2007 Army Preview - Defense

Posted Apr 24, 2007

2007 Preview Army Black Knights Defense

Army Black Knights

Preview 2006 - Defense

- 2007 Army Preview | 2007 Army Offense Preview  
- 2007 Army Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Army Preview

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.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Caleb Campbell, 59
Sacks: Charlie Rockwood, John Wright, 2
Interceptions: Tony Fusco, John Laird, Jordan Murray, 1

Star of the defense: Senior SS Caleb Campbell
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior LB Brian Chmura
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:
Forcing turnovers, pass rush, run defense

Defensive Line

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 fantastic drive.

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 the run.
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.
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.
Rating: 4.5


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 tackles.

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.
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.
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 must.
Rating: 4

Defensive Backs

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 the fall.

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 more.

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 spots.

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.
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 ...
... 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 year. Four.
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.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

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.
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.
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.
Rating: 7


Related Stories
2007 Army Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 23, 2007
2007 Army Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 23, 2007
2007 Army Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 23, 2007

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