Army Incoming - Linebackers

A total of 79 freshmen joined the Army West Point football team on R-Day.'s Jim Lawler will now introduce the new Cadet linebackers including Kenneth Brinson, Calen Holt, James Nachtigal, Cole Macek, Samuel Johnson, Zach Maxwell, Juwan Griffith-James, Matt Allgor, Chandler Ramirez, Jarrod Jones, Corey Sanders, Cole Jones, Harrison Rooney, Andy Davidson and Boomer Bakich. continues to review this year’s incoming freshman class by each position. When Army switched to a 3-4 defense last year it was clear the roster needed to add more athletic linebackers to make the scheme work. It didn't help that Seth Combs, who had won the starting Rush linebacker this spring, was dismissed from the team after his fight with cornerback Josh Jenkins. Help is on the way with the quality class of 16 plebe linebackers. Jeff Monken's staff put together this recruiting season. Army added seven direct admit including one of their most highly regarded 3-star recruits in years. The linebacker position was the strength of the USMAPS defense last season that produced an 11-1 record. The prep school included nine plebes in what looks to be the deepest linebacker class in terms of talent and potential the Black Knights have seen since I've been covering Army football. will now look at the new Black Knight linebackers.

The most highly regarded of the defensive recruits was talented three star defensive end and linebacker direct admit Kenneth Brinson. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound defensive lineman was a three year starter at Marist high school in Georgia. As a senior in 2014, Brinson made 42 tackles, nine for loss, five sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. Kenneth produced 29 sacks and 55 quarterback hurries during his 36 game high school career. He was named All-State, All-Region, and All-County. He was a two-time state wrestling champion and starred in track in the shot put, discuss, and the hammer. He was state champion in the discus and was a member of the U.S. Junior Olympic team. Brinson was a defensive end in high school but was listed as a linebacker on the R-day list.

Kenneth Brinson is a rare FBS talent for Army to land. He is a fast player who is an explosive hitter and a terrific pass rusher off the edge. He has the strength and athleticism to make an impact at either linebacker or defensive tackle. Service academies usually don't get players with this type of physical ability out of high school. Brinson chose Army West Point over offers from Boston College, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Utah, Wake Forest, Stanford, Air Force and Yale.

Calen Holt (6-0”, 210) was a starting outside linebacker at United States Military Academy Prep School (USMAPS) last fall. During Holt's senior year at Kamehameha, Hawaii he produced 94 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and scored a defensive touchdown. Calen was the team captain and led Kamehameha to a 9-2 season. Holt earned First Team All-Hawaii honors and the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Calen Holt was a special player as he made plays all over the field for USMAPS last year at SAM linebacker. He is a fast, smart, intense and aggressive linebacker. Holt is a natural with great instincts who always seems to be in the right place at right time. Calen can drop in coverage and play in space. Holt made a huge interception and return against Milford Academy to their 10-yard line to help USMAPS in their comeback victory. Calen has a huge upside with the potential to emerge as an impact defender at either outsider linebacker or strong safety.

James Nachtigal was a starting Mike linebacker at the USMAPS last fall. Nachtigal (6-1”, 205) played linebacker and wide receiver at Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. He received all-conference honors at both positions. Nachtigal had 45 receptions for 840 yards, an 18.7 average and eight touchdowns at wide receiver. He performed well at combine camps. At the Under Armor camp he was ranked as the thirteenth best linebacker. Nachtigal was active and made a lot of tackles at USMAPS. He is an athletic linebacker who is always around the ball. He runs well and has legit 4.6 speed in the forty yard dash. James is tough, plays hard, hustles and was a very productive player. He was one of the leaders and team captains at USMAPS. Nachtigal chose Army over a chance to be a preferred walk-on at Northern Illinois. He’s a good player who could be in the mix early in his career.

Cole Macek (5-11”, 220) was a starting linebacker at USMAPS. He started last season at the rush linebacker and was moved inside to Will linebacker during the season. Macek was a two-way player at Montour high school in Pennsylvania. Macek played linebacker and running back. In 2013 he made 88 tackles and 8 ½ tackles for loss, with an interception, forced fumble and had a fumble recovery. Macek made 24 sacks his junior and senior seasons combined. He ran for 602 yards and scored a total of seven touchdowns. Macek set the school record for career wrestling victories by posting a 137-26 record. He was a three-time section runner-up and one time-champion.

