Army defense Improving

West Point - Junior defensive end Cameron Craig is the face of Army's up-and-coming defense. Literally. Craig has a pre-game ritual in which he puts black "war" paint around his eyes and down his cheeks. It began before Army's historic win at Air Force last season.

"It's like I need an alter ego," Craig says. "The warrior. I like to go out there crazy, like a different person."

Army's 'D' played like a different unit in 2005. The resurgent Black Knights finished the season ranked 37th in the nation in team defense, allowing 346.55 yards per game. Army finished dead last (117th) with 490.9 yards just a year earlier.

Part of Army's success can be attributed to coach Bobby Ross moving to a more flexible 4-3 defense and ditching the "whip" position. The whip, implemented during the failed Todd Berry regime, was a morphing of a linebacker/safety/cover man position. It often left Army defensive players confused.

Defensive coordinator John Mumford successfully implemented the 4-3 and the players executed and gained confidence as the season progressed. The Black Knights' defense also climbed from 91st nationally (240.7) to 10th (173.9). Army moved from 114th overall in pass efficiency defense (153.2) to 44th (119.6) and from 107th (35.3) to 66th (26.7) in scoring defense.

Army could be even better on defense than last season and are working hard to improve during spring drills. The Black Knights return eight players from last year's unit. Leading the way is sophomore safety Caleb Campbell, named to the preseason Ronnie Lott watch list earlier this spring, and Craig.

Both players impressed opposing coaches last year. Navy coach Paul Johnson raved about Campbell leading into last season's showdown with Army. Campbell finished with five interceptions last year - the most by an Army player in eight years. His average of 0.45 interceptions was ninth in the nation.

This is what Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said about Craig after the Cyclones escaped West Point with a 28-21 win last September: "Cameron Craig could play for any team in the Big 12. He could play for Texas or Oklahoma; he is that good."

Still, Craig wants to improve and become more consistent. And Ross is looking for more from the 6-foot-3, 251-pounder.

"I want Cameron to play a little bit more recklessly," Ross said. "I think he has good speed and great strength. He's one of the best athletes on our team. I think he's played under control a little bit. I want him to play a more reckless. He's capable of it and I think he will respond."


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