Has Phil Steele lost his edge?

I've always been a fan of Phil Steele's annual college previews. Steele's magazine was the most comprehensive and informative preseason previews for fans of service academy football teams. I was more than a little surprised when I saw Phil Steele's midseason All-Independent teams selections.

I've always been a fan of Phil Steele's annual college previews. Steele's magazine was the most comprehensive and informative preseason previews for fans of service academy football teams. I was more than a little surprised when I saw Phil Steele midseason All-Independent teams selections. The Independent teams are comprised of players from Notre Dame, BYU, Army, Navy, New Mexico State, Idaho and Old Dominion. Steele selected three Army players to the first team. On first team All-Independent offense he selected running back Terry Baggett, defensive end Bobby Kough and safety Shaquille Tolbert. Steele's midseason All-Independent second team had fullback Larry Dixon, guard Steve Shumaker on offense. On defense his second team listed rover Thomas Holloway and defensive end Mike Ugenyi. Let's look at the choices.

First team All-Independent running back Terry Baggett is a no brainer. He missed significant portions of his first two years with injuries. This year Terry has stayed healthy and fulfilled his potential. He has emerged as an impact offensive player. Baggett is slashing, cutback, runner with excellent vision who is able to make the first man miss.

Defensive end Bobby Kough was a curious selection. Bobby hasn't played as well this season as he did the end of last year. He had very rough games against Boston College and Ball State. He is still Army's best defensive lineman but if he didn't make either team it wouldn't have surprised me.

SAM safety Shaquille Tolbert (35 tackles, INT, FF) is a total mystery selection. Shaq has some ability and has made a few plays but he is experiencing the growing pains of being a first year starter. Tolbert lacks deep recovery speed and overall coverage skills. He's struggled in space when opposing team spread out the Black Knights defense. He is unable to run with and cover slot receivers. I don't believe he should be on either team at all. On the other hand I would have selected plebe cornerback Josh Jenkins to the All-Independent team. He should have made the team with 17 tackles, two interceptions, six passes defensed and a forced fumble. Jenkins is a terrific athlete and the best cornerback Rich Ellerson has recruited since he arrived at West Point. He is very quick with excellent feet and the ability to redirect smoothly in coverage. He makes plays on the ball and has matched up well athletically when he's on the field.

On the second team I totally agree with Phil Steele midseason all-Independent second team selection of Larry Dixon. Larry has run for 518 yards, six touchdowns and averaged over 7.5 yards per carry. The slimmed down Dixon has swore off his favorite snack pop tarts and has been able to carry his speed when he breaks free. Dixon has touchdown runs of 71-yards against Ball State and 80-yards versus Boston College. Dixon had been run down from behind on those type of long running plays the previous two seasons.

Offensive guard Steve Shumaker is a worthy selection from the nation's best running team. At the same time center Ryan Powis is the better player. When Powis, and Shumaker for that matter, were outplayed against Wake Forest's All-ACC nose tackle Nikita Whitlock we saw how important the quality play Powis has provided at center makes Army's triple option run smoothly. The Black Knights have rushed for over four-thousand yards the last two years with Powis at center. When Powis plays the Black Knights offense, over the last two years, has averaged 27 points per game. In the three games he missed they averaged only 14.7 points a game. Shumaker deserves his second team slot but I would argue that Powis should be on the first team. Left tackle Momo Kime battled through being dinged up a bit earlier in the year and has played very well the last month. He deserved second team consideration in my opinion.

Phil Steele midseason All-Independent team second team defense featured Rover Thomas Holloway. The Army captain deserves this recognition. Holloway has played well at Rover after struggling initially with the move from safety his junior year. Having Holloway play Rover close to the boundary allows his lack of speed to be mitigated by the smaller space he needs to cover. Thomas's instincts and ability to read plays are first rate. He leads the team in tackles despite missing the last game.

The All-Independent team second team defense that listed defensive end Mike Ugenyi was another head scratchier. Ugenyi has started the last five games after coming off the bench the first two games. He's posted one tackle or less in two of these games. I do think that Ugenyi's overall play has improved and he played well against Stanford's big talented offensive line. He's playing lower and does a better job holding the point but it's a reach to say his play is All-Star team caliber. Nose tackle Richard Glover (14 tackles, Sack, QBH, FR) has a better case than Ugenyi because he does a better splitting blockers to make some plays. If I were selecting the all-Independent teams none of the Army defensive linemen would be on the first or second teams. I would take any of Navy's starting front defensive line over Army's defensive line but no Midshipmen made either team.

I can understand why Geoffrey Bacon didn't make the team since he's missed three games. Bacon (30 tackles) is Army's most athletic defender and would have been on the team if he didn't get hurt. Steele chose Old Dominion kicker Jared Brown over Dan Grochowski who has hit 7-of-8 field goal attempts. I agree with that selection since Brown has hit 16 of his last 20 field goal attempts. Overall there were some curious selections.

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