Army preseason camp opens on Monday

Year three of the Bobby Ross era begins Monday when Army opens preseason camp. The buzz word at Michie Stadium this season is optimism. Fans and alumni are expecting a .500 season or even better, something the Black Knights haven't accomplished since 1996. It could happen if................. Here are 10 keys for Army during preseason camp.

1. The education of David Pevoto: Ross raved about Pevoto's development during spring drills. Indeed, the junior made great strides. Pevoto has to maintain his consistency and keep improving.

The truth is, we really find out about Pevoto's moxie when Army opens the season Sept. 2 at Arkansas State. Pevoto has just 12 career pass attempts, all against Connecticut last season.

2. Finding a back-up QB: You think Pevoto is inexperienced? Juniors Pat McDonald and Kevin Dunn, competing for the back-up job, have never taken a varsity snap.

It's nice to know that Pevoto is a big and healthy kid. But McDonald and Dunn have to be groomed quickly just in case Pevoto gets hurt. Heralded incoming freshmen Carson Williams and Chase Prasnicki likely won't be factors until next fall.

But you never know.

3. Finding a RB: Expect Ross to name a starter sooner than later. He only has about 10 players to choose from, at least, it seems that way. Six players - freshmen Tony Dace, Jamal Robinson, Wesley McMahand and Jerry Jones and juniors Michael Herndon and Rick Lay are fighting for the job. Robinson left spring drills as the top contender.

4. Tuning up the 'D': It was one of the best stories of the 2005 Army season. The Black Knights' defense went from a pushover (last in the nation in total defense, 117th) to a force (37th). The unit could be even better with studs like defensive end Cameron Craig, linebacker Barrett Scruggs and safety Caleb Campbell back in the mix.

There is nothing to learn this preseason, no new defensive scheme. This could be a scary group.

5. Don't get burnt like toast: If there is a question mark on defense, it's at the cornerback position, which could be the most important on the defensive side of the ball.

Sophomore Darren Newson is expected to start at one corner. He played in nickel situations last year. Senior Sean Grevious looks like the guy at the other corner. He's been a reserve at Army. Newson could be a star in the making, but he's still young. Opposing offenses could look to go at Grevious.

So the pair will need to keep up their retention during camp and keep improving.

6. Get the OL on the same page: This unit makes you feel a lot better about Army's inexperience at quarterback and running back.

And it shouldn't take long to get the big guys on front clicking. The entire line - center Pete Bier, guards Dan Evans and Matt Weisner and tackles Jonathan Connon and Ray Zelenak return. Expect the group to start firing quickly.

7. Getting help from the kids: Last year, it was Darren Newson. Ross always seems to find a freshman to chip in and help the team. Every fan would love to see Williams come in, start flinging bullets, and win the job. Not gonna happen.

But expect a few other freshman get a good look during drills and a chance for playing time. Ross won't drop names until he sees the kids perform. He does have some nice-sized incoming freshman in the secondary.

8. A great option: It helped Army rack up rushing yards and left opposing defenses guessing.

Ah, the option, an obsession for some Army fans. Expect the scheme to be implemented more during camp. But entering Ross' third year it's still a work in project.

Pevoto is more mobile than Dahman, but don't expect Army's offense to take you back to the glory days of 1996.

9. Special play: Ross is a stickler comes from special teams. He almost blew a gasket when his kicker and punters failed him in 2004.

Enter Justin Koenig and Owen Tolson. Koenig was 9-of-12 on field goal attempts and Tolson averaged 40.2 yards per punt, dropping 17 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Special teams may be the hardest unit to keep consistent. The last thing Ross needs for them to do is fall off.

Tolson is solid. Koenig isn't too bad either. Expect them both to remain consistent.

10. The injury bug: It's a concern for every team in America. You don't even really want to talk about it. You don't want to jinx the team. But it has to be mentioned. Now on to brighter subjects: Look for Charlie Rockwood to be going at full speed during practice. He tore his knee up last September against Iowa State and missed the rest of the year.

Ross expected big things from Rockwood last year. He'll likely get them this fall. Here's to a big 2006. Go Army!


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