Macek really came into his own last fall when he was moved inside to Will linebacker. Cole is a very instinctive and aware linebacker. He reads opposing offenses so well that if you didn't know better you would think at times he's in the offensive huddle before the snap. He did a great job timing the snap count when blitzing the A-gap to often drop quarterbacks immediately as they pulled away from center. He does a real nice job of slipping blocks and shooting gaps to make negative plays in the opponents backfield. Macek refuses to stay blocked and has good range. He should develop into a very productive player at Army.

Samuel Johnson was in the rotation at boundary linebacker at USMAPS last fall. Johnson (6-2”, 220) was the inside linebacker and team captain at Riverview High school in Florida. Johnson was a three year varsity starter. As a senior he made 83 tackles and had ten tackles behind the line of scrimmage Johnson was Riverview's defensive captain. He comes from a military family with his grandfather serving during World War II and his uncle in Vietnam.

Johnson is a thick, physical big effort player who can fill a run gap. Johnson is strong and was the county weightlifting champion. in high school. He made a number of key short yardage stops stuffing the run last year. Johnson is a physical player who likes to play downhill and attack ball carriers. He lacks the range and speed of some of others previously mentioned but he is a solid, hardnosed productive player. Johnson chose Army over an offer from Stetson

Zach Maxwell was in the outside linebacker rotation at USMAPS last year. Maxwell (6-1”, 205) is from Southington, Connecticut. He was an impact player in high school leading his team to the state championship. Maxwell was a defensive end and running back who was named 2013 Hartford Courant defensive player of the year and to the Walter Camp All-Connecticut defensive team. In 2013 Maxwell made 86 tackles, 32 tackles for a loss, 17 sacks, three passes defensed and three forced fumbles. He started two years and had 28 sacks in his high school career. As a running back he ran for 452 yards, a 10.2 average and seven touchdowns in 2013. He also caught five passes for 93 yards and had a fifty yard touchdown reception.

Maxwell was one of the last commits of the Ellerson staff for the defunct quick end position in the old Double Eagle flex defense. He did a solid job at USMAPS as a rush linebacker after playing his high school career as a defensive end in a three point stance. He is not as physically big as some of the others already mentioned but he runs well and is quick off his mark. Maxwell is a work in progress playing in space at linebacker but at a minimum he could develop into a situational pass rusher. I think he'll need at least a year of seasoning and time in the strength and conditioning program to add some weight to his frame.

Juwan Griffith-James (6-2”, 225) played both Rush linebacker and defensive tackle at USMAPS last fall. Griffith-James was a three sport athlete in football, basketball and track locally at Bergenfield, New Jersey. As a senior Griffith-James made 74 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and five sacks. Juwan is a self-made player who has improved each year. He's added twenty pounds since high school. Griffith-James started the season at linebacker at USMAPS but was moved to the defensive line because he had the size to play at 4 technique defensive tackle. Griffith-James is a bit of a hybrid defensive line/rush linebacker athlete. His ability to add more weight may decide where he plays.

Matt Allgor was hurt most of the prep season but played well late in the season at linebacker for USMAPS. Allgor is a 6-foot-2, 225 pound outside linebacker from William Mason high school Ohio. Allgor averaged 6 tackles per game during his senior year and broke up four passes. Matt arrived at USMAPS last season rehabbing from a injury and missed most of the first half of the season. He was able to play very late in the year and flashed some excellent ability. Allgor offers nice size for an Army linebacker with good range and a burst to the ball. He likes to bring the lumber when he hits opponents. Allgor may be a sleeper among this year's recruits if he can stay healthy.

Chandler Ramirez (6-0”, 210) was in the outside SAM linebacker rotation at United States Military Academy Prep school. Ramirez is from Archbishop Mitty high school in California. He played both ways in high school as a fullback and linebacker. Ellerson's staff recruited him as fullback but Jeff Monken's staff used him at linebacker. Ramirez was First team All-League and WCAL league Player of the year. He was named Mercury News defensive player of the year in 2013. He posted 12 1/2 sacks his senior season.

Ramirez played in the outside SAM linebacker rotation at USMAPS. Ramirez offer nice size for an Army outside linebacker. He runs well and does a nice job in coverage. USMAPS head coach Andy Wolfrum liked to use Ramirez in nickel and dime packages to take advantage of his ability to cover and play well in space. He is a good special teams plays who excelled on the coverage teams at the prep school.

