Army Incoming - Defensive Linemen

A total of 79 freshmen joined the Army West Point football team on R-Day. ArmySports.com's Jim Lawler will now introduce the new Cadet defensive lineman including Cordarrell Davis, Wunmi Oyetuga, Sheldon Johnson Jr., Emmanuel Aka, Angelo Natter, Toese Tia, Nika Davis Jr., Johnathan Lay, Jeff Panara and Raymond Wright.

Armysports.com continues to review this year’s incoming freshmen class by position. The interior of the Black Knights defensive line had been a glaring recruiting weakness under Rich Ellerson. On the defensive line attrition has been so bad under Ellerson that this spring there were only eight players on competing for six spots on two deep defensive line depth chart. Jeff Monken and his staff worked hard on the recruiting trail and produced ten linemen to give his defensive coordinator Jay Bateman some needed depth and talent. This is a group with a lot of promise. Armysports.com will now look at the incoming defensive line.

Cordarrell Davis was an impact nose tackle at United States Military Academy Prep School (USMAPS) last year. Davis is a 6-foot, 240 pound defensive end from Summer Creek high school in Texas. His senior year he made 41 tackles, with 12 tackles for a loss and posted two sacks. Davis earned First team 4A All District team honors.

Cordarrell Davis has an impressive prep campaign last fall for USMAPS. He has a short, fire hydrant type build that belies his strength and athleticism. Davis is very strong, tenacious and competitive. He is powerful and possesses a short explosive leg drive. Cordarrell is hard to move at the point of attack. Davis is only six feet tall but his shorter wing span doesn't limit him as much at nose tackle where he can play low and fast. Davis has impressive pop off the ball and can punch a center back to control both A-gaps which is crucial for a good nose tackle. He helped keep the traffic off the Mike and the Will linebacker on most of the snaps. He often dominated opposing centers and demanded double teams. Davis has excellent initial quickness off the snap and can create pass rush pressure from a 3-4 nose tackle position which is rare. His play at the prep school was actually more impressive than his high school production which is a good sign. Cordarrell could use some time in the strength and conditioning program to add more weight. Davis has the chance to develop into a quality starter.

Wunmi Oyetuga played defensive tackle last season for USMAPS. The 6-4", 255 defensive end played football and track at Charles Wright high school in Washington State. Oyetuga was both a defensive and offensive lineman in high school. Wunmi was a first-team All-Nisqually League performer on both sides of the ball. Oyetuga reminds me so much of Army's fine ex-defensive tackle/end Victor Ugenyi (2006-2009). Oyetuga has the prototypical build for 3-4 defensive tackle. He is long and lean with 82.75? wingspan. He is an excellent athlete who runs well and looks almost thin at 255-pounds. He is smooth and fluid but is as green as the grass turf on Red Blaik Field at Michie Stadium. Wunmi will need to spend time in coach Tim Caron's weight room and he'll have to be coached up to improve and refine his techniques but he certainly looks the part. Oyetuga's not ready yet but has the raw talent to develop into an impact player.



Sheldon Johnson Jr. played defensive tackle last season for the United States Academy Prep School. Johnson was a 6-2", 270 pound two-way player from the Gilman School in Baltimore, Maryland. It was thought that Army recruited him initially as an offensive lineman but he played defensive tackle last year at USMAPS. Johnson is another defensive lineman who looks the part of an FBS football player getting off the bus. One of the most noticeable improvements in recruiting by coach Monken over the previous Ellerson regime is the superior size and athleticism of the defensive line recruits. Sheldon moves well, has a very good first step and is strong and powerful. He was bothered by nagging injuries last fall which seemed to limit him at times at the prep school. Johnson is also very raw and his techniques do need to improve. Army defensive line coach Ray McCartney will need to untap his potential but Johnson looks like he'll develop into a starter with some coaching and maturity. Johnson is one of the recruits who chose Army over Navy after visiting both schools.



Emmanuel Aka (6-2”, 205) was used as a defensive end last season for USMAPS. Aka is from Norcross, Georgia where he played both ways as a defensive end and a tight end. He originally committed to Georgia Southern and followed Jeff Monken to West Point after he was hired. Aka excelled as a blocking tight end. On defense he made 44 tackles his senior year. Army prep coach Andy Wolfrum liked to use Aka as a pass rush specialist last fall. Emmanuel has very good speed and is explosive coming off the edge. Aka possesses quick first step acceleration and flies off the ball. He led USMAPS in sacks last season and created a number of negative plays. Aka was one of the defensive heroes in USMAPS comeback win over Army JV when he recovered a fumble on a failed reverse play to set up the game winning score.

