2012 Army Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Army Black Knight Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Running game good, passing game bad. It’s that simple. Army led the nation averaging 346.5 rushing yards per game, and it should be at least that strong, if not better, with all the running backs returning along with QB Trent Steelman, who’s going into his fourth year as a starter. The line is full of linebacker-sized blockers, but it’s experienced and should be effective. And then there’s the passing game that finished dead last by a ten-mile wide margin with just 605 yards on the year. The receivers can block, but they need to make more big plays and the passing game has to be far more efficient.
Star of the offense: Senior QB Trent Steelman
Passing: Trent Steelman
24-45, 424 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Raymond Maples
146 carries, 1,066 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Malcolm Brown
7 catches, 163 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior OT Ben Jebb
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C Ryan Powis
Best pro prospect: Senior FB Jared Hassin
Top three all-star candidates: 1) RB Raymond Maples, 2) Steelman, 3) FB Larry Dixon
Strength of the offense: Running Game, Controlling The Clock
Weakness of the offense: Passing Game, Line Size
Back for his fourth year running the offense is senior Trent Steelman, a 6-0, 207-pound runner who finished second on the team with 645 yards and 12 touchdowns, and completed just 24-of-45 passes for 424 yards and three scores with two picks. He’s never going to be a passer and he’s never going to be efficient, but he has the option attack down cold and he’s smooth around the goal line. A great decision maker, he knows exactly what he’s supposed to be doing, but he also takes his share of pops playing in nine games last season and having problems with a shoulder injury a few seasons ago.
Working as the understudy is sophomore Angel Santiago, a 5-11, 188-pound speedster who saw some playing time last year and ran the offense without a problem. In his four games he ran for 162 yards and a score and completed 7-of-21 passes for 84 yards, and now he’s going to be groomed to be the main man next year. A faster and better athlete than Steelman, he’ll be more of a home run hitter when he gets his chances.
6-2, 205-pound sophomore Gino DeBartolo can run, but he’s also one of the better passing threats on the roster. Junior Parker Hite is a 6-0, 185-pound runner who’s strictly an emergency option. DeBartolo is the No. 3.
Watch Out For … Santiago. He’s the future, and considering Steelman has been banged up for each of the last two seasons and had a minor leg problem in the spring, the backups will be needed. Santiago isn’t as polished as Steelman, but he can move.
Strength: Running and quickness. That’s the offense. The quarterback runs the ball, gets the ball to the other backs, and that’s it. Steelman and Santiago are quick option wizards who can make things happen on their own. They’re smart playmakers.
Weakness: Passing. Once again, Army was dead last in the nation in passing, and that’s not going to change any time soon. As a team, the Knights threw for 605 yards and five touchdowns with four picks, but the bigger problem was completion percentage connecting on just 33% of the throws.
Outlook: Steelman needs to take a minor step up in his production. He’s been good, and he runs well, but the offense needs to at least be a wee bit efficient throwing the ball and the ground attack needs to hit more home runs. For the option attack to truly work, the passing plays have to be effective, and finishing 115th in the nation in efficiency isn’t going to cut it.
Unit Rating: 7
The Knights are loaded with veteran rushing talent, led by junior Raymond Maples, a 6-1, 218-pound back who led the team with 1,066 yards and four scores. A 100-yard machine averaging an Academy record 7.3 yards per carry, he took off for 95 yards or more in a stretch of six games over seven weeks, and came back from injury to run for 93 yards against Temple. He has the size for the inside and the speed to take off outside when he gets his shot.
Returning to his A-Back position is senior Malcolm Brown, who missed all of spring ball hurt but is a reliable veteran who’ll be fine by the start of the season. He has to stay healthy, though, missing half of 2010 with a shoulder problem, and he was able to get through all 12 games last season finishing third on the team with 572 yards and three scores averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He didn’t hit the 100-yard mark, but he was effective when he got his chances. The former wide receiver finished second on the team with seven catches for 163 yards and two scores, taking passes for an average of 23.2 yards per carry.
While Maples should be the starter, he’ll split time with former fullback Jared Hassin, a 6-3, 228-pound senior who ran for 1,013 yards and nine scores two years ago, but saw his role get reduced a bit last season running for just 450 yards and a score. The Air Force transfer is a blaster for the ground game and has been a workhorse, but he’s not just a part of the rotation rather than the focus of the ground attack.
With Hassin seemingly entrenched as a C-Back, sophomore Larry Dixon is the fullback now full-time. He took over halfway through the true freshman season and finished with 542 yards and five touchdowns, at 6-0 and 238 pounds he’s bigger than Hassin and is built for the position. 5-11, 225-pound Hayden Tippett is a smaller 5-11 and 225 pounds, but he can run a bit inside, gaining 77 yards and a score on seven carries.
5-9, 206-pound sophomore Trenton Turrentine started the first three games as a slotback before suffering a knee injury. Very quick and very promising, he ran for 98 yards and a score on 21 carries before getting knocked out. 6-1, 200-pound sophomore Terry Baggett is a bigger option, but he only ran ten times last year for 53 yards and a score.
