Army Preview 2006 - Defense
Army Golden Knights
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Army Black Knights Preview 2006 - Army Defense

What you need to know ... There's a mix of major strengths and glaring, screaming weaknesses. All three starters return to the linebacking corps and the safeties will be rock-solid thanks to the return of Caleb Campbell, but cornerback is going to be a work in progress all season long and there's no proven pass rush whatsoever. Power running teams will give the front seven big problems, and so will precision passing attacks. On the plus side, this won't be a bad defense against smaller, quicker offenses.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Caleb Campbell, 97
Sacks: Cameron Craig, 5
Interceptions: Caleb Campbell, 5

Star of the defense: Junior SS Caleb Campbell
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore CB Darren Newson
Unsung star on the rise: Senior DT Travis Prikryl
Best pro prospect: Campbell
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Campbell, 2) LB Barrett Scruggs, 3) LB Cason Shrode
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, safety
Weakness of the defense:
Cornerback, pass rush

Defensive Line
The pass rush was a major problem for the defense last season generating a mere 13 sacks despite a good season from Cameron Craig on the outside and Tony Fusco in the middle. Working on generating more consistent pressure will have to move to the backburner while the line tries to find a second tackle to help out Fusco. Size isn't too big a problem, but coming up with reliable production early on this season will be. The ends are fine with Craig, Brandon Thompson and John Wright a nice trio to work around.
The key to the unit: Come up with more options at tackle and generate more of a pass rush.

Defensive Line Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters
- DE Brandon Thompson, Jr. - 20 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 TFL
One of the team's best emerging all-around players, the 265-pound junior was starting to grow into a menace when he hurt his leg late in the season. He's a rock at 6-4 and 265 pounds with a tackle-like ability against the run and good enough athleticism to grow into a pass rusher.

- DT Travis Prikryl, Sr.
While he won't be a superstar on the inside, the 270-pound senior needs to use his size and aggressiveness to make plays at one of the tackle spots. He'll be part of a rotation with the smaller, quicker Peter Harrington after playing well this spring.

- DT Tony Fusco, Jr. - 28 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 7 TFL
A bowling ball at 6-1 and 308 pounds, Fusco is a big anchor for the rest of the line to work around. He's tremendously strong with good leverage because of his build, and he's quick enough to get into the backfield on a regular basis.

- DE Cameron Craig, Sr. - 56 tackles, 5 sacks, 8 TFL
The team's only sure-thing pass rusher has to be even better this season. His problem has been his brain; he thinks too much. He has to go full-bore more often and get in the backfield instead of trying to read and react. He goes 100% all the time with the ability to grow into a double-digit sack man.

Top Backups
- DE John Wright, Jr. - 17 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
Wright had the potential to grow into a pass rushing terror if he sees plenty of one-on-one blocking. He's an athletic 255 pounds and experienced enough to take over as a starter after getting the nod over the final two games of last year.
- DT Peter Harrington, Sr. - 3 tackles, 1 sack
A tall, thin 6-6 and 255 pounds, Harrington provides a little bit of quickness on the inside behind Travis Pirkryl. He has to prove he can hold up against the run on a regular basis after moving over from the end.

The return of Charlie Rockwood and Luke Pell from knee injuries makes this one of the team's strengths. There's good speed even though there aren't any blazers, and there's plenty of experienced led by Barrett Scruggs on the weakside and the rock against the run Cason Shrode in the middle. Developing more reserves will important as the season goes on considering this is a reckless crew that gets beaten up; they're that physical.
The key to the unit: The starting trio of Charlie Rockwood, Cason Shrode and Barrett Scruggs needs to stay healthy long enough for several backups to emerge.
Linebacker Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- Charlie Rockwood, Jr. - 15 tackles, 2 TFL
Rockwood was all set to have a huge season on the strongside when he suffered a knee injury early last year. The 6-4, 221-pound junior is back and should be one of the team's leading tacklers with great range and a fantastic motor.

- Cason Shrode, Sr. - 69 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 TFL
The 251-pound senior is the team's biggest linebacker by far and is a natural in the middle. He doesn't have the greatest range, but he's not slow and he's always around the ball. He's one of the team's top run defenders.

