2013 Army Preview – Defense

Posted May 27, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Army Black Knight Defense

Army Black Knights

Preview 2013 - Defense

- 2013 Army Preview | 2013 Army Offense
- 2013 Army Defense | 2013 Army Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Co-coordinators Payam Saadat and Chris Smeland had a lot of work to do going into last season, and it didn't work out well with the run defense having way too many problems against anyone who tried to get physical, and the secondary torched time and again. The lack of a steady pass rush was a huge issue, and it will be again, but the defensive backs should be the strength with several interchangeable parts and lots and lots of depth. The linebackers are the size of defensive backs and the linemen are the size of linebackers, but the smaller, quicker defenders have to get into the backfield far more.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Geoffery Bacon, 136
Sacks: Richard Glover, 1.5
Interceptions: Justin Trimble, 2

Star of the defense: Junior FS Geoffery Bacon
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore NT T.J. Atimalala
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Dalton Mendenhall
Best pro prospect: Bacon
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bacon, 2) S Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires, 3) LB Colby Miller
Strength of the defense: Secondary Depth, Versatility
Weakness of the defense: Size, Pass Rush

Defensive Line

The line needs to undergo an overhaul of talent, but it gets back one sure-thing starter in tackle Robert Kough, a 6-3, 239-pound end who started every game at tackle making 43 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. Able to fight back after suffering an ankle injury a few years ago, he's not bulky and isn't tough against the run, but he's extremely quick and will fight for a play. With his size, he needs help from 6-4, 230-pound Jacob Owens, who didn't see any time last season but it tough and athletic for the interior.

5-11, 260-pound sophomore T.J. Atimalala got his feet wet as a plebe, making seven tackles with two tackles for loss, and now he's working on the nose in a full-time role. While he's not huge, he has a good base and should get good leverage, but he needs to be in a rotation with 6-0, 247-pound junior Richard Glover, who was a spot starter over the second half of last season making 27 tackles with two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.

Part linebacker, part end, 6-3, 225-pound sophomore Dalton Mendenhall has to use his good first step to get to the quarterback on a regular basis after making two games as a reserve. He'll get the job at the Quick end along with 6-2, 224-pound Holt ZalneraitisJoe Drummond was a spot starter who finished with 11 tackles and two tackles for loss. He'll start at right tackle – which is really an end.

Watch Out For … Mendenhall. The Army line has been looking for a pass rusher for the last several seasons, and Mendenhall is built for it. He's extremely quick with the right burst.
Strength: Quickness. Can it be enough? This is a smallish line with no size, but everyone can move and everyone is athletic. It's a feisty group that can get around and swarm to the ball, but that quickness doesn't translate into …
Weakness: Pass rushing production. The pass rush was miserable last season with one of the nation's worst – again – and one of the nation's worst run defenses – again. The Knights came up with just 15 sacks and 58 tackles for loss.
Outlook: There was a time not all that long ago when the Army defensive front wasn't bad, but it's been miserable over the last few seasons and it's still trying to find real, live playmakers. There's no proven pass rush and little to get excited about for the run defense. It's going to take a good rotation to keep everyone fresh, but the front line has to find something it can do right.
Unit Rating: 4


Can the linebackers make more big plays? 5-11, 196-pound Thomas Holloway made 76 tackles at free safety a few years ago but worked more as a linebacker last season making just 23 stops. While he's not big, he'll work at the rover spot as a combination of safety and outside linebacker. Also looking to get back in the mix is Justin Trimble, who was out this spring but should take over a spot after making 25 tackles with a team-leading two picks. Very fast and with a world of upside, he should be one of the team's leading tacklers somewhere in the linebacking corps once he's back.

Doing more at linebacker starts in the middle with Geoffery Bacon moving to the secondary and senior Colby Miller moving in. He has yet to do anything on the field, expected to be an outside defender early on in his career. Now the excellent athlete has to show he can hold up and make all the right decisions on the inside, but he's a wrestler who isn't going to be afraid to hit. He'll work in combination with Jarrett Mackey, a defensive end who came up with 47 tackles and four sacks in 2010, but was knocked out for the year early in 2011 with a knee injury and is just now getting back. At 6-1 and 235 pounds he has good size and plenty of experience, but he has to stay healthy. 6-3, 220-pound junior James Kelly started three of the last four games at the whip, the weakside spot, making 14 stops for the season. He has a good burst and nice size, but he has to be more disruptive and has to be able to get into the backfield.

