Army Spring Depth Chart Review: OT
Starters: LT Nick Bennett #55 Jr. RT Justin Gilbert #60 So.
Co-Starters: LT Zach Reichert #75 Sr. RT Michael Kime #78 Sr.
Third String: LT Drew Hennessey #73 So. RT Dan Whitaker #64 Sr.
The Black Knights saw the dual retirements of offensive line coaches Gene McKeehan and Bill Tripp. They were the most experienced members of the staff. The offensive line has easily been the most productive, deepest and best performing area of the team the last two years under their direction. New offensive line coaches Todd Spencer and former USMAPS head coach Tom Sims take over the reins on the offensive line. Spencer works with the tackles while Simi works with the interior.
At both tackle spots the competition is wide open as players are listed as co-starters. At left tackle junior Nick Bennett and senior Zach Reichert are competing for the top spot. Bennett was a direct admit from Kentucky a few years ago. Bennett is 6-1, 238 pounds. He is quick, strong with good flexibility and balance. He has thinned down since R-day 2011 and that has improved his athleticism allowing him to get to the second level which is necessary in an option offense. He impressed this spring to move into a dead heat with Reichert after Zach missed sometime late in spring practice. Nick was awarded the Anthony Munoz Foundation Lineman of the Year award for Kentucky high school linemen after his senior year.
Reichert appeared in five games last year and made his first career start, against Navy, at left tackle. He was involved in the much discussed third-and-2 play near the goal line where he moved early and the officials didn't call it. Reichert really improved last year and blocked well against Navy. Reichert played guard much of the spring before being moved back to left tackle. He injured his shoulder late in a spring practice but should be ready for summer camp. This battle is still wide open.
Sophomore Drew Hennessy (6-4, 250) surprised me by moving up to third string left tackle this spring. Hennessy looks like a late bloomer. In 2011 he was a backup offensive tackle at the prep school. Last year he split time at tackle on the JV team. Drew has worked hard and it paid off this spring as he made a huge move up the depth chart. He is a tough, physical player who can move and is still filling out his frame.
At right tackle senior Michael "MoMo" Kime missed spring practice rehabilitating his injured knee. He suffered the ACL injury to his knee last year against Temple. This is the second consecutive year Kime had off season surgery. Kime was very consistent and was an excellent option tackle with terrific mobility before his injury. He started the first eleven games before missing the Navy game. Kime was been a key factor in the 2012 Army team setting school records as they averaged over 369 rushing yards per game last year. He's expected to make a full recovery from his knee surgery and play this fall.
Sophomore Justin Gilbert has looked impressive with Kime out. He was named co-starter at the end of spring practice. In our 2011 R-day report, ArmySports.com said that Gilbert was the best offensive lineman at the United States Military Academy Prep School the previous year. He had an excellent plebe season on the JV team where he played center and now he is back at the tackle position. Gilbert is 6-foot-3, and weighs 265 pounds. He has the mobility, good feet, balance and the agility Army needs in a triple option tackle. Justin has long arms and is very athletic for his size. He is able to get to the second level consistently to take out linebackers. Gilbert plays hard and really gets after opposing linemen until the whistle blows. If Kime makes a full recovery I wouldn't be surprised to see Gilbert moved and start at left tackle where he played at USMAPS in 2011.
Senior Dan Whitaker (6-3, 242) played on the JV as a freshman and has appeared in 23 games as a reserve the last two seasons. Whitaker was a member of Rich Ellerson's initial recruiting class that attended USMAPS in 2009. He has improved every year. Whitaker is a hard worker, moves well and does a nice job getting to second level. He has improved technically each year but isn't as good an athlete as the players ahead of him. Dan does know his assignments and is ready to play if called on by the staff.
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