Army Signing Day Review: Linebacker

Jeff Monken has signed one of the top Army recruiting classes in years. will now review that class, position by position. In this segment we discuss the linebackers.

The Black Knights linebacker position needs help and playmakers on the outside in the new 3-4 defense. Army lacked athleticism last year at the Sam and Rush end linebacker and lost everyone on the two deep depth chart. Jeff Monken's staff landed Jalen Nash (6-2", 240) who is a talented linebacker/defensive end from South Lake Christian Academy in North Carolina. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Nash was one of the most widely recruited Army commits. He selected Army over eleven offers including Boston College, Old Dominion, James Madison, Elon, Hampton, Holy Cross and Gardner-Webb. Nash was a four year starter for the two-time state champion South Lake Christian Academy. Jalen was named the Defensive Player of the Year in his conference. He made 118 tackles, 28 for a loss, 14 sacks and made one interception as a senior to help lead the Eagles to a 12-1 record. Nash is a physical player, an impact hitter with the speed to get around the edge and rush the passer.

Konnor Houston (6-4", 230) is a outside linebacker from the Monken's staff Georgia pipeline. He played on both sides of the ball at outside linebacker and tight end for Buford high school. As a senior he made 65 tackles and had four sacks. Houston was a key part of a Buford defense that won 40 straight games and a state championship his senior year. Buford's defense allowed just 5.4 points and 118.9 yards per game. Houston chose Army over offers from South Alabama, Memphis, Colorado State, Buffalo, Charlotte and Georgia State. Head coach Jeff Monken and Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman were able to get outside linebacker Donavan Lynch to change his commitment from Air Force to Army. It was a nice change of pace from the previous staff that always seemed to lose recruits to the Falcons. Donavan Lynch is a 6-foot, 207 pound outside linebacker from Noblesville high school in Indiana. As a senior he had 104 tackles, six tackles for loss, four sacks, and two pass breakups. Lynch earned first team All-State and All conference in both his senior and junior season. Lynch has good speed and sideline to sideline range. Lynch also received an offer from Eastern Michigan.

Jacob Covington is a 6-foot-2, 220-pound defensive end from Liberty Hill high school in Texas who will be used probably as an inside linebacker by Army. Last season Covington at defensive end had 95 total tackles, 15 sacks, and 40 quarterback hurries. He was named District 14-4A Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 and first team All-Centex at defensive line. Andrew Davidson (6-2", 210) was a three-year starter at linebacker and running back for Emmaus high school in Pennsylvania. He was a two-time Defensive MVP of the Lehigh Valley Conference the last two seasons. Davidson posted 94 tackles,15 for tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, blocked three kicks and intercepted a pass. As a senior he had 2,042 rushing yards on 318 carries, a 6.4 average and 26 touchdowns. He had offers from Navy, Lafayette and Lehigh. Davidson will be a direct admit. Davidson could be a B-back but his best position seems to be at inside linebacker. Will Dunavant (6-3", 210) from Lambert high school in Georgia played both tight end and was a second-team all-county selection on the defensive line. He projects to outside linebacker in the Army's 3-4 scheme. Dunavant had originally committed to play baseball at Wofford last July but his recruiting trip to West Point changed his mind and sport as he will join the Black Knights. Last season he recorded five sacks and caused three fumbles.

Another Georgia linebacker commit was Robert Heyward (6-0", 198) from the Calvary Day School. Heyward played both linebacker and running back for Calvary. He recorded 102 tackles and ran for nearly 1,500 yards and 22 touchdowns last year. Heyward was named Georgia’s 3-A East player of the year. In reviewing Heywards's testing results you can see why he was recruited as a linebacker despite his prolific rushing numbers. Heyward is strong but lacks the ideal speed for a slotback in the Army spread option system. He decided on West Point over offers from Missouri State, Presbyterian, Towson, Savannah State and Charleston Southern.

Hayden Haupt is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound middle linebacker from Clovis North high school in Fresno, California. He was a three-year starter at Clovis North High School. Haupt was named First team All-Tri-River and honorable mention All-State at middle linebacker as a senior. He was offered by Colorado State when Jim McElwain was the head coach before he took the Florida Gator job. Haupt will begin his career at West Point Prep. Another California recruit is inside linebacker Jacquese Steen (5-11", 210) from Skyline High school. Steen was a three-year starter for Skyline and a tackling machine. As a senior Steen had 153 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, one sack, and one quarterback hurry from his inside linebacker position. He earned third team All-State honors. During his junior year Steen recorded 170 tackles. Steen was timed at 4.89 at an ESPN combine He is instinctive and has a real nose for the ball. Steen will play this coming season at USMAPS.

