Army Spring Review: Cornerback

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

BOUNDARY CORNERBACK
Starter: Josh Jenkins Jr.
Back up: Jared Rogers Sr.
Third String: Michael McFadden Sr.
The secondary was the most disappointing area of the defense last year despite above average play by the cornerbacks. It was hoped that it would be a strength. The Black Knights allowed 67.3 percent of the passes to be completed with 31 touchdowns and over 237 passing yards a game. It’s an area the staff needs improvement.

The player who didn't disappoint last season was junior field cornerback Josh Jenkins. He earned First Team FBS All-Independent team, First team All-East and Phil Steele All-Independent team first team defense honors. Jenkins was easily the best player on the Army defense. He recorded 64 tackles, four tackles for losses, picked off four passes and batted down eight others. He's developed into the impact defender Armysports.com predicted in our annual R-day report. He was Ellerson's one can't miss defensive recruit. Jenkins has excellent feet, the ability to redirect smoothly in coverage and a burst to make plays on the ball. Josh has very good coverage skills, balance, body control and coordination. Jenkins can really drive and break on the ball. He is a good tackler for an Army defensive back and surprisingly physical for his size. Josh matches up well athletically with almost all receivers he's faced and offensive coordinators need to be aware of him in coverage. In the Black-Gold team Jenkins picked off two of Ahmad Bradshaw’s passes in the end zone. Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman said this spring to Sal Interdonato of the Times Herald-Record, "Jenkins has a great knack for making plays." [NOTE: Jenkins was injured during a fight in early-July. His status for the 2015 season is uncertain]

Jared Rogers moved from slotback to cornerback last year. Rogers (5-8”, 171) is a junior who played his first two years at running back on the JV team. In 2011 at USMAPS Rogers started the year at “C" back and returned kick offs. Jared was hurt mid-season against Valley Forge and missed the rest of the season. Rogers has the skill set for a cornerback in that he is quick, can change direction and accelerate. He lacks pure deep recovery speed. He's was timed at 4.63 in the 40 yard dash speed at a high school Under Armor combine. Rogers is rather skinny and frail so his ability to hold up in run support is in question. He made a terrific sideline interception during one of the spring scrimmages. Rogers appeared in six games last season and recovered a fumble against Ball State.

Senior Michael McFadden (6-1", 195) is battling Rogers for the backup spot. McFadden plays more like a safety and lacks the ideal coverage skills for an FBS cornerback in my opinion. He lacks the hips and speed in man-to-man coverage. Michael offers more size in run support than Rogers. McFadden appeared in nine games last fall and recorded a tackle.

FIELD CORNERBACK
Starter: Chris Carnegie Sr.
Back up: Steven Johnson Jr.
Senior Chris Carnegie sat out much of spring drills with an injury but he will be ready this fall. Chris has made the ideal progression you'd like to see in a recruit. He was thrown in the deep end of the pool as a plebe and struggled when he started very early in his career. His technique and tackling have improved each year. Carnegie played the best football of his career in the second half of 2014. Carnegie had the play of the year in 2014 against UConn when returning the game saving pick 99 yards for a touchdown. It was Chris' second pick of the game. During the 2014 season he recorded 54 tackles, three interceptions, ten passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Chris had a huge pick and a 28-yard return that set up Raymond Maples touchdown run just before the end of the first half in the opener against Buffalo. Carnegie has good speed, is smooth out of his back pedal and his coverage techniques are solid. Carnegie made some plays on the ball in the second half of last season which was a big improvement over previous years.

Junior Steven Johnson (6-0”, 191) was moved from safety to cornerback this spring. I liked the move. As I said during the 2013 Armysports.com R-day report, I thought Johnson had more of the skill set of a cornerback than a safety. Last season Johnson replaced Geoff Bacon at free safety after he was hurt but struggled and lost the job. Johnson also saw time at strong safety. Johnson (37 tackles, 2 PD) played only one year of high school football and was a cornerback at USMAPS. He is a good athlete but is a poor open field tackler and his lack of experience showed. He has some talent, can deliver a big hit but needs to improve his techniques. Johnson was persuaded to play for his high school team by his head coach as a senior after not having played football for five years. Johnson was an instant star for the Newburgh Free Academy football team at defensive back. Steven picked off eight passes as his team won the state championship. Johnson saw time in 2012 at the United States Military Academy Prep School at cornerback. I think he can be a solid backup and starter after Carnegie graduates.

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