- Barrett Scruggs, Sr. - 80 tackles, 2 TFL, 5 broken up passes
Scruggs came up with a phenomenal year on the weakside finishing second on the team in tackles while doing more in pass coverage. He's a safety playing linebacker using his speed to make up for his 6-1, 213-pound frame. He flies all over the field and has the best range of any of the linebackers.

Top Backups
- Luke Pell, Sr. - 44 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 9 TFL
Pell toughed it out as long as he could before breaking down at the end of last season with a knee injury. He's a tone-setting hitter on the strongside who'll see plenty of action playing behind Charlie Rockwood. While he doesn't have Rockwood's range, he's more physical.
- John Plumstead, Soph. - 6 tackles
After seeing limited action last season making six stops, the 5-11, 217-pound sophomore should see more action on the weakside behind Barrett Scruggs. He hits like a much bigger player.

Defensive Backs
The pass defense finished tenth in the nation last year partly due to a great season and mainly due to playing few teams that threw the ball. The safeties are great led by top tackler Caleb Campbell at strong safety and the combination of Randy Chasten and Jordan Murray at free safety, but there are major worries on the corners where Darren Newson and Sean Grevious are extremely green. Forget about readily available depth at corner.
The key to the unit: Uncover a few consistent corners and hope Randy Chasten and Jordan Murray can get the job done at free safety.
Secondary Rating: 4.5

Projected Starters
- CB Darren Newson, Soph. - 16 tackles, 1 interception, 1 broken up pass
Newson spent his first season as a reserve and a key player in nickel situations and on special teams. He's a strong tackler on the Field side with enough quickness to quickly grow into the team's number one cover corner.

- SS Caleb Campbell, Jr. - 97 tackles, 5 interceptions, 3 broken up passes, 2 TFL
The 6-3, 223-pound tackling machine led the team in tackles and interceptions after making a more-than-successful move from linebacker to safety. While not lightning fast, he's always around the ball with tremendous instincts and is a tone-setting hitter. On the preseason watch list for the Ronnie Lott Trophy, he'll be the star of the defense all season long.

- FS Randy Chasten, Sr. - 19 tackles, 1 interception
It'll be up to the 211-pound Chasten to make more of an impact at free safety after starting half of last season. He's built like a strong safety with the speed of a corner able to make plays all over the place, and now he should be one of the team's top tacklers.

- CB Sean Grevious, Sr. - 3 tackles, 1 broken up pass
He has the athleticism with the speed to have been looked at by several other schools coming out of high school, but he hasn't been able to put it all together yet and become more than a special teamer. He'll get plenty of room to move on the Boundary side.

Top Backups
- FS Jordan Murray, Jr. - 3 tackles
Murray got plenty of work this spring with Randy Chasten sitting out injured, and he appears to be good enough to handle a starting spot if he gets the chance. He's a strong 203 pounds who hits like a linebacker.
- SS Markenson Pierre, Soph.
One of the rising stars of the secondary, the speedy Pierre will find a spot somewhere as the season goes on. He'll start behind Caleb Campbell and showed in spring ball how good he can eventually be as a starter and as an option at free safety.

Special Teams
The kicking game will be rock-solid with punter Owen Tolson back for what should be another great year and veteran Justin Koenig and Nebraska transfer Jared Nielson battling for the placekicking job. Speedy Corey Anderson will be the main return man looking to add more production than Scott Wesley did last year. The kickoff coverage unit was great, but the Black Knights allowed too many big punt returns.
The key to the unit: Corey Anderson has to add more to the return game and the punt coverage unit has to be far better.
Special Teams Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- PK Justin Koenig, Sr. - 9-12 FGs, 20-20 extra points
The job isn't a lock with Jared Nielson good enough to take over, but Koenig has the experience after a decent first season a the starter. He showed excellent range hitting all three of his field goal attempts from beyond 40 yards, and now he has to show he can be consistent.
- P Owen Tolson, Jr. - 59 punts, 2,370 yds, 40.2 yards per kick, 17 inside the 20
Tolson came up with a huge season even if his net stats didn't how it. He hangs the ball up well and is fantastic at punning the ball deep. Now he has to work better with his coverage teams to figure out how cut down on the 10.6 yards per return allowed last season.

Related Stories
Army Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
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Army Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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Army Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 7, 2006

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