Army Football 2011 Overview/2012 Prospectus

We have arrived at a crossroads in the Rich Ellerson era and this latest edition of option football that academy brass embraced and imposed starting in 2008. After finishing off and chasing out the last remnants of the Bobby Ross era that season, the powers that be hired RE with the promise that a commitment to option football would return Army football to the winning ways of the ‘80's and ‘90's.

End years of abuse at the hands of the other service academies, and perhaps help the Academy get a piece of the post season "pie" for the first time since 1996. Here we are now going into our fourth season, and we still cannot be certain we are heading in the right direction.

To review, Army came off an encouraging 2010 campaign where so many signs seemed to be pointing up – exciting and aggressive play on both sides of the ball, a winning record, a bowl victory, etc. – and came into a 2011 season with a seemingly easy schedule, loaded with MAC teams. Nearly all of Army's top skill position players returned on offense, and with a third year running RE's offensive and defensive schemes, it seemed at the very least that the team would build on its 2010 success, if not succeed it.

Three games into the season, there was reason to believe the team was even better than before, coming off a close, heartbreaking loss to San Diego State, and an upset victory over Northwestern. But then, the tracks fell off the tank. An unacceptable and unbelievable number of fumbles and a frightening lack of size on the defensive line made it impossible for Army to hold up against even the middling competition it faced. The result was a gigantic step backwards for the program as it came crashing down to a 3-9 finish.

It is with great trepidation that we approach the Army Football 2012 season. After a very promising 2010 campaign we felt that 2012 could be a break out year, but now, to say the least, we aren't so sure. Trent Steelman and Jared Hassin would be back for their senior years and Army would be much bigger and faster than their Armed Forces Bowl team, because of Rich Ellerson and staff's blue chip recruiting ability. Instead, this looks to be a season where if there is any increased size and speed, they have yet to arrive at West Point. Trent Steelman missed the Spring Game due to injury and Jared Hassin has been reduced to a C back as his back pain and continued fumbles reduced the staff's confidence in him to carry the ball. Additional departures from last year's team include WR Austin Barr, Davyd Brooks, LB Steven Erzinger, DL A.J. Mackey and LB Andrew Rodriguez.

With five returning starters from 2010, the defense had its struggles, giving up close to 30 points per game. Experience and size will be a factor for Army this season. The defensive line is vastly inexperienced with the five starters having only four games of total experience between them. The defensive line is also, once again, frighteningly small. The spring roster listed 16 players total at the defensive line positions. Only two of them were listed at 250 lbs. or more, and eleven of them were listed at 226 lbs. or LESS!!! There is some hope however. Junior Robert Kough will be back to anchor the group despite missing all of last season with injury. Pressure will fall on the linebackers and secondary to step up and slow down a myriad of different offenses that the team will face this season. Geoffery Bacon returns for his sophomore season at linebacker and will be called upon to be wherever the football is. Senior Josh Jackson will lead the secondary.

Our sources have indicated that there are two Samoan-born defensive line prospects at the prep school (although we now hear one may have been dismissed from the program) who figure to step right in and hopefully solve many of the problems Army has had recently with lack of size up front. Otherwise, it doesn't look like the team can expect to get very much help from this year's incoming recruiting class, ranked #121 out of 124 Division I teams by Scout.Com. Many of the head coach's supporters are not concerned by this alarming downturn in recruiting, as RE has a "reputation" for developing talent, and Army is believed to be non-competitive in recruiting blue chip talent, anyway. But we see NO basis for giving RE high marks for developing players since he has been here, as he spent his first two seasons coaching players that Stan Brock and Bobby Ross recruited. Their recruiting classes were rated much higher than this year's incoming class. With Brock's and Ross's players, RE had some success. Last season was the first one where the vast majority of the core players were his own recruits, and we saw how great that worked out. Isn't anyone else concerned that the quality of the recruiting classes has literally fallen through the floor since RE has been here?

This year's Spring Football was conducted in February, culminating with the Cadets playing their annual Black & Gold Game at Fort Benning, N.C. with 10,000 trainees filling the stands at Fred Dobey Stadium. This was a brilliant move by Boo and Coach Ellerson, as it put some life into a rather uneventful game. The team played in front of an enthusiastic crowd and Army may have picked up a few new fans in ACU. As mentioned earlier, Trent Steelman was out of the game, but the teams still managed to fumble the ball five times. If anything is to make this season a winning one, it has to be the elimination of fumbles. We continue to be puzzled as to why the fumbling continues to be a problem, and why the coaching staff seems unable to address the problem, even in the Spring game! It doesn't seem to matter who the quarterback is, who the center is, who the running backs are, who the opponent is. The constant with this offense in the RE era is the fumbling.

So now we come to the outlook for this coming season. Once again Army will play a MAC heavy schedule with Northern Illinois, Kent State, and Ball State at home, and Eastern Michigan on the road. This year's Championship subdivision (formerly 1-AA) patsy is Stony Brook, from the football "hotbed" of Suffolk County on Long Island, NY. BC, AFA and Temple come to Michie Stadium, while Army travels out to San Diego State, Wake Forest and Rutgers. Army-Navy returns to Philadelphia this year. On paper, this has to be the easiest schedule Army has ever played. There is not one team on this schedule that will be ranked in the top 50. There are seven home games. Even their service academy brethren are coming off disappointing seasons with major personnel questions. Yet we will be crossing our fingers and toes, praying daily and nightly, and thanking our lucky stars if Army can eke out six wins and a bowl appearance. If they stop fumbling all the time, and if these two prep school defensive linemen actually make a difference and tie up blockers so the linebackers and DB's don't get smashed on every running play, then the season can be success. Unfortunately, it seems a lot more likely that Army will continue to fumble away games, and their defensive front will continue to take a fearful beating at the hands of these below average teams, and we could be looking at yet another 3-9 season, or worse. Which way will it go? At what point will there be consequences for RE and his staff if we have yet another horrible season? Certainly the whole commitment to option football will have to be re-evaluated if we are looking at this a year from now and seeing that the program is even less competitive than it was under Bobby Ross.

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