2010 Army Preview - Offense
Army RB Patrick Mealy
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Army Black Knight Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: If the first year under Rich Ellerson was about teaching the triple-option offense and getting the system in place, then this year is about dominating. Even with all the problems and misfires that expectedly came with a new attack run by a true freshman, the offense still finished 16th in the nation in rushing averaging 204 yards per game. The problem was scoring … Army didn't do much. Hurt by the nation's worst passing game, the Black Knights simply couldn't move the ball when it absolutely had to. This year, with four senior starters back, a crafty sophomore quarterback in Trent Steelman who knows what he's doing, and a devastating fullback in Jared Hassin, who transferred from Air Force and wasn't eligible last year, the ground game should sing. There will be games when Army doesn't throw more than five passes, if that many, and big targets Davyd Brooks and Austin Barr have to take advantage of their opportunities down the field.
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Trent Steelman
Passing: Trent Steelman
54-110, 637 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Trent Steelman
22 carries, 706 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Jameson Carter
4 catches, 46 yds
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore OG Frank Allen
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FB Jared Hassin
Best pro prospect: Hassin
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Steelman, 2) Hassin, 3) RB Patrick Mealy
Strength of the offense: Running Game, Veteran Linemen
Weakness of the offense: Passing Game, Scoring
Projected Starter: A top recruit last year, 6-0, 185-pound sophomore Trent Steelman stepped up into the starting role and ended up looking the part from the moment he got his chance. While he made several rookie mistakes, he showed off the running skills needed to run the Army option tearing off 706 yards and five touchdowns. Not an elite passer, completing just 49% of his throws for 637 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions, he was far more accurate in offseason practices and should be more efficient. The more he can run, the better, and he should be the team's leading rusher again.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Chip Bowden was supposed to be the main man going into last season before Steelman ended up taking over, but he still got plenty of work seeing time in nine games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. The 6-0, 211-pounder has good rushing skills with 572 yards and a touchdown in 2008, but he's simply not a passer in any way completing just 40-of-98 career throws for 388 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions. Incredibly athletic, he'll still play a role once his knee is sound.
6-2, 197-pound junior Max Jenkins will be the main backup until Bowden is healthy, but he's clearly the No. 3 option. The biggest of all the options, he's a good runner with decent power compared to Steelman and Bowden, and he has good enough raw passing skills to get by in an emergency.
Watch Out For … Steelman's emergence as a better playmaker. He didn't make a ton of big errors in his first year, but he wasn't always sharp and he didn't always make the rest of the offense better. This year he should be more consistent and should grow into a better passer.
Strength: Quickness. Once Bowden is healthy, the Black Knights are loaded with very quick option runners who can handle the workload. The veterans are there for the offense to be crisper.
Weakness: Passing. Army would like to mirror Navy's offensive success, but the passing isn't nearly efficient enough. The Black Knights finished 118th in the nation in passing efficiency and were dead last in the nation in passing yards averaging just 71.75 yards per game with five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Outlook: A mega-issue going into last year, now the quarterback situation is a strength with Steelman a great looking prospect who is making the attack his. Bowden, when healthy, is a nice No. 2 option, while Jenkins is a passable No. 3. The rating is based on how the quarterbacks work for this offense.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Projected Starters: Welcome to the party. Jared Hassin is about to become a star in the Army offense as the fullback the team desperately needed from last year. The transfer from Air Force is a big 6-3, 218-pound blaster with enough speed to bust off several big plays when he gets a crease up the middle. The coaching staff desperately wanted him to be a part of the mix last year, but now he's finally eligible and will be used early and often as the centerpiece of the ground game.
Senior Patrick Mealy finished second on the team in rushing, and first among the running backs, with 673 yards and three touchdowns averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Finally healthy after struggling through a hamstring injury early in his career, he moved between the slotback and fullback role where needed and served as the team's top kick and punt returners. While most of his work game in the first two games with 109 yards against Eastern Michigan and 99 against Duke, he was a steady producer and will be expected to hit more home runs on the outside this year.
5-11, 187-pound senior Jameson Carter is a running back by nature and moved to wide receiver for a stretch finishing with 238 rushing yards with two touchdowns and was third on the team with four catches for 46 yards. Very fast and very shifty, he'll be better back in the slotback role and should be more of a home run hitter as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield.
Projected Top Reserves: A bit of a shocker, senior Jacob Bohn proved to be a decent blocker and a fighter for his size. At 5-9 and 215 pounds he's short and squatty, but he's a good athlete with the mentality of a linebacker and finished with 14 rushing yards. He'll be used mostly as a blocking fullback.
5-11, 180-pound sophomore Malcolm Brown started his career as a wide receiver but will move over to running back full time working behind Patrick Mealy. He ran 26 times for 112 yards in six games getting five starts as a plebe, and with his athleticism and potential he should be fantastic with a bigger role. He could become of the team's most dangerous players as the coaching staff finds ways to get the ball in his hands.
Sophomore Brian Cobbs came to Army as a defensive back but will find a spot as a runner. The 5-11, 185-pounder isn't all that big, but he's a flash when he gets into the open field and has been good on special teams. The coaching staff is high on him, but he might not grow into a major playmaker until next year.
Watch Out For … Hassin. He's the chosen one. The fullback that Rich Ellerson needs for his offense has arrived and is ready to roll, and he'll be a machine who could carry the team to a few wins by himself.
