Army Spring Depth Chart Review: Rover LB

Army was the first in the FBS to complete spring drills. ArmySports.com's Jim Lawler will review each Black Knight position to project a starter, a backup and a player to watch. Today he'll discuss the rover linebacker position.

ROVER
Starter: Thomas Holloway #29 Sr.
Back up: Addison Holstein #11 Jr.
Third String: Curtis Gardner #37 So.


The depth chart at Rover was impacted by two key injuries to sophomore Alex Meier (photo at left) and senior Justin Trimble. I'm positive that if both Meier and Trimble are healthy they will play ahead of those listed in front of them on the spring depth chart. Meier suffered a knee injury to his ACL against Navy that required surgery. He was unable to practice this spring but is recovering nicely and should be ready to play this fall. Last year Meier played in every game and started nine. His play seemed to improve each week. For the season he posted 71 tackles, made one sack, picked off a pass and returned it 65 yards against Eastern Michigan and recovered two fumbles. He became a starter at Rover after Justin Trimble and Thomas Holloway were ineffective. Meier has excellent instincts, good range and can tackle in the open field. Meier played safety in 2011 at the United States Military Academy Prep School and was named the Defensive MVP. If Fusilier-Jeffires doesn't return I wouldn't be surprised to see the staff use at Meier at Mike linebacker. If Alex is healthy and fully recovered from the injury he will start.

Justin Trimble was injured during spring practice and missed the Black and Gold game. He has earned a varsity letter in each of the past three seasons. He opened the season as the starting Rover against San Diego State but lost the starting job after he was struggled against the run. Trimble played in eleven games last fall. After Hayden Pierce was injured he ended up starting four games at SAM safety. Trimble finished the year with 26 tackles, two interceptions and he broke up five passes. He has the flexibility to be a SAM or Rover but also played Mike linebacker in 2011. Trimble is similar to his brothers, who played at West Point, in that he knows the game and is field savvy. Trimble possesses, at best, only average speed so he can be a liability in pass coverage down the field. Against Northern Illinois and Rutgers he was beat deep for touchdowns by faster receivers.

The actual posted spring depth chart has senior Thomas Holloway on top. Holloway is a fairly solid football player but he isn't very fast. Last fall he played in all twelve games. He started one game at Rover against Northern Illinois where he was ineffective and was benched in the second half. He was used at safety in 2011 and was second on the team with 76 tackles. Holloway was moved to Rover because he has below average speed and was a liability in space. Moving him to Rover kept him near the boundary and limited the space he needs to cover. I thought the move closer to the line of scrimmage would help him but he wasn't able to get off blocks against the run when used at Rover. Holloway ended the 2012 season with 23 tackles. He understands the game and has made some plays the last few years despite his limited athletic ability. Holloway seems to be a better player in space at safety but lacks the ideal speed and range at that position.

Junior Addison Holstein (6-2, 202) finally made it to the field this spring after the former direct admit missed most of his first two years with injuries. He ended the spring as backup on the depth chart but again that was due to Meier and Trimble being out. Holstein did demonstrate some skills but he looked rusty. There was one play where he twice missed tackling running back Terry Baggett on the same play. To be fair, Addison shouldn't be dismissed because of his inexperience. Holstein has the size, speed (4.52 speed in the forty-yard dash) and workout numbers (can bench press 325 pounds) you want in an Army Rover or SAM safety.

I was a little surprised to see sophomore walk-on Curtis Gardner (6-1, 185) listed as third-string on the depth chart. There were few other choices on the spring roster with so many injured players out and the fact fellow freshman Taylor Andrews left the program. Gardner is from a military family. He played on the JV team but I don't expect him to be a factor this fall from scrimmage.

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