Optimism is high for Army

Hope and optimism loom as we approach kick-off for 2010. In the pre-season publications Army ranks anywhere from 44 (Orlando Sentinel) to 99 (Steele). While this does not put Army in line for a BCS ranking – it certainly shows that the football world is expecting much more from Army.

If you have not been following – Army has ranked in the bottom 10 teams to start the last 5 seasons. With 66 bowls slots – Army is right in the mix to play in some smaller bowl game this winter.

In short – here is why there is so much optimism around the program in ascending order

#4 Offense – Army has 8 returning offensive starters. Quarterback Trent Steelman returns for his sophomore year. He started each game last year and has all the skills to make the offense work. Slot back Patrick Mealy gained 673 yards on 110 carries last year without much help from the inside. Air Force transfer Jarred Hassin will take over the fullback role. He is 230 pounds and runs 4.5 second fory. This is integral to keeping the defending linebackers at home and opening the outside. Three senior offensive line starters return: Center Zach Peterson (267 pounds), left tackle Anees Merzi (283 pounds), right tackle Jason Johnson (257 pounds). Meanwhile, guard Frank Allen (275 pounds) and senior guard Mikel Welch (277 pounds) are competing to replace two-year starter Fritz Bentler. There is no experience at wide receiver, but Davyd Brooks had an outstanding spring, and he may be ready for a breakthrough season.

Defense – The 16th ranked defense returns 8 starters. Linebacker Stephen Anderson will look to bounce back from off-season knee surgery. When healthy, he brings leadership and toughness. Last year he had 83 tackles including 6.5 for loss. Josh McNary is a complete beast with NFL speed off the edge with 12.5 sacks and 22.5 for loss last season. However, he will not have the departed Victor Ugenyi taking up defensive line attention. Mike Gann returns, he made 34 tackles with 7 for losses.

Army's third-ranked pass defense returns senior Richard King, who was projected to have a sizable impact in 2009 but missed the year while recovering from a serious concussion. Junior Antuan Aaron provides a great cornerback tandem. The safeties are very good, especially senior free safety Donovan Travis. He made 71 tackles and had 4 interceptions last year. Fellow seniors Donnie Dixon and Jordan Trimble give Army two solid starting options at strong safety.

Schedule:

There are six very winnable games scheduled for 2010, not considering the other service academies. Last year's team would have won 5 of these games. The home schedule, aside from the Air Force game, is a farce. Assuming even modest improvement, Army should compete in 10 of the 12 games. The second half of the season is going to be very challenging for this Army team: Rutgers at the new Meadowlands Stadium, a breather against VMI, Air Force, at Kent State, Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium, and Navy - but you play the games for a reason. If they can earn a split of these six games, it will be a hugely successful season. Anything more than a split, and a successful season will become a great season.

Coaching:

While we feel that head coach Rich Ellerson has been prematurely anointed as the savior to Army Football, and some of his in-game decisions during his first season have been downright awful, he clearly brings a level of a professionalism, a plan, an understanding of the Academy, an offense and defense tailored to West Pointers and an attitude that we have not seen in a couple of decades. After all, believing is essential to achieving…he has some of us starting to believe.

Predictions:

Ridge – 9-3 Bell Helicopter Bowl

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