August 11, 2009

Inside the Huddle: The Army QB battle has begun



The hottest battle of the summer on the banks of the Hudson will take place at the most critical position on the field and that is the signal caller, the decision maker … the quarterback of Army's triple option offense.


As of now, junior Chip Bowden is the front runner, but there is big time competition for the starting role, as well as positioning on the depth chart.


The change in the coaching staff, along with changing the face of the offense relative to how the triple option will be run this season versus last has allowed for almost each quarterback to put their respective stamp on the quarterback role.


"There's no doubt that there's competition at the quarterback position," declares Army OC, Ian Shields. "There's always a magnifying glass on the QB position at every level of football … it comes with the territory and they all are competing hard."


In the case of Bowden, you have a three year player, who started last season and understands the ins and outs, which has allowed him to do some things right out of the gate.


The junior southpaw has physically gotten bigger and stronger, and has demonstrated a maturity in his decision making that was not consistently there last season. The aforementioned has allowed Bowden to emerge as the leader following a solid spring practice.


But summer camp has finally mark the official debut of highly touted freshman quarterback, Trent Steelman. Yet, as much as Steelman figures to be the quarterback of the future, running an offense at the college level is a colossal adjustment for any true freshman.


But either way and unlike spring practice, Bowden will have to fend off a push from Steelman, but also a more comfortable and confident Max Jenkins and the seasoned, as well as battle tested senior, Carson Williams.
















We don't need any super heroes, we just need guys to play within their skill set and distribute the football .










- Offensive Coordinator, Ian Shields











Bowden's time on the field last season, did not leave a whole lot of playing time for anyone else under center. So other competitors like Jenkins, who is still in the race, have been looking forward to summer practice, in order to shine in front of the coaching staff.


"Max is getting the majority of his reps with the third group right now," shares Shields.


"Max has been impressive just from a point, that he has some of the skill sets that we are looking for in quarterback as far as a runner and passer. And the best thing Max does is that he's a great decision maker and you can just that in the type of kid he is; He's a tough kid, great student here at West Point and a good head on his shoulders."


So, who is spending the most time under center with the first unit?


"Chip came into training camp one; because he left off spring one," states Shields.


"Right now he is taking the majority of reps in the one huddle; Trent is getting some reps in the one huddle as well. Carson is getting some reps with the twos, Max has been very consistent and he really keeps coming on from he left off in spring ball, and I'm proud of the way he's working.


Those are the guys that are in the running to take snaps this season, right now and it's still competitive. It's going to be competitive everyday until we get closer to game time.


Right now Chip and Trent are getting the majority of reps in what we call the "A" squad and then we will give an occasional rep to Carson and others to keep them current in what we are doing, and they are doing a good job. Jimmy Reitter is doing some good things as well."




Bowden vs. Steelman


When it comes to Bowden's progress from the spring to present, Coach Shields feels that the junior signal caller is on a continuous path of getting better … but always room for improvement. "He hasn't taken any steps backwards," confirms Shields. "He has improved his physical profile, he's moving better, his feet are quicker, he's making quicker and better decisions, but needs to make those better decisions consistently."


Steelman has already leap-frog ahead of a few upperclassmen and has impressed the staff, although still very early in the evaluation process. "The physical skills are obvious," declares Shields. "He has great feet, great hands, can really run and has good arm strength.


The physical attributes, you can see that easily and anyone that saw him play at the prep school last year or his tape, even his high school tape you can see he has the skills set that we are looking for.


What I've been encouraged with is {Shield's hesitation} … although we have only been in pads for two days, he's done a good job, he sees the game pretty well, the game comes pretty easy to him, he's had his share of mistakes … however he has a high learning curve."


RULE OF THUMB


"As I mentioned before, the first rule at quarterback is the same one as the doctor's pledge, which is to do no harm," says a very candid Shields.


"We need the guy that's going to be out there regardless of class … the guy who can distribute the football and allow the other ten guys to play. We don't need any super heroes, we just need guys to play within their skill set and distribute the football."


Coach Shields is correct. Quarterback is such a tricky position. Sometimes, there are so many rankings, elite this and elite that. Who knows? Sometimes, a guy you never heard of comes in and is a great leader, a great operator of the offense and he's very productive.


Regardless of who takes the first snap of the first game, in college football it doesn't matter what system you run. Whether its option deal, I-formation, spread or pro-set, quarterbacks go down, it's just the nature of the business. From Bowden, Steelman, Williams, Jenkins and even Reitter … each will need to be both physically and mentally prepared, each practice and of course, for each game.



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