2007 Army Preview - Defense
Army Black Knights Defense
Army Black Knights
Preview 2006 - Defense
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What you need to know: The defense has spent most of its time trying
to survive. Now it has to start making big plays in all areas after
coming up with just 11 sacks, four interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.
Everyone at every spot can tackle, motor and toughness is never a
problem, talent is always the issue. There's good experience and size up
front, Caleb Campbell, when he returns from a knee injury, will be one
of the nation's most productive safeties leading a decent secondary, and
the linebacking corps, in time, will put up plenty of big tackling
numbers once new starters Brian Chmura and Frank Scappaticci get
comfortable. Overall, the defense has to do a better job of dictating
the action instead of letting things happen and trying to make the play.
Charlie Rockwood, John Wright, 2
Interceptions: Tony Fusco, John Laird, Jordan Murray, 1
Star of the defense: Senior SS Caleb Campbell
Forcing turnovers, pass rush, run defense
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior LB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Victor Ugenyi
Best pro prospect: Campbell
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Campbell, 2) LB Charlie
Rockwood, 3) DT Tony Fusco
Strength of the defense: Size, hitting ability
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: It's a veteran front line led by
303-pound senior Tony Fusco, who finished sixth on the team with
46 tackles with a sack as one of the few Army defenders who consistently
made plays against the run. He's a strong anchor in the middle with the
quickness to occasionally get into the backfield.
One of the team's main
starters over the last two years, he has to be even better for the
overall defensive numbers to improve. Next to him is 6-1, 259-pound
senior John Wright, a former defensive end who made the change
late last year finishing with 27 tackles and two sacks. He's not going
to be a brick wall against the run, but he has the athleticism to become
the team's best interior pass rusher.
261-pound senior Brandon Thompson was never right last year with
a shoulder injury finishing with 22 tackles and no sacks only able to
play five games. Better against the run than as a pass rusher, he needs
to be healthy and start using his size more to hold up against the
better running teams.
262-pound sophomore Victor Ugenyi flashed
great potential in his first year making 11 tackles, a sack and two
tackles for loss in a limited role seeing a little bit of time in just
six games. With a terrific motor, he has the potential to be the pass
rusher the defense has been lacking.
Projected Top Reserves: While Fusco is the rock
the line will work around, 251-pound Iowa transfer Ted Bentler
will see plenty of time in the rotation at both inside spots. He killed
the Army offensive line in practices as a scout teamer, and now he'll
get to try to wreak havoc on opposing lines with quickness and a
265-pound junior Elliott Antoine is a quality
veteran reserve on the end playing behind Ugenyi making 14 tackles.
While not a great pass rusher, his size is a plus off the bench.
Watch Out For ... a big improvement. Getting
Thompson back healthy and the expected emergence of Bentler will
potentially make a night-and-day difference to the production against
Strength: Size. This is a big group with ends the size of small
tackles and a good 300-pounder inside in Fusco. This might not be the
most talented front line, but it's experienced and large enough to hold
their own against the weaker running teams.
Weakness: Pass rush. Where is it? The Black Knights only came up
with 11 sacks (after generating 13 in 2005) and had no one who could
consistently get into the backfield. There's not a sure-thing pass
rusher on the team.
Outlook: The line was awful last year doing
nothing against the run and getting no production into the backfield.
That'll change a little bit with just about all the key parts returning
and enough experience to hope for an active line that can make more big
plays. Athleticism is a big issue; high energy, high motors, and lots of
will power are the keys for success.
Projected Starters: How do you replace heart-and-soul
tackling machines like Barrett Scruggs and Cason Shrode, who combined
for 200 tackles and 13 tackles for loss last season? The coaching staff
will lean on 6-3, 228 pound senior Charlie Rockwood, the lone
starter returning from last season, from his spot on the strongside
where he made 43 tackles, two sacks and five tackles for loss. He should
be better this year now that he's a year removed from knee surgery. A
leader who has good range, he should be one of the team's top three
Replacing Shrode in the middle will be 224-pound senior
Brian Chmura, who showed right away this spring that he knows how to
be the quarterback of the front seven. While he only made eight tackles
as a reserve last season, he knows the system.
On the weakside replacing
Scruggs will be 222-pound junior Frank Scappaticci, who made 11
tackles as a backup. A good athlete, he'll have to do more when the ball
is in the air than Scruggs did.
Projected Top Reserves: 217-pound junior Jake
Plumstead qualifies as the team's most experienced and accomplished
reserve linebacker making 11 tackles last year and six the year before.
With the quickness to play on the weakside, he'll try to add more range
behind Rockwood on the strongside.
5-9, 227-pound sophomore Antoine
Johnson is a quick backup on the weakside behind Scappaticci.
217-pound junior Arlance Jenkins isn't all that big, but he's a
tough option in the middle with a little bit of experience making two
tackles in six appearances.
Watch Out For ... Chmura and Scappaticci to put up
big numbers, but will they be effective stats? Scruggs and Shrode made
every play because they had to, but the also made all their big sticks
five yards past the line.