Jarrod Jones attended USMAPS last year. Jones is a 5-10”, 205 pound linebacker from Prattville high school in Alabama. Jones was a tackling machine who recorded 209 tackles and nine tackles for loss his senior year. He earned First Team All-Metro honors. Jones is another of the active undersized linebacker with good instincts. Jones plays hard and is fundamentally sound almost always squaring up to tackle ball carriers. The depth of this class of linebackers is so much more impressive than anything seen from the previous regime. This group of incoming USMAPS linebackers is very close in talent level and has the ability to emerge in one or two years which will really enhance depth and competition.

The direct admits were more than just three star defensive end and linebacker direct admit Kenneth Brinson. Outside linebacker Corey Sanders (6-4", 215) committed to Army at their summer camp last June after he was named the best linebacker in camp. Corey missed most of his senior season after he broke his arm during the fourth game of the year and wasn't able to return until the final game of the regular season. He finished his senior year with 52 tackles, four quarterback hurries, a sack, and picked off a pass. As a junior he was named second-team All-State in Texas Class 5A after being switched from quarterback to linebacker. Sanders offers nice size, range and good speed at outside linebacker. He was timed at a legit 4.78 in the forty-yard dash in an ESPN combine. Sanders dream was always to attend West Point since he was in grammar school.. He had offers from Air Force, Lamar, and Texas State while drawing serious interest from Duke, Utah and Navy before being hurt. Sanders was his team's captain and received a direct appointment to West Point.

Direct admit Cole Jones (5-10", 205) of St. Xavier High School in Ohio was a three-year starter at both outside and inside linebacker. Last year he posted 82 tackles and had 10 sacks during the regular season. He was named first team All-Greater Catholic League, first team All-District, All-State honorable mention and was St. Xavier's Most Valuable Player. Jones was one of the top wrestlers in the state of Ohio and won the state championship as a senior. Jones has excellent instincts, solid speed and made plays all over the field last year. Jones had offers from Navy, Air Force and Eastern Michigan as well. He was named to the 2014 Southwest Ohio Team 25.

Another direct admit is outside linebacker Harrison Rooney (6-1", 205) of Bentonville high school in Arkansas. Rooney led the Tigers with 118 tackles last fall as Bentonville won its second consecutive state championship. He was a three year starter. Harrison was named last season as Arkansas Class 7A Defensive Player of the Year, the Northwest Arkansas Defensive of the Year and First team All-State. Rooney is aggressive, physical and has the speed to play in space that the Black Knights need at outside linebacker. Rooney was timed at 4.71 at an ESPN junior combine. He originally committed to Air Force but switched to Army.

Will Dunavant (6-3", 210) is a direct admit from Lambert high school in Georgia played both tight end and was a second-team all-county selection on the defensive line. He projects to outside linebacker in the Army's 3-4 scheme. Dunavant had originally committed to play baseball at Wofford last July but his recruiting trip to West Point changed his mind and sport as he will join the Black Knights. Last season he recorded five sacks and caused three fumbles.

Direct admit outside linebacker Andy Davidson (6-2", 220) was a Lehighvalleylive All-Area first-team selection from Emmaus high school in Pennsylvania. Davidson was named conference defensive player of the year the last two seasons. Andy earned first team all-league recognition the last three seasons. He registered 131 1/2 tackles (30 for loss), 5 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries one of which he returned for a score, an interception and three blocked kicks last fall. He played both ways and was used as a running back. Davidson ran for 2,042 yards and 26 touchdowns on 318 carries. He is a big linebacker who runs well and is a big hitter. He chose Army over offers from Navy, Lafayette and Lehigh.

Direct admit Boomer Bakich (6-1', 203) from Highland Park, Texas chose Army over a chance to walk on at his father's alma mater Notre Dame and an offer from Columbia. His dad, Huntley Bakich, was a linebacker for the Irish. Bakich was a three-year starter at Highland Park where he started a school-record 38 games in a row. As a senior he made 81 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, intercepted a pass, broke up 17 others, forced two fumbles and recovered two more. Bakich was named first team All-District. He's had a nice growth spurt since entering his senior adding 18 pounds. Bakich was a playmaking strong safety in high school but was listed as a linebacker on the West Point R-day list.

Next: A look at the incoming defensive backs. Top Stories