2. Finding some magic at slot back
Head coach Ellerson has repeatedly used the phrase about finding some magic at slot back. Ellerson desires a slot back with speed, cutting ability that can make people miss in the open field. Army knows what it has in hard working, reliable Pat Mealy returning as a starter at one slot back. Mealy blocks well and led the slot backs in yards per carry (6.1) last year. With Jameson Carter who led all slot backs in rushing in the spring game, leaving the program, the Black Knights need at least one of its younger players to step up and perform. The long striding Carter wasn't the most explosive slot back but understood the system and blocked well on the move. Carter's perimeter blocking was one of the key in Mealy's 136 yard rushing performance against VMI. In addition to Carter, promising sophomore Lonnie Liggins also left the program after spring practice, leaving for Towson.
The main beneficiary of the depth chart changes is Malcolm Brown. Brown is a 5-foot-11, 180 pound slot back and the most talented of the plebes that saw action last year. Last year Brown looked at times out of his element after beast barracks. He struggled with his assignments in the new system. Brown made far too many mental mistakes and sometimes seemed tentative running with the ball. There is no mistaking Brown's athleticism as he spent some time this spring impressing the staff at wide receiver before returning to slot back at the end of camp. Brown has demonstrated good hands, a willingness to block and above average quickness and speed. He has earned the confidence of the staff and Ellerson flatly declares, "Malcolm Brown is one of our best football players."
Two other sophomores, Brian Cobbs and Brian Austin, were moved from other positions this spring to slot back and have impressed with their speed. Cobbs, who played defensive back last year, is a former high school running back and is very fast with good run skills. He was impressive in spring practice but is still learning the position. With the depth chart changes he'll be sure to see more snaps this fall. The other sophomore moving up the depth chart is Brian Austin who is a converted wide receiver who ran track this spring and possesses breakaway speed.
The most exciting solution at slot back is freshman Raymond Maples. The 6-foot-1, 200 pound Maples has the chance to be the best Army back in a long time. Maples played fullback and led the prep team in rushing. He was easily the best skilled position player last year at USMAPS. Maples is quick productive runner with tremendous vision. He has excellent feet, reads blocking well and runs to daylight. He has good acceleration in hole and the ability to change direction especially laterally at line of scrimmage. Maples is not a true burner but is able to burst into the open field. He breaks a lot of tackles and always seems to pick up extra yards
The biggest drawback for Maples is that he played fullback, not slot back, last year at the prep school. He will be learning a new position and have to block in space. Perhaps offensive coordinator Ian Shields will steal a page from former Navy coach Paul Johnson in utilizing Maples. Johnson had a very talented freshman slot back in 2005 named Karlos Whitaker. Whitaker hadn't played in an option offense before and couldn't block effectively. Johnson used Whitaker almost exclusively on pre-determined pitches and as the pitch man to get the ball in his hands. Spotting Maples early in the year on designed carries could be a way to allow him to contribute as he learns all the responsibilities of his new slot back position.
Keys for Army's offense (No. 2)
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