2009 Army Preview - Offense
Army QB Chip Bowden
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Army Black Knight Offense
Army Black Knights
Preview 2009 - Offense
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What you need to know:
While head coach Rich Ellerson and
offensive coordinator Ian Shields will try to run the
triple-option that Cal Poly employed to set records and scare
the heck out of Wisconsin, it might take a while for the team to
figure it out. It's all about timing, precision, and
flexibility, and while that fits for Army, every practice is
vital to get everyone on the same page. When everything is
working right it's a killer of a rushing attack, but unlike most
option offense there's a lot of passing. That's a problem early
on with Army's veteran quarterbacks struggling with their
accuracy for the last few years. The line is full of smallish,
quick athletes who should take to the attack right away, but
there's little to no experience among the running backs. The big
story, literally, is the move of 6-10, 283-pound left tackle Ali
Villanueva to wide receiver, where he was shockingly good this
offseason. While he'll mostly be a blocker, he's likely going to
stick at the position.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Chip Bowden
Passing: Chip Bowden
31-72, 282 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Chip Bowden
194 carries, 572 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Damion Hunter
11 catches, 134 yds, 1 TD
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior RB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FB CeDarius Williams
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Ali Villanueva (currently
listed at WR)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Williams, 2) Bowden, 3)
OT Mike McDermott
Strength of the offense: Rich Ellerson, Quickness
Weakness of the offense:
Junior Chip Bowden has the
starting job for the moment after getting the call in nine games
last year. The 6-0, 211-pound runner finished second on the team
last season with 572 yards with a touchdown, but he struggled
throwing the ball completing just 43% of his throws with 282
yards and two touchdown passes and three interceptions. The most
athletic of all the options, he's more suited for the option and
will have to work more to be a consistent thrower to keep the
No. 1 spot.
Projected Top Reserve: Senior Carson Williams
has had a rough career. Arguably the best quarterback
recruit the program had gotten in decades, the 6-3, 212-pound
passer hasn't been able to find any sort of a niche with the
offense turning into an option attack. He'll battle hard for the
starting job with 6-3, 212-pound size and with a big arm, but he
has to do more with his chances after completing 49% of his
throws for 273 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions.
While he can run a little bit, that's not his strong suit.
Sophomore Max Jenkins is the top backup
option going into the fall and closed the gap to be the starter.
The 6-2, 197-pounder is a good runner but he has had a hard time
with his passing accuracy. He has the best all-around group of
skills among the quarterback options, but he doesn't do any one
thing at a high level quite yet.
Watch Out For ... a rotation. It'll be a little
while before the coaching staff finds the right guy to run the
Ellerson offense, and the best option could end up being top
recruit Trent Steelman, but he'll need a lot of
time. Bowden has to show he can throw the ball to have a firm
grip on the starting job, but Williams and Jenkins will be right
there and ready to play.
Strength: Experience. There might not have been a whole
bunch of overall production, but at least the quarterbacks have
seen time. Jenkins still needs meaningful playing time, but
Williams and Bowden have seen enough time to be ready to handle
Weakness: Throwing the ball. Army quarterbacks combined
to complete 44% of their passes for 55 yards and three
touchdowns last year. Granted, the offense was trying to run the
ball all the time, and will so again, but there wasn't any
production from the passers.
Outlook: The triple option might be focusing on
the running aspect, but the quarterbacks have to be prepared to
start throwing again. They're not going to bomb away, but they
have to be far more efficient. The coaching staff hasn't exactly
been doing backflips over the quarterbacks so the job is there
for the taking.
A bit of an afterthought in last year's
rushing attack, junior Patrick Mealy has
stepped up this offseason and should be the top option for the
ground game. He only ran for 97 yards and two scores, but the
5-8, 203-pounder has the quickness and the toughness to be a
star. Healthy after having problems with a hamstring injury, he
has the home-run hitting ability to break out.
Collin Mooney gone, the offense needs a bruising fullback to
work around. 5-11, 203-pound sophomore CeDarius Williams
will take over and he looks like a good one. While he
has the quickness and speed to be a slotback, he's a tough
enough inside runner to be focal point of the ground game early
on to allow the speedsters to work outside.
180-pound senior Ian Smith will take over the
other slotback job after running for 107 yards and two scores.
He has had a few good games here and there over the last two
seasons, highlighted by a 48-yard day against Tulsa in 2007, but
he wasn't used nearly as much as expected last season. He'll be
a starter again and should get more work.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Kingsley
Ehle isn't the best of blockers and he's not the best
runner, but at 5-10 and 221 pounds he's the biggest bruiser in
the equation. The No. 2 fullback, he'll work behind Williams but
will have to show early on that he can produce when given a
chance after running just one time for five yards.
fast, but very small, 5-6, 164-pound junior Lawrence
Brown will work in a rotation with Ian Smith at one of
the slotback spots. The former cornerback made eight tackles
last season with a broken up pass, but he's too small to handle
most receivers. However, with his speed he should get a few
chances to be a gamebreaker. First he has to get healthy after
missing time late this spring and in three games last year.
Sophomore George Fletcher got six carries
as a plebe and is going to be in a rotation with Jamal
Olatunde behind Mealy. The 5-9, 195-pound Fletcher was
hurt for most of the offseason, but with his quickness and
upside he should have a few big moments. The 5-8, 175-pound
Olatunde is a junior who moved over from defensive back to the
offense and he should be more comfortable. He won't see a lot of
carries, but he fits the offense.
Watch Out For ...
