Army's Dace makes case for playing time

He's the longshot, always has been, but Army running back Tony Dace deserves credit. Dace, a junior, never stops getting after it and he's been impressive during spring drills. Still, he will have to fight for playing time this fall. Dace still has to pass, at least, starter Wesley McMahand on the depth chart. Incoming freshman Pat Mealy could enter fall practices ahead of Dace.

But never count Antonio Rashaad Dace out. Dace spent his three-year career at Fort Walton Beach High School (Fla.) as a back-up running back. He never started a game and averaged about 40 carries per year. But Fort Walton High Mike Owens thinks Dace could have been a 1,000-yard rusher back in high school.

So what was Dace doing on the bench? He played behind one of the best high school running backs in the country: Glen Coffee.

Coffee is Fort Walton's all-time leading rusher and put up 1,886 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior. He's seen playing time the last two seasons at the University of Alabama.

Dace started at Fort Walton for three years on the defensive side of the ball. His versatility allowed Owens to play him at cornerback, strong safety and even linebacker. He admits that Dace was often frustrated playing behind Coffee, but never complained.

Just like at Army. Dace rushed for only 33 yards on 10 carries last season and never groaned. In fact, he's come out to spring practice with a little extra, well, spring in his step. Dace has put up some of the nicest runs during spring drill, including a 50-yarder during practice last week.

No wonder Dace served as Fort Walton's spiritual and emotional leader. Now, he's trying to do the same thing at Army.

Extra points: Akron, who Army opens the season against on Sept. 1 in Cleveland, began spring workouts on March 29. The Zips lost 11 starters to graduation, but have 46 players returning from last season's team. Akron's defense, especially its linebackers and secondary, are the team's strongest spots. Akron's spring game is set for April 15. Akron finished 5-7, 3-5 in the Mid-American Conference last season. Army beat the Zips 20-0 in 2005.


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