Army practice & scrimmage notes. Week 2

Anyone who's followed Army since Rich Ellerson took the reins knows his mantra regarding position flexibility. He flat out tells recruits that they are football players first not the position they played in high school. We've seen these switches at a number of positions with the most famous being the move of left tackle Ali Villaneuva to wide receiver.

With the stunning news that talented whip linebacker Andrew Rodriguez may miss significant time with back problems it's not surprising that Ellerson is considering alternatives. Chad Littlejohn, a 6-0, 229 junior, is listed on the depth chart as A- Rod's backup. Recently the staff has moved starting bandit tackle Nate Combs off the line and had him take repetitions with the first team defense at whip linebacker to provide competition for Littlejohn. . Sophomore Jarrett Mackey who impressed at quick end when Josh McNary missed spring practice after shoulder surgery has slide over to replace Combs at the bandit tackle position. The 6-2, 225 Mackey is quick, rangy with very good lateral quickness. He has excellent first step quickness and can rush the passer. It's a good move because Mackey needs to play since he is one of the more talented players on the defense. Mackey can really shoot the gap and make plays.

Starting quarterback Trent Steelman is practicing with a sleeve on his knee. Most fans were unaware that Steelman had an arthroscopy done on his knee this past June. He is healthy now and the sleeve acts as a knee brace to provide additional support. Don't worry about Trent Steelman. He looked great during Saturday's scrimmage completing both his passes for touchdowns. Steelman demonstrated excellent quickness running the ball and would have scored two touchdowns but slipped twice on cuts during the redzone offense. Steelman has worked diligently in weight room and has added nearly twenty pounds of muscle to his frame this off season.

Saturday's scrimmage opened with special teams coverage. The Black Knights began with the team working on punt coverage. They focused on directional kicking with returning punter Jonathan Bulls absolutely hammering the ball. Josh Jackson and Josh Jones handled the few returns. On kickoffs Matt Campbell must be in Coach's Brent Gerch weight training program. He really hit two kickoffs. One went to about the four yard line with good hang time. The other was boomed five yards deep into the end zone but was returned. Like Bulls, Campbell hit the ball better on Saturday than he did all of last year. Pat Mealy, Malcolm Brown and Brian Cobbs were the featured kickoff returners.

Cornerback Richard King had a terrific scrimmage on Saturday. King who missed last year due to a concussion broke up the first pass of the game intended for Davyd Brooks. King showed a terrific burst in breaking up another out pattern later in the afternoon. At this point King looks like an upgrade over the recently graduated Mario Hill at cornerback.

The aforementioned wide receiver Davyd Brooks is the best receiver on the roster. He seems to be Steelman's new go-to receiver. He had a few catches and the big play of the scrimmage when he burned freshman Brandon Porter deep for a 61-yard touchdown. Austin Barr, this year's other projected starter, had a nice over the shoulder touchdown catch on a pretty throw by Steelman in corner of end zone. Freshman Anthony Stephens continues to impress me. Stephens is a smooth glider with a burst. He was wide open for what should have been a sure touchdown but Max Jenkins line drive pass was way over his head. The small stadium crowd groaned on that one. Another freshman, local kid, Jared McFarlin looked good later in game playing for the scout team.. He had a diving catch of a Jimmy Reitter pass, used his size to out leap cornerback Jordan Crockett and was open late but the pass was under thrown by Cody Jackson. Freshman Robert Wright caught a touchdown pass from Cody Jackson on a slant late when the backups were working on redzone offense. He also ran a reverse that went for no gain. Patrick Laird had a nice catch in traffic on a Jackson pass. USMAPS freshman Casey Hughes had at least two catches and showed his usually reliable hands.

Fans wondered why last year's slot back starter Jameson Carter left the team. It was a personal decision by Carter to focus on academics and it was his choice to leave the program. It's not unusual for seniors at West Point to arrive at the same decision. The only surprise was that Carter was scheduled to be the starter. The battle to replace Carter at slot back continued during Saturday's scrimmage. Brian Cobbs showed his speed on a long run during Saturday's scrimmage. Exciting freshman Raymond Maples showed his burst in the hole on one nice run for about eleven yards. Maples also blocked well. Malcolm Brown did a good job when he had the ball. Brian Austin has excellent speed but didn't get a lot of running room. Freshman Julian Crockett had a bad fumble on a good option pitch that would have been a touchdown during redzone offense. He dropped the pitch and it was recovered by the defense.

In a new offensive wrinkle offensive coordinator Ian Shields employed a jet or fly motion handoff during Saturday's scrimmage. Shields had the slot back run straight down the line in motion and received a direct handoff from the quarterback. He also used the split back set with one slot back wide at times. It was the same formation that Army used against Navy at times last year.

He's back! In the second series Stephen Anderson announced his return when he absolutely blasted a slot back with a booming tackle. The sound of the hit echoed through the stadium. It was great to sight for Army fans to see the fiery Anderson back in form after recuperating from his serious knee injury. Other hits of the day were when starting fullback Jared Hassin hammered Steve Erzinger to spring Steelman on a nice run early in scrimmage. Late in practice two freshmen laid the lumber late in the scrimmage when defensive tackle Shane Finnan had a big hit on slotback. Colby Miller a freshman from the prep school ended the scrimmage when he planted freshman quarterback Matt Luetjen like it was Arbor day. Top Stories