Army football spring practice notes

Army recently conducted its first spring practice session. Look inside for observations by Armysports.com's Jim Lawler.

Army football held its first scrimmage this spring practice at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School field. Army lacrosse was playing at Michie Stadium so it necessitated the move. The defense outplayed the offense most of the day. The interior of the Black Knights team defense played well. Senior nose tackle senior Tala “T.J.” Atimalala was a force and inside linebackers Jeremy Timpf and Andrew King stuffed the Army running game when they were on the field. King recovered a fumble and fellow linebacker Tyler L'Hommedieu picked off a pass.

The offense struggled but did manage to score a few times. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw and fullback Aaron Kemper ran for touchdowns. Quarterback Matthew Kaufman threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Jermaine Adams. The Black Knights need to find some answers at quarterback with A.J. Schurr missing spring practice due to an injury. Schurr's ineffectiveness and inability to stay healthy makes it a priority to develop at least a capable backup. Sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw is the only quarterback with the ability to push for the starting job from what I see. Bradshaw showed a nice burst when he faked a pitch and turned it up a 37-yard gain. Bradshaw later scored on a two yard run. Bradshaw is still very raw at this point in his development. He missed slotback Christian Reed, who was wide open, with a pass on a deep pattern. Ahmad made a poor decision to force a pitch to fullback Matt Giachinta who was tackled for a ten yard loss. Junior Matthew Kaufmann started the scrimmage at quarterback with the first-team offense. He generally knows what he's doing but isn't very fast and doesn't possess the athleticism Army needs in its starting quarterback. Sophomore Seth Gonzalez, who quarterbacked the JV team, had a pass intercepted and lacks the speed of a quality option quarterback in my opinion.

Junior Aaron Kemper and senior Matt Giachinta are battling at B-back for the starting spot. Giachinta lost a fumble at the goal line and didn't find a lot of running room during the scrimmage. Matt had played well this spring leading up to the scrimmage running hard and breaking tackles. He did the same last spring but the key to see is if he can be effective in real game action this fall. Aaron Kemper ran hard and broke a number of tackles. He scored a touchdown from one yard and looked better than he did last year. Chasen Brown who was moved from defense to B-back is not in the running for the starting spot. Slotback is a huge area of concern with Joe Walker the only returning member of the rotation from last year. John Trainor, who played in six games last year from wide receiver, missed the scrimmage but has looked good after being moved to slotback. Head coach Jeff Monken told me he was" excited about John, he's a very good athlete, very smooth, athletic and he certainly has a chance to help us if he can figure it all out from a fundamental standpoint". Trainor was a playmaker in 2013 at USMAPS at wide receiver and as returner. There isn't much else to speak about right now. Monken mentioned Egbezien Obiomon who was a starting running back in 2013 for the United States Military Academy Prep school but has been plagued by injuries. Obiomon runs hard but lacks a second gear. Junior Elijah St. Hilarie, who has some ability, has been hurt most of the spring and no one else has emerged. I expect at least a few of the direct admits and incoming USMAPS players to be in the rotation this fall. There is not a lot of talent or speed in the backups here and there is an obvious talent deficit from last year’s slotback group.

The positive up front on the offensive line is the return of senior right tackle Justin Gilbert. Gilbert was injured last year in preseason camp and missed the entire season. He is fully recovered and Monken states he's "glad to have him back. He's certainly the best athlete we've got on offensive line, that's a positive. He's a bright spot for us". The rest of the offensive line picture is muddled with a number of injuries. Jaryn Villegas and Bryce Holland were the starting guards against Army last fall. Both missed the scrimmage and much of spring practice. Bryce Holland is out and struggling with a shoulder injury that may require surgery according to Monken. Villegas has been banged up and missed much of spring practice as have junior Colby Enegren and sophomore Trey Ratliff. Sophomore Mike Houghton, who played as a plebe, has been moved from tackle to guard and is currently running with the first group. The Ryan Alexander experiment at tight end is over and he is back starting at left tackle. Brett Toth, a direct admit plebe, has seen time at right tackle. Monken told me that the offensive line "needs to get more athletic and that is a focus of recruiting."

Monken has single out defensive end John Voit and inside linebacker Scott Washie as two of the plebes who played well this spring. Senior nose tackle senior Tala “T.J.” Atimalala dominated Army's second string offensive line in the scrimmage. TJ has been a disappointment during his Black Knights career and hopefully the light has come on entering his senior season. The competition he beat last weekend left a lot to be deserved but if Atimalala can play well in front of junior inside linebackers Jeremy Timpf and Andrew King the Army defense can improve this fall. No one has emerged at the outside linebacker spots with Seth Combs, Bayle Wolfe, Alex Aukerman, and Blake Goddard all battling for the vacant jobs. Monken didn't rule out moving Washie to one of the outside linebacker spots if that means it would get the best players on the field.

Xavier Moss has played well on defense since his move to safety this spring. Jermaine Adams, who caught a touchdown pass in Saturday's scrimmage, has emerged as his likely replacement at wide receiver over senior Deandre Bell who is a solid blocker. Chris Carnegie has missed most of spring at cornerback with an injury. Steven Johnson has used the extra reps at cornerback to work on his technique. Steven has played well after being moved from safety where he struggled last year. As I said in Armysports.com 2013 R-day report I thought Johnson skill set fit better at cornerback. He is a good athlete but needs more reps since he played just one year of high school football.

ArmySports.com Top Stories