Who is Army's Most Important Player?

It is the same every year and at every level of the game. Fans who have been waiting for months all the way through the dog days of summer are finally amping themselves up for football season. Then, suddenly, that anticipation changes to a feeling of crushed expectations as the team's most vital player is lost.

Now this loss could be for a variety of reasons. LSU for example just lost Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu for the season (maybe forever) because he can't shake his pot habit. Penn State lost tailback Silas Redd to USC as part of the Jerry Sandusky fallout. In 2008 the New England Patriots lost Tom Brady for the season after a Bernard Pollard hit blew out the future Hall of Famer's ACL. Basically, it can happen to anyone.

So, with that being said, who is the player Army can least afford to lose if they are to make a bowl game at the end of the year?

Defensive standouts were few and far between in 2011, which is what you might expect from a team which finished 3-9 despite rushing for almost 350 yards per game. One of the biggest issues was that many players were either out of position or forced into the lineup too early, both traits which should be sorted this year with improved depth.

Of all the defensive players the one who most stands out as irreplaceable is sophomore linebacker Geoffery Bacon. Bacon didn't even start until the last five games last fall, but still finished third on the team with 60 tackles. Though he is a little undersized Bacon has great speed and a desire to make a play which cannot be taught. In the Vanderbilt game last year he put up 13 tackles and returned a fumble 70 yards for a touchdown. Add in the fact that he only figures to get better the next three years and you have a player who is a candidate for the title of most important on the squad.

In truth though the majority of sheer talent on the Army squad is on offense. When the option attack is working properly it is deadly, and one of the most valuable cogs in the Black Knight machine is Raymond Maples. The junior running back rushed for 1,066 yards in 2011 at an astonishing average of 7.3 yards per carry. That figure set a new record at a school which has not been short of outstanding running backs down the years. It can be argued however that Maples is just a very good player in a system, and that one of the other running backs would be able to pick up the slack if he went down.

Which leads us directly to the player which it has been proven cannot be replaced if injured, quarterback Trent Steelman. It is not a sexy or unexpected choice, but Steelman is without doubt the Black Knights' most important player this season. In an option offense the quarterback is always going to be missed if he goes down, but the sheer gap in quality between Trent and his backups has been shown to be immense.

Steelman is the only quarterback in school history to rush for 2,000 yard and pass for 2,000 yards in a career, and without him last year the Army passing game completely disappeared. Certainly Army is never going to be confused for a Mike Leach's former Texas Tech team through the air, but on his day Steelman at least makes that threat viable. Add in his unerring ability to make plays in the option game and it becomes very obvious who Army can ill afford to lose as the fall progresses.

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