with the Black Knights matching up offense against defense in their usual systems. Place kicker Eric Osteen connected on one of two field goal attempts during these drills.
A fan emailed me asking why Matt Dabeck wasn't mentioned in ArmySports.com signing day recruiting recap on wide receivers despite being listed in some recruiting recaps as an Army commit. Dabeck is from Leavenworth, Kansas and was a teammate of Army safety recruit Adam Waugh. While both Waugh and Dabeck are West Point bound, Matt is a sprint football recruit. Some sprint players do occasionally add weight and try their hand with the varsity but Dabeck isn't a recruit for the varsity. Follow @ArmySports
Army Spring Practice- Week 2 Review
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