Angel Santiago has been one of the biggest surprises this season at quarterback. Angel rebounded from his miserable showing last year that caused him to lose his back-up quarterback job. Santiago was tentative when he played last fall and seemed unsure of his himself. During summer practice he clearly outplayed expected starter A.J. Schurr. He had his best game in the opener against hapless FCS opponent Morgan State when he ran for a season high 120 rushing yards. Santiago ran for three touchdowns and threw for another. Early in the season Santiago wasn't always decisive in choosing when to pitch or keep the ball. Santiago has improved, limited turnovers and managed the game well. Santiago has (434 rushing yards, 3.9 avg., 4 TDs) been a solid if unspectacular runner. As a passer he has been hit or miss throwing the ball well in a few games and poorly in others. He completed just 45.8 percent of his passes for 333 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Back-up quarterback A.J. Schurr's fall has been almost shocking. He was expected by the vast majority of fans to be the heir apparent to Steelman. Schurr showed up to summer camp in poor shape after training in the field during the summer. He showed flashes of ability but had too many fumbles and lost the job. Schurr played well late in a blowout loss to Ball State. The staff decided to rotate AJ in for a few second quarter series the next two weeks against Stanford and Wake Forest. Schurr produced no points and had two fumbles on consecutive drives against Wake Forest. He suffered a sprained ankle which ended his hopes of securing the starting job. Schurr has thrown the ball well completing 9-of-14 passes (64.3%) for 74 yards and a touchdown. He's run for 58 yards averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Schurr has ability, probably more than Santiago, but needs become more consistent, protect the ball and stay on the field.
With the injuries to both starters third string Kelvin White has appeared in four games. White is a solid athlete but lacks the lateral quickness and quick feet to be a very productive option quarterback. Army has trouble running its base offense with him in the game. White has a strong but not always accurate arm. He's run for 91 yards, averaged 3.5 yards per carry and scored twice. Plebe quarterback Tevin Long demonstrated his quickness late against Boston College. When given the opportunity to spark the team by starting the second half against Temple he showed he wasn't ready yet for prime time.
Junior "B" back Larry Dixon has been one of Rich Ellerson's best recruits. He's started eleven of the twelve games this year. Dixon has run 85 times for 600 yards, averaged 7.1 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns. Dixon was injured in the Stanford game and wasn't able to play against Wake Forest.
He was named to Phil Steele Midseason all-Independent as a second team selection. The slimmed down Dixon has sworn 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 types of long running plays the previous two seasons.
Junior Hayden Tippett played in the first seven games before being injured against Eastern Michigan. Tippett's physical, hard charging running style made him an invaluable fullback and blocker. Tippett has carried the ball 30 times for 139 yards and a 4.6 rushing average. Sophomore Matt Giachinta (11 atts., 40 yards, 3.6 avg., 1 TD) has been solid in his limited appearances. He had one issue on the mesh with Schurr but has been reliable in all his other carries.
Running backs: B
Midseason first team All-Independent running back Terry Baggett has been one of the best players on the team. Baggett has run for 768 yards, a 9.1 average and six touchdowns. His record setting 304 rushing yard four touchdown performance against Eastern Michigan was one of the ages. I'm surprised many who follow Army football have been surprised by Terry's break out season. If you watched him in practice or his performance in the last year there wasn't any questions about Baggett's talent. It was about his ability to stay on the field.
The team has missed the size, speed and blocking ability of senior running back Raymond Maples (1,215 yards, 2 TDs in 2012) who was injured early in the Stanford game. Maples had rushed for 123 yards and 5.3 per carry before his injury. They hope to have Maples back for Air Force this week. Junior Trenton Turrentine (346 yards, 7.1 avg., TD) has done a solid job filling in for Maples. While Trenton lacks Maples' speed and run skills he is tough, physical and plays hard. Turrentine has improved every year since I saw him at USMAPS. He blocks well but lacks a second gear in the open field.
Two junior direct admits Tony Giovannelli (42 yards, 4.7 avg.) and Lawrence Scott (38 yards,4.4) both saw a lot of time against Stanford. Scott is faster with more of an upside but he can't stay healthy. Plebe Aaron Kemper has been moved from fullback to running back to get on the field. The sawed off Kemper, who looks like Maples' Mini-me, followed Maples path from USMAPS MVP fullback to running back. Kemper (26 yards, 3.3 avg., TD) has decent speed and can block. Stephen Fraser (25 yards, 3.1 avg.) has fallen out of favor. He's carried the ball just three times in the last five games. Fraser isn't very physical, doesn't block that well and doesn't make much happen with the ball in his hands.
