Meet the new Black Knights: LB

ArmySports.com continues to review this year's incoming freshman class by position. The Black Knights will have to replace perennial starter Steve Erzinger at Rover. This is the one position on the team where there are more direct admits (four) than incoming players from the United States Military Academy Prep School (three). Look inside to meet Army's outstanding group of new linebackers.

Tyler McLees is a 5-11, 215 pound linebacker who played Mike linebacker last year at the United States Military Academy Prep School. He is a graduate from St. Anthony's in Melville, New York. It is the same school that produced former Army football captain and linebacker Frank Scappaticci. His game is similar to Scappaticci in that Tyler is a big effort player who can fill a run gap. His senior year he produced 136 tackles and two sacks. McLees earned All-Long Island and All-State honors.

McLees had a huge game against RPI JV leading the team in tackles and making a number of big hits. In the King's College game Tyler helped USMAPS post a shutout win as the defense held Kings to less than 100 yards of total offense. Against Milford Academy he returned an interception for a touchdown. Two weeks later against Globe he posted a sack and a number of big hits. On the road against FDU JV he made four tackles including two for losses before head coach Tom Simi cleared the bench in the blowout win. McLees made nine tackles, forced two fumbles and delivered a bone crushing sack against Columbia JV. In the victory over Navy Prep he played a huge role in slowing down NAPS star fullback Chris Swain leading the USMAPS defense in a come from behind victory.

McLees is a tough, intense, competitive and physical linebacker. He's definitely a football player but I'm not sure if he's a good fit at Mike linebacker. In the flex defense the Mike linebacker has to cover a lot of ground and play inside out. McLees lacks the foot speed to get to all the plays in the alley. He's more of a run plugging between the tackles type of inside linebacker in my opinion. Tyler plays more like a linebacker from the Bob Sutton era. I think his future may be at bandit, whip or maybe as a three technique tackle with his hand on the ground. He's a good player but the question will be to find his best position. McLees chose Army over an offer from Bryant.

Brandon Fusilier Jeffries is the son of former Houston Oiler Pro Bowl wide receiver Heywood Jeffries. Fusilier Jeffries is a talented player who played Rover and some SAM safety last fall at the United States Military Academy Prep School. He played defensive back and linebacker in high school and earned All-District honors. In high school Fuslier-Jeffries played a hybrid linebacker/safety position which is similar to the Army Rover position. Brandon, like so many of Rich Ellerson's recruits, ran track in high school. He ran a 50.49 time in the 400 meters and was a member of the relay team.

Fusilier Jeffries's became more comfortable and played better as the season progressed at USMAPS. He played well in the wins over Globe Institute and Valley Forge. Fusilier Jeffires had a huge game with seven tackles, including three tackles for a loss and made a fumble recovery in the shutout victory over FDU JV. On one tackle he lit up the FDU JV running back in the backfield. Against Columbia JV he made 4 tackles, one for a loss, before leaving the game with shoulder injury. He returned the next game for the Reasoner Trophy battle against Navy Prep. Brandon was the defensive hero when he tackled Navy's running back inside the 5-yard line on the final drive of the game to secure the win. Brandon Fusilier Jeffries has a thin frame but is well built and runs well. He hustles and is a good athlete with range. He likes to hit, doesn't miss many tackles and can drop into coverage against receivers or running backs.

Taylor Andrews saw playing time at Rover for the United States Military Academy Prep School. Andrews is a 6-2, 195 pound player from Kaneland high school in Illinois where he played wide receiver and defensive back. His senior season he caught 25 passes for 350 yards and scored three touchdowns. He also ran 17 times for 214 yards and two scores. In addition to football he excelled in track and finished fifth in Illinois high school state finals in the 110M hurdles.

Last fall at USMAPS he picked off a pass against RPI JV and returned it for a touchdown. In the Globe Institute game he intercepted another pass near the sidelines. Andrews is an average athlete who competes but needs to get stronger. He is rather thin and not very big or physical. Andrews often has trouble getting off blocks to make tackles. He's not much of a factor against the run, however, he can drop into coverage and reads pass plays pretty well. He has solid straight line speed but gave up a few long receptions in coverage. He needs to spend time in the weight room to improve his strength and add a few pounds of muscle to become a factor down the road.

The Black Knights have four linebackers that are arriving direct from high school. Greg Bender played linebacker and running back for Dawson Bryant high school in Ohio. Bender is an undersized, active linebacker who flies to the ball. The 6-0, 205 pound Bender has 4.6 speed and has surprising strike ability for his size. Bender will probably compete at rover and possibly strong safety. Greg was named second team All-State in Ohio at linebacker. He also played on offense rushing for 974 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Based on his off season camp reports he needs to improve his upper body strength.

Kyle Fleming (6-0, 215) was a middle linebacker for Waimea High School in Hawaii. Fleming is a strong, aggressive player who plays faster than his listed forty yard dash time. Fleming benched press over 300 pounds at a high school combine. On offense Kyle played tight end. He is athletic and can move despite not being stop watch fast. He chose Army over a host of offers from Colorado School of Mines, Montana Tech, University of Hawaii, Stetson University and Bentley University.

Another linebacker named Kyle is joining the Long Gray Line. Kyle Ricciardi (6-1, 220) is a First Team All-New York state linebacker from nearby Croton Harmon high school where the local product played both linebacker and guard. He was a team captain last season when he recorded 112 tackles and posted five sacks. As a junior he had a better year when he made 124 tackles, had 7 1/2 sacks, forced 2 fumbles and recovered one. He started in the New York All-Star game. Ricciardi is an instinctive and reactive Mike linebacker. He plays hard and competes. He is a solid, productive wrap up tackler who always seems to be around the ball. Kyle isn't especially fast and needs to get stronger to develop into a starter down the road.

Alex Waugh (6-0, 180) is a direct admit recruit those father, Bill, attended West Point. Waugh played safety at Leavenworth, Kansas. He recorded three interceptions and made 81 tackles last season. Alex was a key player in helping what was a hapless high school program make the state playoffs for the first time in 31 years. Waugh earned second team All-League for his efforts. Alex Waugh will probably be tried initially at the Rover spot.

Next: A look at the incoming defensive backs.

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