ARMYSPORTS.com continues to look at this year’s incoming freshman class by position. When Jeff Monken was Navy's A-back coach his slotbacks coined the phrase "A's make plays". The slotback, or A-backs, were Navy's big play threats. Monken is looking at his current inexperienced Army slotback roster and is wondering heading into fall which A-backs can play. Terry Baggett (1,704 career rushing yards), Raymond Maples (2,878 career rushing yards), versatile Tony Giovannelli and Trenton Turrentine all graduated. That leaves junior Joe Walker as the only returning slotback who was in the rotation last year. The Black Knights saw a large influx of slotbacks on R-day and will need a few to play early to improve their depth and speed. ARMYSPORTS.com will now take a look at the new Black Knights' slotbacks.
Nicholas Black (5-8”, 188) was a starting slotback at the United States Military Academy Prep School last fall. Black is a running back from The Woodlands high school in Texas. Nicholas carried 136 times for 638 rushing yards, a 4.7 average and nine touchdowns in ten games as a senior in 2013. He caught 17 passes for 207 yards. Black earned second team All-District honors his senior year at fall Black demonstrated his run skills with a nice touchdown run against Gattaca Academy in USMAPS
35-0 win last year.
Nicholas Black was best slotback with the ball in his hands last season at the prep school. Black was forced to miss a few games with a shoulder injury and his absence from the lineup was noticeable. He is a very quick, shifty runner with great feet, vision and run skills. He runs as if he has eyes in the back of his head. Black has the ability to string together multiple moves to make people miss. Black was timed at an ESPN junior combine running a forty yard dash in a disappointing 5.0 flat time. Nicholas is a lot better player than that number suggests once he puts his helmet on. Black lacks top end speed and a breakaway gear but he makes up for it by seemingly running at top speed in all directions. Black should be able to compete for a spot at least on the two deep Army depth chart this fall.
Jeff Monken's staff beat out fellow service academies Navy and Air Force for speedy direct admit slotback recruit Jordan Asberry from Colerain high school in Ohio. Asberry (5-9", 185) was named First-team all-GMC and was a team captain this past season. Asberry ran the ball 62 times for 467 yards and seven scores in the regular season. He made 17 receptions for 436 yards and six touchdowns. Jordan showed his speed on a 97-yard touchdown reception. He had five kickoff returns for 184 yards, an impressive 36.8 average per return and a touchdown. Asberry has the type of speed that is ideal at slotback in the spread option system. He has run a personal best of 10.93 in the 100-meters dash and is very explosive.
Jeff Monken's staff returned to their old stomping grounds in landing slotback Tyler Campbell. He is a 5-11", 170 pound running back from Georgia. Army's offensive coordinator Brent Davis had recruited his older brother Myles to Georgia Southern. Campbell is listed as a quarterback on Scout.com where he started his high school career but he was moved to wide receiver at Peachtree Ridge. His senior year he produced more than 600 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns. He'll be a direct admit and is expected to be used as a slotback in the Army offense. Campbell chose Army over offers from Air Force, Yale, Princeton and Stetson.
Ray Hardaway (5-9, 175) was a starting slotback last fall for the United States Military Academy Prep School. Ray was the "Invincible" Vince Papale like story at the prep school last fall. Hardaway was an unrecruited walk-on whose dream was to play Army football. Hardaway played both ways at Mountain View high school in Washington State. As a senior in 2013, Ray was named second team all-league running back and kick returner. Ray earned first team all-league defensive back. Hardway ran 93 times for 472 rushing yards, a 5.1 average and scored six touchdowns. He made 38 receptions for 359 receiving yards, a 9.5 average and two touchdowns including a 77-yard touchdown reception. As a punt returner he averaged 9.8 yards per return and 22.8 yards on kickoffs including a touchdown.
Ray was a great story who willed his way up the depth chart at the prep school. He was the hero in the USMAPS victory in opener against Army JV last fall. Hardaway scored the game winning touchdown as the prep rallied late for a 15-10 win. Hardaway offers nice size for a slotback with average speed.
