Outside Linebackers in 2003

Here's my early look at Army's outside linebackers for 2003. Army will be returning both starters at the OLB position, and one other player with significant playing experience in 2003.

However, the team will still experience the graduation loss of some experienced senior back-ups, making depth at this position an issue heading into next season. Army uses a 4x4 defensive scheme with the two OLBs filling multiple roles as run stoppers, cover men and pass rushers on blitzes. A recap of the key losses and players in the mix in 2003 follows:

Key losses:

Brian Todd, 6-0, 186, graduating SR. Brian was a three-year lettermen who played a lot as a RB in 2000 before switching to OLB for his final campaigns. He appeared in 15 games the past two seasons, all in a reserve capacity. He was a superb performer at practice and an athlete who was capable of shouldering a larger role on the defense last season. His experience will be missed.

Martin Pierce, 6-1, 184, graduating SR. Martin was a QB and free safety earlier in his career before settling in as a reserve OLB. He had brief game experience in both 2000 and 2001 before logging duty in 7 games in 2002. Martin is a superb student who will graduate high in his class.

Shane Radtke, 6-0, 190, graduating SR. Shane began his cadet career as a wishbone QB before being switched to defense. He lettered in his final season and appeared in 5 games in 2002.

Projected Starters:

Ryan Kent, 6-0, 205, SR. Ryan was the only underclassmen to serve as a team captain in 2002 and he has assumed a leadership role as the team conducts pre-season conditioning drills. Ryan is Army's most experienced defensive player and he should be elected a team captain again in 2003. Ryan started at outside linebacker for all of the Black Knights' 12 contests in 2002 and led the team in both tackles and interceptions. He finished the year with 92 stops, two interceptions and an 88 yard fumble return against Louisville. Ryan has started 14 straight games and he has 22 career starts. Ryan's experience and athleticism will be needed in 2003 if Army hopes to reverse its fortunes on the defensive side of the ball.

Mikel Resnick, 6-0, 210, JR. Mikel is an extremely fast and likable player who has shouldered field duty as both a plebe and a yearling. He started 8 games in 2002 and he also lettered as a plebe. His continued development, coupled with the experience he has gained during his first two seasons, gives Army a pretty solid OLB tandem to look forward to in 2003.

The next group:

Curt Daniels, 5-11, 200 JR. Curt is the younger brother of former Army defensive back Clay Daniels. He is a strong and quick letterman who saw his first game action in 2002, appearing in a total of 9 contests. Curt should be the principal back-up to Mikel Resnick in 2003 and he should see increased playing time.

Taylor Justice, 6-0, 190 SO. Taylor is an intriguing prospect blessed with both quickness and a nose for the football. He vaulted to as high as #2 on the OLB depth chart by the end of his plebe year. Expect him to be the key back-up to Ryan Kent and earn his first letter in 2003.

Others in the mix:

Chuck Wilke, 6-0, 190 SO. Chuck is another outstanding prospect blessed with both speed and athleticism. His progress was marred by minor injuries by season's end, but he appeared on the depth chart on a number of occasions. Expect Chuck to letter in 2003. He could also land as high as the 2nd team on the depth chart.

Zack Kirkpatrick, 5-11 180. Zack was a bit light coming out of his plebe summer into the fall drills. He should be building himself up in the off-season and looking for some field action in 2003.

Lucius Weaver, 6-3 225, JR. Lucius split time between FS and OLB in 2002. However, I am projecting him as the starting free safety in 2003, as I noted in my article on DBs. Nevertheless, he could move to OLB if Kent or Resnick go down to injuries.

Overall Assessment:

With two returning starters, the OLB position should be one of the strengths of the Army defense in 2003. The challenge will be for both Kent and Resnick to remain injury free in 2003 and take their collective performance to the next level. Army had a superb OLB play in 2000 during Brian Zickefoose's junior campaign. Kent and Resnick need to strive to give Army that level of performance in 2003. Kent is almost there with an overall good campaign in 2002. Resnick will have to take advantage of the experience he has gained to make plays in 2003 that he is capable of making. It will also be important to develop depth behind this starting group. There are a number of solid plebe prospects coming in this fall that could garner a spot on the three deep and earn some playing time. I am projecting the OLB position to be overall improved in 2003 due to the fact that two starters are returning to the fold.

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