Army Spring Review: Nose Tackle

Army recently completed its spring drills. ArmySports.com’s Jim Lawler will now review every Black Knight position and name a starter, a backup and a third string player to watch. In this segment he reviews the nose tackle.

NOSE TACKLE
Starter: Tala Atimalala Sr.
Backup: Andrew McLean So.
The Black Knights graduated active, undersized nose tackle Richard Glover who made 34 tackles with five tackles for a loss in 2014. Glover wasn't a dominate player but the play at nose tackle suffered when he wasn't in the lineup. This is one of the key positions on the defense that needs to improve this fall.

Senior nose guard Tala “T.J.” Atimalala (5-11”, 264) won the open starting nose tackle job this spring. Atimalala (5 tackles in 2014) appeared in every game in 2014 and started two. He had his second consecutive disappointing season. His five tackle effort comes on the heels of him making just four tackles during his sophomore season despite receiving regular reps. One of the issues with Atimalala is he is short and lacks long arms. If he is unable to shoot a gap he often finds himself being neutralized by taller and heavier opposing offensive linemen once they extend their arms. Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman was pleased with T.J. Atimalala's play this spring. T.J. was often a force in spring practice and looked good during scrimmages. The only caveat to me is that Atimalala often dominated a backup offensive line that was beset with injuries this spring. He had a similar performance last year in the Black-Gold game. Atimalala started the openers the last two years but lost his job almost immediately to Richard Glover both years. Hopefully the light has come on and he starts making plays this fall.

Sophomore nose tackle Andrew McLean was named the backup nose tackle. He played well in the annual Black-Gold game. McLean made four tackles, posted a sack and had 2 1/2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. As a plebe he appeared in three games but did not figure statistically. McLean was the best defensive tackle at the United States Military Academy Prep School in 2013. He was a two-time all-state selection in high school. I believe he has more talent and upside than Atimalala. McLean (6-4", 271) is strong, plays with leverage and has a good first step off the ball. McLean can hold the point against the run and has a good motor. He's more of a bull pass rusher at this point without a lot a pass rush moves.

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