Things are changing at West Point – this column has been advocating for the last several years to keep the football players at West Point during the summer to eat a lot of food, lift weights and get bigger over the summer. All too often we heard stories of players coming back from summer assignments 20 pounds lighter. This year, all summer assignments were completed in the month of June. All players give up their summer vacation to attend summer classes and to lift weights. Ideally, you will have no player with a course load over 20 units and they will be well rested and ready for fall camp, which begins on August 4. This just makes too much sense – hats off to Boo Corrigan and MG Corrigan for making these changes.
The incoming Army Prep School Football roster includes 52 football recruits. We have been advocating the use of the prep school as an Army red-shirt, that will not only serve as a year to get football players more mature physically, but as we all know, a good foundation in Calculus and English would certainly help their academic success. Some notables from this list are two players over 300 pounds, including G Kaveinga Tuitahi, from Lutheran High School. There were also five players at more than 250 lbs. Of course we have no idea how good these kids are or if they will actually make it into the Academy – but two 300 pounders on the defensive line will really make a big difference.
The spring game featured quarterbacks A.J. Schurr and converted receiver Matt Kaufmann throwing 35 passes. If this is any indication of the Army offense moving forward, it is doubtful that Angel Santiago will be at the helm. Santiago manages the option well, but passing the ball is certainly not his strength. Schurr has a ton of talent, but had troubles holding onto the football last year. We will update you on the progress of the starting quarterback throughout camp.
In the past, it did not make much sense to discuss the receiving corps. However, if the new Army team is going to throw the ball 15 times a game, the ability to separate from receivers and hold onto the ball becomes much more important. Army returns sophomore Xavier Moss, senior Chevaughn Lawrence and former QB Junior Kelvin White. Looking at game tape from Georgia Southern games, the backs will catch more than half of the passes and these receivers will still need to get down field and block. Nevertheless, we think that there will be increased use of the receivers and these players have the talent and speed to be successful.
Army returns a tremendous backfield that will feature redshirt senior Raymond Maples, and seniors Terry Baggett, Larry Dixon and Trenton Turrentine. As fantastic as these backs are, the offensive line must be big and fast enough to open holes. There are sure to be a lot of changes on the offensive line. An indication of change is news that senior center Ryan Powis left the team. We would imagine that this would have something to do with being demoted to second string or being made to change his position. Army returns 10 upper classmen to offensive line, but none of them are over 285 pounds. Army’s undersized line does well against the mid-sized teams, but has difficulty opening holes against the FBS non-MAC schools. Hopefully with an improved passing game and a little more weight on the line, this team can continue to be one of the top rushing teams in the country.
Army’s success in 2014 will be dictated by the performance of the defense. The Ellerson/Sadat defense of 2010 lead the team to victory in the Bell Helicopter Bowl. The same Double Eagle Flex Defense fell to nationally ranked 84th, 124th, and 111th 2011-2013. What happened? Recruiting. Ellerson and Sadat played 2010 with Stan Brock/Bobby Ross recruits. Ellerson was not interested in recruiting large players or could not get them to come to Army, whichever the reason, size on the defensive front is why he is not the head coach today.
Army returns no player over 260 pounds on the defensive line. It is absolutely no wonder that opposing offenses rushed for more than five yards per carry 43 percent of the time. Temple has completely embarrassed Army for the past four years by simply running the ball between the tackles and wearing down the undersized team. Army will not get significantly bigger in one season and this will be coach Monken’s main area of concern. Army returns 13 linebackers. Perhaps an ever blitzing linebacker corps can be used to stunt opposing offenses. Eight defensive backs are back, most notably, Josh Jenkins who will match up every week against the opposing team’s best receiver.
The 2014 schedule is not that of a top 50 team. In fact, other than Stanford, there is not a Sagarin ranked team over 67. Army will play two FCS teams and three teams ranked in the 100s. Keep in mind that last year Army managed to lose to winless Hawaii, the worst Air Force team in the new millennium and a 0-6/2-11 Temple. This is a schedule where Army may actually be able to build some confidence and win several games.
We expect a more disciplined and tougher Army team that will win its sixth game of the year versus Fordham. The Army-Navy Game will give the Cadets the opportunity to finish the regular season with a winning record for the first time since 1996. We will see you all in Texas for the Bell Helicopter Bowl.