Watch Out For … Miller. The jayvee star over the last three years, now it's his turn to show what he can do on the big stage. He's more than ready after serving his apprenticeship, and it'll be a shocker if he doesn't lead the team in tackles.
Strength: Versatility. The Army linebackers are all like safeties moving up and playing closer to the line. They might not be big, but they can all move and they can all step in ad produce wherever they're needed.
Weakness: Big play performers. The Knights need to find players who can take the ball away, get into the backfield, get to the quarterback and change things around. There's athleticism and everyone will run through a wall, but they need to make stops.
Outlook: Will the Knights find the right combination? Trimble needs to be back to his form of a few years ago, and Kelly has to show he can hold up and put up big numbers in the middle. It'll be a fluid situation without any sure-things for their assigned spots, but there are enough options to play around with the lineup.
Unit Rating: 4

Defensive Backs

Don't get too comfortable with the depth chart; it'll change up big in a heartbeat. One sure thing will be junior Geoffery Bacon, who started every game in the middle and led the team with 136 tackles with a sack, a pick and 4.5 tackles for loss. At 6-0 an 207 pounds he has decent size and is tough as nails, but now he's going to have to get the job done at free safety and will have to prove he can make things happen when the ball is in the air. However, he could move back to linebacker if and when Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires is back in the mix after missing spring ball. As a plebe, the 6-1, 185-pounder did a nice job finishing with 88 tackles with a pick and a tackle for loss as he took over the job and made it his. Once he's ready to go again, he'll find a spot.

5-9, 173-pound junior Lamar Johnson-Harris was moved to the scout team last year but started nine times as a plebe two seasons ago making 20 tackles. The field corner is a flash of lightning with some of the best wheels on the team. He'll have to hold off junior Marques Avery, who at 6-1 and 186 pounds brings more size to the spot, making 12 tackles with a team-leading six broken up passes before getting knocked out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Working on the boundary side will be Chris Carnegie ended up taking over the job two games in finishing with 49 tackles with three broken up passes. Just a sophomore, he's extremely promising with the versatility to play anywhere in the secondary with the physical ability to get physical when needed.

The strong safety job will be a fight with 5-9, 180-pound sophomore Shaquille Tolbert moving over from corner, where he sat on the sidelines in his first season, but has the speed and toughness to be a statistical star if he can hold on to the job and keep away Hayden Pierce, a 6-3, 187-pound big hitter who made 14 tackles with a tackle for loss before injuring his shoulder. Making 32 tackles two years ago, when he's right, he can become one of the team's best statistical stars.

Watch Out For … Alex Meier, a 6-2, 200-pound sophomore who took the rover job by storm making 71 tackles and showing tremendous progress, but he suffered a knee injury against Navy and is going to need a while to come back. If he's right, he's a starting safety, but he'll need time to heal up.
Strength: Depth. With all the banged up starters missing this offseason, several players got time to show what they could do. Now the Knights have a deep and interesting secondary with plenty of parts to move around where needed.
Weakness: Big plays. The secondary only allowed 195 yards per game, but was torched every time someone wanted to go up top. Army finished 22nd in the nation in pass defense, but 118th in pass efficiency defense allowing 19 touchdown passes and coming up with a mere seven picks.
Outlook: This should be the defense's biggest strength with so many options and so many good prospects and options ready to be a part of the rotation. More interceptions are a must and locking down on the outside is a concern, but this should be an area of improvement.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

Back to take over the kicking duties is sophomore Daniel Grochowski, a good-sized steady kicker who hit just 10-of-16 field goals, but got two blocked. He has a good deep leg and can hit from 40+. Looking to step in for Chris Boldt, if it's not Grochowski, is sophomore Alex Tardieu, a good athlete with a nice leg, needing to beat Boldt's mediocre 38 yard average and meager seven kicks inside the 20.

The miserable return game of last season needs to improve, hoping for Jon Crucitti to do more than his 2.3 yard average on punt returns, while Julian Crockett is back after averaging just 19.2 yards per kickoff.

Watch Out For … the kickoff returners. Stephen Fraser averaged 20.8 yards per try, and everyone who attempted a kickoff return is now back. The production has to be better after averaging fewer than 20 yards per try.
Strength: Grochowski. He needs to avoid the blocks and be steadier overall, but he has a good enough deep leg to be tried out from 50. He's a weapon the offense desperately needs.
Weakness: Everything. The punting was awful, but that wasn't even the biggest problem with the kickoff coverage team allowing a whopping 25.2 yards per try and eight yards per punt return.
Outlook: The special teams have been a major weakness over the last few years; the team isn't good enough to be so bad in this area. A problem on a 37-yarder against Navy meant the team couldn't go for a game-winning field goal late. Bad coverage teams proved costly time and again, and the lack of a return game always put the offense behind the eight ball. Army has to be better here.
Unit Rating: 3.5

- 2013 Army Preview | 2013 Army Offense
- 2013 Army Defense | 2013 Army Depth Chart