Aka is very athletic but he is undersized for a 3-4 defensive tackle and he's never been a linebacker. He can be engulfed at the point of attack in the run game due to his size. Aka is a tweener in a 3-4 defense with his size and lack of linebacker experience but if used as a situational pass rusher he should be able to create pressure on the quarterback.



Angelo Natter (6-3”, 250) was the back-up nose tackle at USMAPS last year. Natter attended Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School as a junior and senior after starting high school A.T. Thomas Jefferson. Angelo was a two-year starter at Central Catholic. He posted over 100 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and had a pass breakup. His team went 15-1 in 2013 and played in the state title game. Natter was recruited by both VMI and the Citadel and initially planned to attend Robert Morris before accepting an offer to join Army.

Natter was the backup nose tackle but saw plenty of playing time at USMAPS. Natter is a physical, Pittsburgh tough, big effort player. He's a real competitor and brawler. He plays hard and brings it virtually every down. Natter needs to improve his techniques, add some strength and weight before he's ready to compete for a spot on the two deep.



Toese Tia (6-2”, 270) was in the defensive line rotation last year at USMAPS. Tia’s grandfather is an Army veteran and the first Samoan to ever become a Command Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army. Tia comes from a football family that is active in coaching. At James Campbell high school he was varsity football team captain and Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman. Tia earned Oahu Interscholastic Association All-Star first team, HUB Goodwill Senior Bowl Defensive Lineman and Samoa Bowl Team member. Tia is a big body who is stout and stocky. Tia moves fairly well and is aggressive. He is strong in his lower body and holds up well at the point of attack. Tia has the versatility to play all three positions on the defensive line.

Nika Davis Jr. was in the defensive line rotation last year at USMAPS. Davis was a linebacker for Waco high school in Texas. As a senior Davis made 141 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and five sacks. He was a two year starter and made 241 tackles and 13 sacks during high school. Davis earned First Team all-district and Honorable mention All-State honors.

Davis Jr. is a 6-1”, 200 pound linebacker who was used as a defensive lineman last year at the prep school. As we'll discuss in our next position review, last year’s USMAPS class had a plethora of talented linebackers. Davis drew the short straw and was used up front as a four technique defensive end lined up in the B-gap off the tackle's shoulder. Davis did a nice job despite being rather woefully undersized. Nika is a very active player who plays hard and has a great motor. He pursued the ball as well as anyone on the USMAPS defense. Nika was listed on the R-day announcement as a defensive end since he played up front at USMAPS. It will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Jay Bateman moves Davis back to linebacker.



There were three direct admit defensive linemen in this class. Johnathan Lay is an undersized offensive and defensive tackle from Riverdale high school in Georgia. Lay (6-3, 240) is athletic, strong, runs well and was difficult to handle on the high school level. He possesses nice movement skills, can get off blocks and has a good burst up the field. Lay was named to the first-team All-Region 4-AAAA squad, and was All-County offense at tackle. During his junior year off-season he won lineman MVP award at off-season combines. He chose Army over offers from Harvard, Princeton, VMI, Campbell and Charleston Southern.



Jeff Panara (6-3", 240) is a direct admit from Archbishop Wood High school in Pennsylvania. He was a 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. He is a strong, tough physical player. Panara chose Army over offers from Kutztown, Shippensburg and West Chester. Panara has the frame to add weight and was listed on the R-day list as a defensive end which probably means he'll be tried at defensive tackle in the 3-4 Army scheme.



Raymond Wright of Ardrey Kell High School in North Carolina is a direct admit Scout.com two star defensive tackle. Wright (6-3", 265) had his best season as a senior when he earned All-Conference honors. Raymond made 50 tackles, four sacks, forced two fumbles, made two fumble recoveries and blocked field a field goal as a junior. Army's staff likes his size and mobility. He was offered as a four technique defensive tackle but it’s easy to envision him eventually at nose tackle. He chose Army over offers from Navy, James Madison, UNC-Charlotte, Georgia State and Elon among others.



Next: A look at the incoming linebackers.

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