August 14, 2010

Summer 2010 - Inside the Huddle: The Backfield

INSIDE THE HUDDLE:

Quarterbacks

Although the coaches may not openingly acknowledge it, but amongst the Army faithful, the expectations are higher for the offense going into the 2010 season than in years past.

And the player who will be the center of attention for Black Knights is sophomore quarterback Trent Steelman, who is now emerging as a leader not only on offense, but the team overall.

The 6-foot-0, 204 pound Steelman continues to improve and grasp the system, where there is no doubt that this is his offense.

With Chip Bowden not fully recovered from his offseason surgery, the number two spot belongs to Max Jenkins, who is getting the bulk at the two spot, which what you want from the number two quarterback. "Chip is not 100% coming off that knee yet… but he's probably getting closer every day," shares offensive coordinator Ian Shields.

"He's still rehabbing - we're giving him a little time from the pounding. We know Chip can do and we are giving him a chance to be healthy … he doesn't need to be healthy tomorrow, but he needs to be healthy September 4th.

Freshmen Matt Luetjen and Cody Jackson are quality young athletes who are getting acclimated into the system and still trying to figure out where all the pieces fit together. "Cody has been sat back a little bit," says Shields. "He got sick on the march back came down when he came down with poison oak, fever and then pink eye … so he's had a rough couple of days. So he hasn't gotten any reps because he's been out sick"

"I really like what we see from Matt Luetjen and Cody for that matter until he got sick. Of all the quarterbacks, he's the fastest and that's impressive at 205 pounds, his throwing gets better every day and he's a smart player."

Junior Jimmy Reitter remains in the mix, but he still remains inconsistent and may now find himself on the outside looking in.

B-Backs (fullback)

Over the past few years, the Army fans were accustomed to seeing the fullback that truly looked the part; Mike Viti and Collin Mooney come to mind. Although starter Jared Hassin will lineup in the tradition fullback position, the misnomer is that under Coach Ellerson's system that role is not called or fits the norm of a fullback, but it's a "B" back role. What is the difference? As a "B", you are called to effectively run inside and outside; where in the case of Hassin, he could be classified as sturdy tailbacks with fullback skills to still move the pile and get the hard yards.

And Hassin does have the explosiveness to run inside. "You are talking about a guy who threw the shot-put over 60 feet in high and it 235 pounds right now," Shields confirms. "He's doing well, but he was also sick yesterday. To date the Air Force transfer and gifted athlete has had a good training camp.

Backing up Hassin is Jacob Bohn, who has had a solid camp and is reliable understudy. Then there is CeDarius Williams who is back healthy now that the screw has been removed from his foot. He is now running and cutting better.

Slot backs

Even with the departure of seasoned Jameson Carter, OC, Shields is excited about the maturation of his young slotbacks and the depth they offer him. "We have some depth there that is nice … there are three guys you could put in the game," says Shields when speaking about Malcolm Brown, Brian Cobbs and surprise name to the marquee, Brian Austin.

During summer training camp, Brown has been is a little more consistent than his two counterparts and has quality upside. "Brown is one of the best football players on the team … he's a good football player," declares the offensive coordinator, who believes that both Cobbs and Austin will add value to the offense as well. "I have high expectation for Brian.

In the case of Austin, he is flat out fast and does a good job catching the ball as well. Although he is not an every down type of back, he can come in and be a factor in the same manner as Alfred McDaniel was utilized last season. Perhaps not as fast as McDaniel, who hung up his football cleats to concentrate on track; the plus side with Austin is that he has logged in more football overall and could be a change of pace asset for the offense.

At the other slot back spot you have seasoned leader Patrick Mealy, who has had a solid training camp and seems to be consistently right. The senior back has worked hard this offseason and it's paying dividends. "It looks like he's gained a step, where running better this summer than he ever had," says an observing Shields of Mealy's transformation.

Pushing Mealy is highly touted freshman, Raymond Maples. "Raymond is right there with him and Raymond is a tremendous talent. For Raymond is just a matter of putting all the pieces together … all the physical tools are there."

"But first things first … The offense is still progressing and it's not going to happen overnight. I like the pieces we have; I believe we will be more productive and explosive offense. But then again, at this point of the season everyone is saying that. It's empty rhetoric if we don't produce on the field and that's what I'm waiting to see how these guys produce when we are out there against some angry opponents.


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