INSIDE THE HUDDLE:
There is little doubt that the strength of the 2011 team will be the offense and as they go, so goes the prospects of the season. Not to suggest that the defense will not have to carry its share of the responsibility, but potentially, the "O" has as much firepower on hand than many of the Army faithful can recall seeing in recent memory.
And with more arriving from the prep school like Trenton Turrentine, Larry Dixon and Chevaughn Lawrence to name a few, the Michie Stadium Jumbotron scoreboard might be busy his season.
But as any coach will tell you, potential is one thing, making it reality is what spring and fall practice are all about or as is said often
it is time to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
Two players that will be an integral part of the Army offense this season are veteran wideout, Davyd Brooks, who will be entering the final chapter of his Black Knights' football career and current freshman slotback, Raymond Maples.
As both players continue to work hard in preparation for the 2011 season, each can look back at two plays in 2010 that are motivating factors for the upcoming season.
"We had to hold the ball to run the clock out and Trent had that great conversion where he put his head down and got the first down," shares Brooks, as he recalls the Army's final drive against SMU in the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl game. It was a drive that required two important 3rd down conversions to seal the ball game for the Black Knights.
"But we had to get another first down and so on 3rd down we ran the play action pass
I think coach told Trent to be safe, run it if nothing was there. He was able to get the pass up and I just focused everything I had on pulling in the pass and tuck it and getting up field. I was so conscious of the ball
it was so exciting."
"When I got up it great to see the whole team excited and I watched it later on TV and see some of the old men jumping up and down, knowing that they had no business jumping up and down like that," says Brooks as he laughs at that moment in history.
As many Army observers will tell you, the team is going through a transition year with the graduation of close to 26 senior, many having key roles on last year's team. However, for Brooks and his teammates, everyone has a role on this year's team and they are determined to pick up where they left off in 2010.
"Every player on this team has a high expectation of themselves and for each other," he bellows. "Being young is no excuse and everyone has been around the block, everybody knows what they are suppose to do and it's showing up in spring ball where the young guys are stepping up and making plays every day."
"So, it's a high expectation that we have, the mentality is there and we are going in the right direction."
Like any training camp, it is hard work and demanding of one's time. And as the Black Knights head into the final stages of spring ball, the time is bitter sweet for the soon to be senior.
"I'm going to miss it a lot," shares the 6-foot-3, 215 pound senior out of Newburg, NY, as he digest the idea that it seems like only yesterday that he was making his way to West Point from the USMAPS.
"This is my last spring ball, but as I look at the pros and cons, it has been well worth it. It's going pretty well right now
we are trying to learn from last year, learn from our mistakes and build on the things that we did well."
"As a receiver group, we are trying to build up a foundation to make everyone better. We are working on the little things," states the seasoned receiver.
"Right now it's me, Anthony (Stephens) and Justin Allen. Justin's another good talent; he was cornerback before then slotback now his with us
he was with us last year. That kid is very talented and we have been working hard, making each other better and it's been a very productive spring for all the receivers. We have Jared McFarlin coming up and all the young guys making strides so far."
With quarterback Trent Steelman sidelined for the spring, Brooks and his receiving partners are now getting their touches from Max Jenkins and according to Brooks, things are going smoothly. "Things are great with Max," Brooks shares. "He and I have been talking since freshman year. It's good to be out there with him again and he's working hard, he wants to win and he is always looking to get better. That in itself motivates the entire huddle and offense."
For freshman Raymond Maples his 2010 season moment doesn't carry the same luster as that of his offensive buddy, Brooks
on the contrary.
On much awaited debut and his first carry of his college career, the Philadelphia native suffered a high ankle injury that put him on the shelf for a few game afterward and although he returned to the lineup, he was never 100%.
"It was a bumper
you practice so hard and then get your first carry and get hurt on the play," says Maples. "It wasn't totally healed throughout last season, but its good now."
So with a season under his belt, 100% healthy and an additional 10 pounds to his resume, where he now checks in at 6-foot-0, 210, what are Maples thoughts about spring practice and the upcoming season?
"Now I have a better understanding of the offense," he declares. "At the prep school we ran the tradition wing-T and I actually played the fullback (B back) there. So last was a learning curve for me, because I had to learn the new slot position and the offense
. And I couldn't completely grasp it initially, but now I got and everything is running smoothly."
"The offense is coming along tremendously and the line is doing a tremendous job opening up holes. So for me and the other running backs are doing well running behind the holes that the line is giving us."
The swift running back is very optimistic about the offense's chance of being a throne in the side of defensive coordinators that have to prepare the Black Knights offense this season.
"I honestly believe we have the potential to be one of the better backfields that has been here in awhile and we are looking to do some damage here," shares Maples, who hit the scales at 200 pounds, but declares that it has not impacted his speed and quickness. "I think I've gained a little speed, especially in my quickness and agility."
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