Army Incoming: Defensive Backs

ArmySports.com continues to review this year’s incoming freshman class by position. Army's previous staff did a nice job the past few years recruiting defensive backs. The issue was retaining them. We will look at the four defensive backs recruits who are part of this plebe class.

The Black Knights retention problems continued this season with the United States Military Academy Prep School's star free safety Shawn Kagawa leaving West Point for SMU. Last fall's USMAPS team lost two others defensive back starters which negatively impacted the depth of the defensive back class.

Cornerback Kahlil Harper (5-10, 178) was the only defensive backfield starter at the United States Military Academy Prep School last season who made it to R-day. Harper played cornerback for Union High school in Oklahoma. He made 44 tackles and picked off a pass in his senior year. Harper did a solid job as a cornerback at USMAPS. He was the most aggressive cover cornerback usually challenging receivers and matching up well in the old flex defense.

Harper is an above average Army cover cornerback with the ability to smoothly change direction. He has above average speed, nice feet and a smooth backpedal. He was technically sound in coverage. Harper has the hips to turn and run with most wide receivers. He has good ball instincts and does a nice job tracking the ball unlike some Army cornerbacks we've seen in the past. Harper lacks a great burst to the ball and doesn't pick off a lot of passes even though he is a solid cover guy. He was supposedly hand timed at 4.41 in the forty yard dash at an Oklahoma camp. The truth is he's not nearly that fast but he is quick with good instincts. He's not a very physical player but is willing to help in run support. Kahlil mistakenly was identified as a running back on the R-day list. He has the potential to eventually compete for a starting cornerback job.

Harper Highlights

Zach Trainor (5-9, 180) was the starting Rover linebacker at the United State Military Academy Prep School last fall. Trainor is a local product from James l. O' Neil high school in Highland Falls, New York. He was his football team's captain and a two time All-League performer. Trainor played on both sides of the ball as a fullback and linebacker in high school. His father Tim is the Dean of Academics at West Point.

Trainor was moved to the Rover linebacker position in the flex defense last year at the United States Military Academy Prep School. Trainor is a solid, hardnosed player who isn't very big or fast. He is aggressive, a solid tackler and has good instincts. The issue for him is his lack of speed. In the Milford Academy game he took too shallow of an angle on a pass pattern and was badly burned for an 85-yard touchdown reception. He played Rover in the old scheme which kept him near the boundary and limited the space he needed to cover. Trainor is likely to project to safety in the new Army defensive scheme due to his size. He can contribute on special teams eventually but I'm not sure he has the speed and range to play safety at the FBS level.

Trainor Highlights

Alex Aukerman (6-2, 205) is a safety and was an early direct admit commit last fall. Aukerman was an All-State performer for high school powerhouse Center Grove in Indiana. He was named Center Grove's team MVP last season. Aukerman made four interceptions and returned one for a touchdown last fall. His team won the regional championship for the second year in a row. He was a junior he was named to the Indiana All-State team after making 78 tackles and picking off a pass. He attended last year's Army camp at West Point and committed after receiving an offer from Tucker Waugh.

Aukerman is a fundamentally sound and sure tackler. Alex has excellent anticipation and runs well to the ball. He is strong for his size and offers above average speed for an Army safety. He was a special team gunner covering kicks and returned a punt for touchdown as a junior. Aukerman chose the Black Knights over offers from Navy, Harvard, Holy Cross and Pennsylvania. He also received late interest from Indiana and Ball State. He was listed as a running back on R-day but he was a safety in high school.

Aukerman Highlights

Chris Zook Jr. (6-0, 180) is a versatile and talented direct admit athlete from Houston, Texas who was recruited by former Army coach Robert Lyles. Zook had attended the Black Knights summer camp and impressed the former staff. He was recruited by Air Force, the Ivy League and some Texas schools but committed to the Black Knights in early November. The four year starter played quarterback, running back wide receiver and safety. As a junior, Zook was a receiver then moved to quarterback late in the year. Zook played on the defensive side of the ball at safety the last two seasons. As a senior he made 119 tackles, posted nine tackles for a loss, picked off two passes and defensed eight others. On offense during his high school career he accounted for 3,711 yards and 41 touchdowns. He was one of the ten players nominated as the Houston Touchdown Club defensive player of the year.

Zook is a good athlete who was a jack-of-all-trades. He offers good speed and nice acceleration. He's been timed at 4.53 in the forty yard dash and showed excellent range playing defense on tape. He could probably benefit from a season in the weight room to get stronger and bigger. His father Christopher Zook Sr. was a cornerback at Texas Tech. Zook Jr. was the only recruit on the Houston Chronicle’s top 100 list in the football talent rich Houston area to select a service academy this year.

He wanted to attend West Point and serve in the Army since he was in the second grade. He was listed as a running back on the R-day list. ArmySports.com grouped him as a defensive back because he played there last year. Zook has the ability and position flexibility to potentially help at safety, slotback, wide receiver or on special teams.

Zook Highlights

Next: A look at special teams

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