Cole Jones (6-0', 200) of St. Xavier High School in Ohio was a three-year starter at both outside and inside linebacker. Last year he posted 82 tackles and had 10 sacks during the regular season. He was named first team All-Greater Catholic League, first team All-District, All-State honorable mention and was St. Xavier's Most Valuable Player. Jones was one of the top wrestlers in the state of Ohio as a junior and senior. Jones has excellent instincts, solid speed and made plays all over the field last year. Jones had offers from Navy, Air Force and Eastern Michigan as well. He was named to the 2014 Southwest Ohio Team 25. Outside linebacker Damani Carter is a 6-foot-1, 237-pound recruit from Fayetteville high school in Arkansas. Carter played defensive end in high school and did a nice job coming off the edge to create negative plays. Carter was named to the All- State team. He selected Army over offers from Arkansas Tech, Harding University and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Paramus Catholic's denis Mucha is a 6-1, 235-pound middle linebacker who committed to Army over offers from Wagner and Valparaiso. Mucha was a three-year starter and team captain for the P.C. New Jersey prep powerhouse and appeared in three state championship games. Mucha had 42 tackles a sack and three pass breakups as a senior. Denis made 38 tackles as a junior despite missing part of the season with an injury. As a sophomore he tallied 47 tackles as Paramus Catholic won the state championship during both his sophomore and junior seasons. Mucha is a stout tackle-to-tackle run stuffing inside linebacker. Considering his build he might end up eventually on the defensive line if he adds some weight.

Jeff Panara (6-3", 240) is a direct admit from Archbishop Wood High school in Pennsylvania. He played middle linebacker and fullback for Archbishop Wood. Panara actually attended Hatboro-Horsham his first three years of high school. Jeff transferred to Archbishop Wood for his senior year and helped lead the Vikings to their second consecutive PIAA title. He earned First team All-Suburban in the Greater Philadelphia area and First team All-Bucks County. Panara chose Army over offers from Kutztown, Shippensburg and West Chester. Panara has the frame to add weight and may end up at defensive end. Another direct admit is outside linebacker Harrison Rooney (6-1", 215) of Bentonville high school in Arkansas. Harrison Rooney led the Tigers with 118 tackles last fall as Bentonville won its second consecutive state championship. He was a three year starter. Harrison was named last season as Arkansas Class 7A Defensive Player of the Year, the Northwest Arkansas Defensive of the Year and First team All-State. Rooney is aggressive, physical and has the speed to play in space that the Black Knights need at outside linebacker. He originally committed to Air Force but switched to Army.

Outside linebacker Corey Sanders (6-4", 215) committed to Army at their summer camp last June after he was named the best linebacker in camp. Corey missed most of his senior season after he broke his arm during the fourth game of the year and wasn't able to return until the final game of the regular season. He finished his senior year with 52 tackles, four quarterback hurries, a sack, and picked off a pass. As a junior he was named second-team All-State in Texas Class 5A after being switched from quarterback to linebacker. Sanders offers nice size, range and good speed at outside linebacker. He was timed at a legit 4.78 in the forty-yard dash in an ESPN combine. Sanders dream was always to attend West Point since he was in grammar school.. He had offers from Air Force, Lamar, and Texas State while drawing serious interest from Duke, Utah and Navy before being hurt. Sanders was his team's captain and received a direct appointment to West Point.

An under the radar recruit is Marco Carrabotta who is a 6-1, 220-pound outside linebacker and tight end from Thomas Dale high school in Virginia. Marco tore his ACL during his junior year and missed the last four games of the season and the post season junior combines as he rehabilitated his knee injury. Carrabotta rebounded with a huge senior season. Carrabotta posted 76 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, with 14 sacks, an interception and caused two fumbles. At tight end he caught 18 passes for 304 receiving yards, a 16.9 average and led Thomas Dale with eight touchdown receptions. Carrabotta was named his conference's Defensive Player of the year. Army was Carrabotta's only Division I offer but he was an impact player last year after he made a complete recovery from the ACL knee injury.

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