Strength: Quickness. With the power of Hassin now to soften up the inside, the backs can do what they do best on the outside with Mealy, Carter, Brown and Cobbs all fliers who can make big things happen in space.
Weakness: Receiving. It's a design of the offense, but there isn't much in the way of pass catching out of the backfield … at least not yet. With a receiver in Brown working at running back, the coaching staff can get creative.
Outlook: It took a year for everyone to get comfortable with the switch, and now the experience should pay off big time with several excellent, quick runners for the outside and Hassin about to be a superstar on the inside. Throw in QB Trent Steelman's year of experience under his belt and the running game should be fantastic.
Unit Rating: 8
Projected Starters: At 6-3 and 200 pounds, junior Davyd Brooks is a big target with the speed to the deep threat who makes one big catch per game against a defense looking to cheat up against the run. He's a very good blocker who uses his body well, but he needs to do show he can be a consistent pass catcher after making two catches for 45 yards in a limited role.
Junior Austin Barr is a 6-4, 203-pound target with good upside, but he has to use his size more as a blocker. He's a decent hitter, but he needs to be a bit more physical to make a big difference for the ground game. As a receiver, he only caught three passes for 23 yards, but he should do far more on underneath routes and almost be like a tight end as a safety valve pass catcher.
Projected Top Reserve: Army isn't above making some strange position changes for its receiving corps, and sophomore Kyler Martin is another one. The 6-2, 200-pounder started out his career as a receiver before moving over to linebacker finishing with 16 tackles on the year. He's a tough, physical target who is back at his right position with the speed to be a deep threat in a rotation with Davyd Brooks.
Watch Out For … the passing game to be even more of an afterthought. The Rich Ellerson offense likes to involve downfield passes, but with the upgrade in the backfield, there won't be a bigger emphasis places on pushing the ball through the air.
Strength: Size. Army uses big targets (witness 6-10, 283-pound tackle-turned-receiver Ali Villanueva last year) and it has to large receivers in the 6-3 Brooks and the 6-4 Barr to do more for the downfield blocking.
Weakness: Talent and opportunities. There's potential for Brooks and Barr to be better pure receivers than what Army had last year, but they're not going to get too much of a chance to show it.
Outlook: Army threw the ball 128 times in 2008 and 161 times last year; it's not like it's going to be an air show this year, either. Ali Villanueva and Damion Hunter combined for 60 catches with Villanueva accounting for all the receiving scores (5). Brooks, Barr, and Martin will provide more of a deep threat element, but their job is to block and to come up with one big catch here and there.
Unit Rating: 3.5
Projected Starters: The Black Knights have a killer of an anchor to lead a strong, experience line. Zach Peterson is a 6-1, 267-pound mauler who started every game in the middle last year and grew into the job as the year went on. He has made the job his and he's now the unquestioned quarterback up front.
6-1, 275-pound senior Seth Reed started every game at right guard and did a great job of filling in one of the line's biggest holes. The former defensive tackle is a tough baller who has grown into a strong run blocker on key downs. He's decent enough on the move to become an even bigger part of the attack.
Senior Jason Johnson was the one returning starter to the line last year and he locked down the right tackle job for all 12 games. The 6-3, 257-pounder has been banged up throughout his career, but he has played through the problems outside of an elbow injury that cost him half a season a few years ago. Great on the move, he works well with Seth Reed to form a nice right side.
Senior Anees Merzi started the season at left guard last year before taking over the starting left tackle job for the second half of the year. At 6-3 and 283 pounds he's one of the team's bigger blockers and is among the most versatile; he could play center if needed. He has earned the coaching staff's trust to hold down the full-time job.
The only new starter up front is sophomore Frank Allen, a 6-4, 275-pound top prospect who'll take over at left guard. He didn't get much work last year in practices and will still need some seasoning on the fly, but he has the potential to be the team's best lineman and will be the future of the front five going into next year.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-6, 255-pound junior Mike McDermott started four of the first five games at left tackle before giving way to Anees Merzi. Now he'll work mostly at right tackle using his experience and quickness in a rotation with Jason Johnson, and he'll likely be the first one off the bench wherever needed. Built more like a power forward than a tackle, he has long arms and a good frame, but he has to be better for the ground game. He's built to protect the passer and Army just doesn't throw enough.
Sophomore Matthew Villanti will see plenty of action as he's groomed for a starting job somewhere on the 2011 line. At 6-3 and 290 pounds he's one of the team's biggest linemen, and he's also athletic for his size with the ability to play guard or tackle. He'll start out in the rotation on the right side playing behind Seth Reed at guard, but he'll see time in several spots.
Watch Out For … Allen. He might be the only non-senior and the only new starter to the front five, but he also has the potential and the ability to be the star up front. At the all important left guard spot (at least for this offense), he'll play a huge role right away.
Strength: Veterans. The line was flying blind last year trying to figure out what it was doing, but this year it's experienced with four returning starters and a little bit of depth to count on. There's a chance to a quantum leap in Year Two.
Weakness: Size. This is a line build to be technically solid, but it's not going to barrel over anyone. When two of your bigger players are 275 pounds, there's a problem for the power game.
Outlook: If 2009 was about getting everyone's feet wet, 2010 has to be about dominating. There's too much experience and too much quickness and versatility to not do what the coaching staff wants, but the key will be getting the young players more experience so the line isn't starting from scratch next year. That's going to be a problem, but for now, having four senior starters is a major plus.
Unit Rating: 6
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