He appears bigger than his listed size on the R-day list. He is a solid all round slotback who plays hard, doesn't fumble and was one of the best blockers among the slotbacks at the prep school. He isn't a game breaker but is a solid jack-of-all trades lunch pail guy who will sell out every down to help the team. Hardaway didn't play on special teams last year but was a productive player returning kicks in high school.
Christian Drake attended the United States Military Academy Prep School last year but didn't play due to an injury. He has rehabbed successfully and is now healthy and ready to complete this summer. At Pelham high school in Georgia he was a Class AA All State kick returner and a top track sprinter. The 5-foot-10 inch 178 pound slotback has the most upside ability of all the incoming USMAPS recruits to be game-breaking slotback in my opinion. Drake is lighting quick, has great speed (4.4 forty-yard yard) and excellent acceleration. He can juke and elude defenders. Drake is very strong for his size. Christian has run a legit 10.68 100- meter track time in high school. Missing last season may have set back his development in learning the system but the talent is there. He has the ability to develop into a big play threat at slotback and could help the Black Knights anemic kick return game.
Malik Crossdale is a slotback who played last fall for the United States Military Academy Prep School.
Crossdale is a local product from the Bronx, New York. He attended Army's summer camp before his senior season and committed to former coach Ellerson's staff. Crossdale (5-10”, 200) started his senior year for Fordham Prep off with a 208 rushing yard and three touchdown performance but later missed a number of games with an injury. He did return near the end of his senior season. Crossdale ran for 1,099 yards and nine scores as a junior. He earned second team All NYC honors. Malik isn't a burner but runs hard. He is a good athlete who performed well at high school combines. He was ranked by the NUC sports recruiting service as the 9th best player in New York before missing most of his senior year with injuries. Crossdale's running style is more in the mold of the wishbone backs we saw in old Ian Shields system under Ellerson. Malik is a big physical back that does his best running between the tackles. The prep staff liked to use him in zone read sets and not as often in the triple option. It will be interesting to see if he stays at slotback or if he's possibly moved inside as an undersized B-back. Crossdale chose Army over offers from Boston College, Buffalo and Bucknell.
Isaiah Williams (6-0”, 195) was one of the first recruits Jeff Monken had commit to Army after he was hired. Last season he attended USMAPS. Williams played well in the first two games before suffering an injury which limited his playing time the rest of the year. Williams attended South Forsyth high school in Georgia. Williams was second in his county in 2013 rushing for 1,033 yards, a 6.4 yard average on 161 carries with eight touchdowns. Williams earned first team all-county and all-region honors his senior season. Williams was timed at 4.82 in an ESPN combine event. Williams is a quick, plant his foot and go North-South type of runner. He does a nice job of finishing his runs. If Isaiah fills out his frame he is another slotback whose future may be at B-back.
Spencer Sheff (5-11”, 200) is a direct admit who attended Elk Grove high school in California. Sheff was a running back and middle linebacker. As a senior he carried 146 times for 1,013 rushing yards, a 6.9 average per carry and scored 14 touchdowns. Spencer earned first team All-League honors. As a junior he ran 114 times for 791 rushing yards, a 6.9 average and 11 scores. The Scout.com two star recruit doubled as an intense, aggressive middle linebacker who posted 86 tackles, picked off one pass and cause a fumble last year.
Sheff (photo above) is a slashing runner. Spencer flashed above average speed when he was timed at a legit 4.64 speed in the forty yard dash during an ESPN combine event. He was used as a fullback in high school and is a willing blocker. Sheff chose Army over an offer from Air Force. I placed him with the slotbacks but he could be used at fullback or linebacker. He recorded four one-hundred yard rushing performances as a senior but his skill set may project better to defense
Next: A look at the incoming offensive linemen.
Army Incoming - Slotbacks
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