Watch Out For … Dixon. Hassin was special two years ago, but Dixon has the potential to do even more with a pounding running style and enough speed to break off big runs. If everything goes according to plan, he’ll be the centerpiece of the attack.
Strength: Experience. Everyone is back. Everyone. Including the quarterbacks, the top seven backs return and 705 of the team’s 740 carries are back. Everyone knows what they’re doing.
Weakness: Health. The Army backs take a pounding, and while this is an ultra-deep group, they have injury problems. Rich Ellerson openly groused about his backs being dinged up this offseason, and it’s going to be a constant problem.
Outlook: The Knights are loaded. There might not be any superstar, Montee Ball-like talents, but this is the deepest stable of running backs in America with good fullback options, speedsters on the outside, and veteran quarterbacks who know how to get their guys the ball.
Unit Rating: 8.5
The Army wide receivers are along for the ride, but it would be nice if one could step up and become a deep threat. Junior Patrick Laird has the 6-3, 219-pound size to block and has been mostly a special teamer and tight end so far, but he only made one catch for 14 yards last season. Don’t judge him by his catch numbers; he can hit.
6-3, 195-pound sophomore Chevaughn Lawrence has the speed and skill to be the deep ball playmaker the offense desperately needs. He caught one pass for nine yards, but he’s going to be a go-to target – as much as Army has one – in the Z spot.
Junior E.J. Tucker is a 5-11, 204-pound backup who isn’t going to catch anything, but he’ll make big plays down the field with his blocking. He’s a hard, tough worker, while 6-2 194-pound junior Anthony Stephens was a part of the rotation last season catching two passes for 54 yards and a score. He made a 30-yard touchdown grab against Fordham.
Watch Out For … Lawrence. He won’t catch more than 15 passes, and he’ll probably come up with about ten, but he has to average around 18 yards per grab and he has to be enough of a deep threat to help open up the offense.
Strength: Blocking. You can’t play receiver at Army if you can’t hit. This group is physical and it’ll do its job. This is a corps of fighters, but there’s enough speed to add some element of a passing game. Maybe.
Weakness: The offense. There were 37 completed passes last year for 605 yards and five touchdowns. Houston’s Case Keenum completed 24 passes for 534 yards and nine touchdowns against Rice. Army receivers will never be a big part of the offense for anything other than blocking.
Outlook: The Knights might have lost their top two receivers, but that doesn’t matter in this attack. Lawrence will come up with a few nice deep plays and Laird has the size to be a physical target when needed. The top two receivers will combine for around 20 catches, and that might be way high, but everyone can block.
Unit Rating: 3.5
If it’s possible for the star of a line to be a guard, then Frank Allen is it. The only returning starter last year, the 6-4, 261-pound senior started 11 games and was the key blocker on the inside. A top prospect when he came to Army, he has proven to be a good anchor with good athleticism to go along with his experience. He’ll hold down the left guard job again, while 6-3, 262-pound senior Matthew Villanti will start again at right guard after taking over the job halfway through the season. Talented and versatile, he can move around where needed but should hold down the job inside.
6-0, 248-pound sophomore Ryan Powis is a woefully undersized center, but he’s great on the move and he proved himself to be a solid leader for the line. Extremely strong and physical, he makes up for his lack of size by being a mauler in the middle. He’ll be backed up by an even smaller option, the 5-11, 239-pound Todd McDonald, a light but quick blocker.
Senior Will Wilson will take over the right tackle job after coming into last season as a center. He started for three games in the middle, and got the call against Miami University at right guard, but he’ll be needed on the outside where at 6-2 and 290 pounds he’s by far the team’s biggest lineman. Also moving from center is junior Michael Kime, a 6-2, 243-pound athlete who started the opening game against Northern Illinois but was quickly moved out of the job by the bigger Wilson. He got the start against Rutgers at left tackle.
6-5, 243-pound senior Ben Jebb spent the last three seasons as a backup, but now he’ll try to settle down a left tackle position that had four different starters. He has the frame to be a good pass blocker, but Army just doesn’t throw.
Watch Out For … Powis. He’s not big and he’ll get engulfed at times by huge nose tackles, but the former star high school wrestler doesn’t get shoved around. He’ll be the leader in the pivot for the next three seasons.
Strength: Quickness. The line isn’t big and it doesn’t have any hogs, but it’s a smallish, quick line that can make things happen on the move. It walls off well enough to get the holes needed for the running game to go.
Weakness: Size. The running game was No. 1 in college football, so the line did something right, but it’s really, really small and it’s never going to push around any defensive line with buck. Only one projected starter is bigger than 263 pounds and some of the linemen are built like linebackers.
Outlook: The line is loaded with experience and should be terrific for what it’s supposed to do. The tackles are a bit of a question mark, but two seniors will get the call, while the interior should be terrific at opening things up. In all, four seniors will start on what should be the best line in the Rich Ellerson era.
Unit Rating: 5
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