Williams. The offense works best when the inside running game is
effective, and that means Williams has to produce from the
start. He looked good enough this spring to be another Collin
Mooney and be close to 1,000 yards with enough work.
Strength: Quickness. With backs brought in to run the option,
along with the runners already in tow, there's plenty of
smallish, quick backs who should be able to dart in and out of
holes and run things the way Ellerson wants to. The pieces are
Weakness: Experience. Ian Smith is the leading returning running
back with just 107 yards. With Collin Mooney and Wesley McMahand
gone, the Knights need a few backs to show they can carry the
Outlook: The switch of offensive styles led to a
big year from the running game finishing with 2,897 yards and 17
touchdowns, and while there should be decent production again,
it might take a little bit to find the right combination.
Ellerson knows how to get yards in bunches out of the ground
game and he'll do far more with this year's group. The backs
might be unknowns, but they'll crank out the yards.
All the talk in spring ball about the
passing game revolved around Ali Villanueva.
The 6-10, 283-pound offensive tackle has shockingly good hands
and caught three touchdown passes during spring scrimmages, but
his worth will be mostly as a blocker. He'll be almost like a
third tackle to help spring the running game, but the athletic
former defensive lineman can really catch. He could be
unstoppable around the goal line.
5-10, 166-pound senior
Damion Hunter will be the one receiver who can get deep
starting at the Z. Arguably the team's fastest player tied for
the team-lead in catches with 11 grabs for 132 yards and a
touchdown, and after starting four times he'll have to be the
most dangerous target. Ellerson's offense has room for a No. 1
target, and Hunter needs to be it and he has to stay healthy
after having hamstring problems earlier in his career.
Projected Top Reserves: While he got hurt late in
spring ball, sophomore Davyd Brooks will be
ready for the season and will be a needed option working behind
the Villanueva experiment. The 6-3, 200-pounder has good size
and is a strong blocker, but he didn't catch any passes last
At 6-4 and 195 pounds, Austin Barr
is a nice-sized prospect who'll work at the Z behind Damion
Hunter. The sophomore didn't see any time last season, but he
has the potential to grow into a possible second target.
Watch Out For ... the Villanueva situation. This
doesn't appear to be a gimmick; the guy really will be lining up
at receiver. Now, that's all relative for Army offense, he might
catch ten passes on the year, but he'll get a few passes his
Strength: Size. Having a 6-10, 283-pound target will up the
overall average size of the receiving corps. Barr and Brooks are
big targets, and they can all block.
Weakness: Talent. There's an offensive tackle playing wide
receiver. You don't do that if you have receivers who can
Outlook: There will be far more passing this year
than there was last season when Army threw a total of 128
passes. Brooks and Hunter have caught the eye of Ellerson and
should be the top targets, while Villanueva will be a national
With Ali Villanueva moving from left tackle to wide
receiver, sophomore Mike McDermott will take over. More
like a power forward than a tackle at 6-7 and 248 pounds, he has long
arms and the frame to put on more weight over the next three years. A
good athlete, he can run well and should be solid the few times Army
Stepping in at left guard will be Mikel Weich,
a 6-3, 277-pound junior who was expected to be a starter throughout last
year but turned out to mostly be a special teamer. He has a little bit
of starting experience, starting three times two years ago, and he has
the quickness to be a nice producer for the rushing attack. He's the
team's most athletic guard.
There's a battle going on a center
with Zach Peterson taking a slight step forward. At 6-1
and 267 pounds he's not all that big, but he showed in spring ball that
he can hold his own and he can grow into the job over the next two
years. The junior didn't make many mistakes with the new responsibility.
The biggest hole to fill is at right guard with Seth Reed
taking over for Mike Lemming. The 6-1, 266-pound junior is a
former defensive tackle who'll have to work through his inconsistencies
and his mistakes by being physical.
6-3, 257-pound senior
Jason Johnson is the one returning starter coming back
at right tackle. He was banged up throughout spring ball, and he had
problems two years ago with an elbow injury that cost him half the
season. He's not a mauler of a run blocker, but he's good on the move.
Projected Top Reserves: While Peterson will likely
be the starting center, Anees Merzi will push for the
job. The 6-3, 276-pound junior is one of the team's biggest linemen and
he's one of the most versatile, able to play guard or center. He'll
mainly work as a center, but he's in the hunt for the left guard job if
he can get healthy. He missed most of spring ball hurt.
258-pound senior Kenric Lull saw a little time on
special teams last year and was originally considered a guard going into
the season. He could end up working at right guard, but he's the main
backup at left tackle where he appears to be a better fit. He's quicker
than he is physcial.
Watch Out For ... the Villanueva situation. While
he's a wide receiver at the moment, the 6-10, 283-pounder is too good a
blocker to not be used like a third tackle or eventually move back to
Strength: Versatility. For good and bad, the Army line has
interchangeable parts with several options to play around with. It's
going to take a while for the coaching staff to find the right
combination, and the old adage of putting the five best blockers on the
field, regardless of position, applies here.
Weakness: Experience. There isn't any. Jason Johnson is
basically it as far as the returning starting experience while the
coaching staff has had to use pumped up tight ends and former defensive
linemen to put together a line. This might take a while to come
Outlook: At the very least the line will have
plenty of good battles for spots and there are several athletic, quick
blockers who should fit the offense perfectly. While this might seem
like a problem area with all the new players to the mix, and it could
take a little while for everything to start working properly, things
aren't that bad. This unit should be fine for what the offense needs it