Strength: Knowledge. A function of the Army system, the
newcomers to the starting mix have been around long enough to know their
assignments cold, while the backups know where they're supposed to be.
Missing assignments isn't a problem; talent is.
Weakness: Experience. Of course, if the new starters were that
great, they would've been playing more earlier in their careers.
Rockwood is the only one who's seen the ins and outs of live D-I
football on a regular basis. The newcomers have plenty of practice time,
and now they have to prove they can produce when the lights go on.
Outlook: Shrode and Scruggs will be sorely missed.
The line will be a little bit better, so the linebacking corps won't
have to make every play, but they'll have to take on more than their
share of the workload. More big plays in the backfield and in the
passing game are needed, and more key stops on third downs will be a
Projected Starters: The secondary, and the defense,
revolves around senior strong safety Caleb Campbell, a star for
the last three seasons with 210 tackles, six interceptions and five
broken up passes. The former linebacker is a natural in the defensive
backfield with range, hitting ability, and a knack for always being
around the ball. He still has to return healthy from a knee injury that
knocked him out late last year, but he's expected to return to 100% by
Next to him will be 204-pound senior Jordan Murray at
free safety, who was a tackling machine last season making 44 stops and
an interception in just six games. A huge hitter, he has to stay on the
field after missing time with a hamstring and other leg problems. While
he'll likely finish among the team's top five tacklers, he has to be a
playmaker against the pass more than anything else.
Senior corners John Laird and Kevin Opoku are back after
combining for starting time. Laird is the team's best all-around corner
with excellent speed and quickness to go along with a physical-hitting
style. While he finished fifth on the team with 58 tackles, he'll be
used more as a number one shut-down corner this year. Opoku made 27
tackles and broke up three passes, but he wasn't consistent and lost his
starting job halfway through the season. He has too much speed to not do
Projected Top Reserves: While Murray is a rising
star, his injury history means senior Dennis Cooper could see
plenty of action. A starter in seven games last year, he made 38 tackles
and broke up two passes. Good enough to take over the starting job
again, he'll likely find his way in and out of the lineup at both safety
Junior John Mitchell was a part-time starter last season
and now will be the main backup corner and nickel back. He made 13
tackles, but didn't do anything against the pass. Even so, he'll push
hard for time on the field side behind Laird.
Sophomore Mario Hill
is a rising star at corner needing a little more time and experience
before he becomes a starting corner. Good enough this spring to be
suggested for the starting Boundary job, he'll start out behind Opoku.
Senior Ryan Bence could play a bigger role than anyone might like
if Campbell isn't healthy. A strong 207-pound hitter, he'll combine with
senior Brandon White to handle the backup strong safety work.
Watch Out For ... the secondary to be the strength
of the defense. Assuming Campbell is back healthy, there's enough
experience and talent to keep the better passing teams from bombing away
at will. Expect a lot of dinking and dunking as the defensive backs keep
everything in front of them.
Strength: Hitting ability. Everyone in the Black Knight
defensive backfield can stick; there's rarely a missed tackle. The
corners hit as hard, and as well, as the safeties, unfortunately ...
Weakness: ... they all cover like linebackers. There's not
enough of a big-play element to the secondary with almost no production
when the ball is in the air. Army came up with four interceptions last
Outlook: The formula's been the same for the last
few years. Don't give up the big play, allow receivers to catch the
ball, come up with the tackle. While the overall pass defense numbers
are fine finishing tenth in the nation in 2005 and seventh last year,
accurate quarterbacks can connect on the midrange passes at will.
Quarterbacks will complete well over 60% of their throws; they just
won't connect on the bomb.
Projected Starters: Army doesn't do anything better than
normal D-I programs do with the exception of returning punts thanks to
the extraordinary ability of Jeremy Trimble. The team's top
receiver averaged a whopping 18.1 yards per return with two touchdowns.
Able to make the first man miss almost every time, he's a gamebreaker
once he gets into the clear.
Damion Hunter will try to bring more
pop to a kick return game that averaged just 19.3 yards per try. Kicking
the ball will be a bit of an issue losing steady placekicker Austin
Miller, who hit 12 of 17 attempts.
Senior punter Owen Tolson, who
averaged a decent 42.2 yards per kick putting 17 inside the 20, will try
to handle the placekicking duties until either Adam DeMarco or
Andrew Rinehart proves worthy and ready of taking over.
Watch Out For ... Tolson to quickly relinquish the
placekicking job. He has the most experience and one of the better legs,
but he needs to spend his time working on one thing.
Strength: Trimble. While not used on kickoff returns, he's an
All-America caliber punt returner who has a special it quality.
He has the feel and the knack for returning punts very, very far.
Weakness: Placekicking. If Tolson's still the placekicker by
October, there's a problem.
Outlook: The kicking game will be a concern until
later this fall, but the return game will be a plus. The coverage unit,
especially on kickoffs, needs to be great again after allowing just 15.9
yards per return.
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