July 27, 2010

GBK Repost: The Sophomore Class (Part I)

As the Black Knights head into the final stanza of their spring practice, this is an Army team that for the first in almost

There is absolutely no doubt that the foundation for this team as they prepare for the 2010 season is the current group of starting seniors. They are led by Stephen Anderson, Josh McNary, Mike Gann, Donovan Travis, Zachary Peterson, Patrick Mealy, Marcus Hilton, Donnie Dixon, Seth Reed, Jason Johnson, Jameson Carter, Matthew Campbell, Jonathan Bulls, along with key backup and one time starter Jordan Trimble.

However, the uniqueness of this team is that there is a sophomore class that fits in the center of the foundation, as the building block.

When players like Trent Steelman, Jarrett Mackey, Josh Jackson, and Malcolm Brown made their way to the West Point campus last summer as part of the incoming plebe class, it marked Head Coach Rich Ellerson's first recruiting class. Albeit, that the majority of incoming freshman coming from the USMAPS and were recruited by former Army Head Coach Stan Brock. However, make no mistake about it, in areas where Brock may have lacked as a head coach, recognizing and recruiting talent wasn't one of them.

So as Ellerson and his staff opened the freshmen cupboard in 2009, they were presently surprise to see that it was not bare. As a matter of fact, they inherited a very impressive group of prospects, especially those that were coming up from the USMAPS.

Like the aforementioned senior class, the majority of the sophomore's bonding began at the prep school, and was solidified even more so when Stan Brock was removed as head coach of Army and replaced by Ellerson. One could say that the coaching transition only enhanced the players' link.

This is a group that bought into the mission and vision while at the USMAPS, which has been heighten under Ellerson's leadership and it's a class that is determined to add to the foundation of the current group of seniors, as well as juniors … to bring winning back to the banks of the Hudson.

After the 2009 season the Black Knights technically only lost three players on the offensive side of the ball, including two at receiver and on defense, they lose three players.

Of course not every recruiting class is able to cover the needs in one fell swoop and there will always be the proverbial work in process when it comes to restocking the cupboards. But many members of the sophomore class made strides towards doing just that, and have done well in ensuring that talent pipeline is open.

So it is imperative that this sophomore class step up this season and make their continued imprint on the program. GoBlackKnights.com takes a look inside the this class and has selected our Top Ten, starting with the bottom five.

The selection process was based on two simple factors. First, it was the level of contribution in 2009, as well as our analysis and projections for 2010.

TOP TEN (Bottom Five)

10. Lonnie Liggins, RB
Size: 5-foot-7, 185

Analysis: Liggins has significant upside and if healthy, could add impact to the running game this season. At 5-foot-7, 185, the solidly build product of Sparks (Md.) is the type of running that can handle the off tackle running as demonstrated by his exciting 17 yard touchdown run against Rutgers. However, he has the potential to make things happen on the outside as well. This is the season that Liggins will need to step up.

Lonnie is pretty consistent and no one can question his toughness." - Army OC, Ian Shields

9. Matt Villanti, OG
Size: 6-foot-3, 290
Analysis: The combination of Villanti, Frank Allen and even Will Wilson gives the Black Knights a solid base of talent up front for the next three years.

"Villanti is the back-up at right guard. He's a kid on the rise … he is still figuring it out but he has a ton of ability. Him and Frank (Allen) are physical presence in there and explosive kids, and that a plus to have the young guys in there." - Army OC, Ian Shields

8. Josh Jackson, CB
Size: 5-foot-11, 175

Analysis: Jackson is an athletic corner, who has saw action at corner as a freshman. Cornerback Coach Tony Coaxum was very comfortable in getting Jackson on the field last year, despite the typical growing pains that any frosh corner must face. However, showed off what coaches are hoping will spill over in 2010, whereby in his first collegiate game he pulled down his first interception. Unlike last season, Jackson must keep focused while on the field.

"I know what to expect this year, nothing is going to be new and just get out there and perform each play."

"Tuan (Antuan Aaron )is back and he still has that position on lock, but I feel that I'm in heating battle right now with Richard King, even with L.B. (Lawrence Brown). We have great depth, especially us four. But whoever gets the starting spot, we are so deep, that coach can rotate us in, no problem ... with the nickel and dime packages." - Josh Jackson

Jackson is quick to point out that his number one goal is to win the starting corner spot opposite two year starter, Antuan Aaron.

7. Ty Shrader, Safety
Size: 5-foot-10, 176

Analysis: If any player on this team could play the role of Rudy, it would Shrader. His listed height may be a gift from the sports' department, but if you were to measure height by desire, then he would probably be listed as a 6-foot-3, 210 pound safety. Either way, Shrader is a football player and it showed last year. After spending the bulk of the season on the JV team, the Stevenson (Ala.) native caught the attention of the staff with his play on JV and was eventually brought up to the varsity. And when Donovan Travis went down in the North Texas State game, Shrader took advantage of the opportunity and had the game of his short college career. Not only did he recover a fumble, his first college interception halted a potential game winning drive. Shrader also stepped right in for Travis, when he went down again, versus Navy.

Shrader adds depth at safety to a very solid group of players, that include Travis, Donnie Dixon and Jordan Trimble, who are all seniors.

6. Brian Cobbs, RB
Size: 5-foot-11, 185

Analysis: With the need to integrate speed and breakaway capability to the backfield, the staff moved cornerback Brian Cobbs to slotback. As it stands right now, Cobbs is backing up Jameson Carter. The staff is very excited about Cobbs' potential along with his speed. The 5-foot-11, 185 speedy back is similar in his skill set to fellow sophomore Malcolm Brown, but he is a little faster and probably the fastest kid out there at the slot position.

Stay tuned as GoBlackKnights.com takes a look at our Top Ten Sophomores (top 5).

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