2009 Army Preview - Offense
Army QB Chip Bowden
Army QB Chip Bowden
Posted Jun 19, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Army Black Knight Offense

Army Black Knights

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Army Preview | 2009 Army Offense
- 2009 Army Defense |
2009 Army Depth Chart
- 2008 Army Preview |
2007 Army Preview | 2006 Army Preview 

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.

Returning Leaders
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

Star of the offense: Junior QB Chip Bowden
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior RB Patrick Mealy
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:
Passing, Experience


Projected Starter: 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.
: 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 more responsibility.
: 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.
Rating: 4.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: 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.

With 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.

5-8, 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.

Very 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.
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 there.
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 attack.
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.
Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters: 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 year.

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 way.
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.
Talent. There's an offensive tackle playing wide receiver. You don't do that if you have receivers who can actually play.
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 story.
Rating: 4

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: 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 throws it.

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.

6-3, 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 left tackle.  
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.
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 together.
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 to do.
Rating: 5