Army holds first scrimmage of spring

Our proud Army team is coming along slowly, but steadily. The Black Knights held their first scrimmage of the spring and there were plenty of bright spots.

Quarterback Chip Bowden ran the offense well. Running back Pat Mealy caught a touchdown pass and ran for another. Wide receiver Ali Villanueva, a converted offensive lineman, caught two touchdown passes. On the defensive side, unheralded defensive back Andrew Rodriguez forced a fumble and intercepted a pass.

"This was our first time 11-on-11 and letting the quarterbacks play live a little bit," new Army coach Ellerson said. "We did a couple of things. We had our offense go against our defense, which is something we don't normally do much because our defense seldom sees our offense and our offense seldom sees our defense. We let guys stay in their own world and not have to pretend to be somebody else. Then we took some guys and put them on cards so our defense worked against a conventional offense and our offense worked against defenses that they'll certainly see through the course of the season."

The development of Ellerson's triple option offense will be one of the biggest plots of spring practices. There is also an interesting sub-plot developing, Army's new wide receiver, Villanueva a rising senior. Villanueva, 6-foot-10, is a converted offensive lineman, who weighs 283 pounds.

He made plays in Army's first scrimmage like former Black Knight standout Aaron Alexander. Bowden, a junior, led the offense to a touchdown on its first possession, connecting Villanueva for a 14-yard touchdown pass. It was one of two Bowden to Villanueva scores during the scrimmage. The second was a 45-yard catch and run by Villanueva. Villanueva nearly had a third touchdown, but Bowden's fade pass went off his fingertips.

"I like the way coach set it up with the firsts going against the seconds to get us some confidence to start with," Villanueva said. "I thought we had good intensity, and I felt pretty confident out there. I have to work on everything. I know how to catch the ball, but I still have so much to improve on."

Said Ellerson of his seemingly ridiculous position change, which, so far, looks pretty good: "He's so new to this stuff, but the good news is that he's picking things up," Ellerson said. "He obviously has to improve fundamentally and within the system, but I'm encouraged. He can do some things. He can catch the football okay, but he hasn't been catching the ball before. Those tackles and guards never even see a football. The fact that he is handling the ball as well as he is encourages me. He'll have 10,000 balls thrown at him between now and the end of spring, and we'll make sure that through the rest of the semester and through the summer that whatever he's doing and wherever he is, there is going to be somebody with a football throwing at him so he can touch the ball a lot and become more natural with it. He does have decent ball skills, and he's always open. Just by standing up, he's open."

Army begins its third week of spring preparations on Monday at 4 p.m. in the Foley Athletic Center. The annual Black/Gold Game is just around the corner. It will be held on Friday, April 10 at 5 p.m.


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