Wide Receivers: B
The focus for Army's wide receivers playing in a triple option offense is blocking on the perimeter. This year plebe receiver Xavier Moss has begun to emerge as the impact wide receiver ArmySports.com envisioned during our Incoming R-day feature this summer. Moss leads the team with 23 receptions for 303 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 13.2 yards per catch. Moss has good speed and can run past an unsuspecting cornerback. He's caught a 75-yard touchdown pass against Boston College and had a 51-yard reception against Morgan State. He has been open deep a few more times but Army's quarterbacks have failed to hit him. Moss needs to become more consistent catching the ball. He's had too many drops. He's done a nice job blocking on the perimeter and plays a lot bigger than his listed size.
Junior Chevaughn Lawrence has seen a lot fewer passes his way since Moss emerged. Lawrence has six receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. He's averaged 10.5 yards per catch. Lawrence is pure possession without the ability to make a lot of yards after the catch. Lawrence has trouble adjusting to the ball in the air and doesn't seem to win any battles for the ball. Lately he's been battling injuries.
Backup wide receiver Anthony Stephens has made seven catches for just 40 yards. He seems to be a favorite of the backup quarterbacks. Former starting wide receiver Patrick Laird hasn't as much time from scrimmage. He's more of a hybrid tight end. The 6-3, 222 pound junior is an excellent blocker. Laird caught a 14-yard touchdown reception against Temple. Ejay Tucker is a solid blocker who lacks speed and hands. Plebe Edgar Poe caught a 6-yard touchdown pass against Stanford. Poe hasn't seen much time from scrimmage but is a very physical blocker with the ability to get open. He should improve and emerge as more of a factor next year with experience. Scott Williams made a nice diving 9-yard catch against Stanford but he is too slow to be a factor in the passing game.
Offensive Line: B+
The Black Knights are leading the nation in rushing for the third consecutive year. The 2012 team set school records as they averaged over 369 rushing yards per game and ran for an impressive 4,438 yards. This year they are averaging over 340 yards per game. I didn't give the offensive an ‘A' grade because the pass protection has been worse since last year and they had two games, against Wake Forest and Temple, where their struggles cost a chance for Army to compete.
Left tackle and captain Michael "MoMo" Kime was very consistent and is an excellent option tackle with terrific mobility. Kime has made a nice recovery after suffering an ACL injury to his knee last year. He switched from right to left tackle. Kime battled through being dinged up a bit earlier in the year and has played very well the last five games. Junior left guard Stephen Shumaker earned second team Mid-Season All-Independent honors from Phil Steele. Shumaker, who has a short, fire hydrant type build, has played well.
At center Ryan Powis has played well in every game except the Wake Forest game where he couldn't handle All-ACC nose tackle Nikita Whitlock. When Powis plays the Black Knight's offense, over the last two years, has averaged 26 point per game. In the three games he missed they averaged only 14.7 points a game. Powis's play at center makes Army's triple option run smoothly. The Black Knights have led the nation in rushing the last three years with Powis at center. Offensive right guard senior Zach Reichert can get manhandled at times and has jumped off sides too often. Right tackle Justin Gilbert has good feet, balance and agility. Gilbert has to limit the amount of penalties he's committed.
Overall the record (3-5) has improved but there were at least a couple of opportunities to win games when they failed to close the deal. Ellerson's teams have played hard at Michie Stadium even against their toughest opponent Stanford. On the road they have consistently been badly outplayed by Ball State, Boston College and Temple. The only game they played well on the road was their victory over Louisiana Tech. Offensive coordinator Ian Shields continues to do the best job on the staff has produced a top ranked rushing attack for the third straight year. Defensive co-coordinators Chris Smeland and Payam Saadat have improved their defense this year as young players have more experience but they lack athleticism and speed on defense. The lack of athleticism is noticeable on special teams. I believe this is a solid X and O staff. I think the issue has been in recruiting depth. Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires and Alex Meier both left the program this year which means two of the three best defenders from the 2011 USMAPS team are gone. I believe Ellerson has addressed the recruiting shortfalls with staff changes last off season. Unless he wins a few more games he may not be around to enjoy the fruits of their recruiting labor.
Bye Week Report Card- Offense & Coaching
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