February 19, 2011

GBK.com's Inside the Huddle: Spring Practice


Today the Black Knights will hit the field once again, as the coaches continues their early spring evaluation that comes on the tail end of the Armed Forces Bowl Champions losing several key players to graduation.

The first two practices were walk through sessions as the team went through the two mandatory shorts (helmets) practices before getting after it on Saturday. Today's practice will full pads that will consist of physical drill work - some full line and half line drills.

"Real fundamental stuff the first two practices, where we reintroduce some of the basic practice procedures," shared Cornerback Coach Anthony Coaxum, who noted that it is an opportunity for some of the younger players to make a name for themselves.

"We are young and they came ready to play … its exciting and they are excited ... for guys like Crockett (Jordan) and others"

Spring practice is an opportunity for players to jump in and show themselves right away.

So let's take a look at what has been unfolding the past two practices, starting with the defense.

With the departure of Josh McNary and Mike Gann, there is some reason to be concern, so let's take a look up at defensive front line for a moment.

Presently, everyone up front is getting evaluated, where the Black Knights are currently 4-5 deep up front. A lot of those players are unfamiliar to the Army fans, at least as it relates to game time experience.

But let's look at some of the more familiar names. Jarrett Mackey is at one defensive end spot and Quentin Kantaris at the other spot. "Right now it's just defensive end," shares Co-defensive coordinator Payam Saddat, who confirms that they have yet to designate one player to the Quick position.

The same early spring practice philosophy applies to the tackles.

"For the top three of A.J. Mackey, Bobby Kough and Chris Swain …. If you are a tackle you are a tackle. The determination of Bandit and Nose tackle will be forthcoming as the practices continue to rollout."

"Basically, we are starting from square one," Saddat shares.

At the Whip you have Zach Watts who came on strong last season and is an explosive linebacker. Along with Watts, you have Chad Littlejohn holding up the ranks.

The Mike position has a new face and that's Captain Steve Erzinger who has moved from his familiar Rover spot. As it stands right now, freshman Matt Luetjen is running behind Erzinger.

Getting the first looks at the vacated Rover position will be two freshmen. Justin Trimble and Reggie Nesbit.

With the departure of Donnie Dixon at the Sam (strong safety) spot, you have two more newcomers in J.R. Woodward and Lyle Beloney.

At the free safety there's Tyler Dickson, Ty Shrader, Thomas Holloway and Josh Jones who moves from linebacker.

Where there is experience, you have Richard King, Josh Jackson and Antuan Aaron returning at the cornerback spots. Fighting their way onto the depth chart will be Waverly Washington and James Whittington who traveled

When looking at the squad this spring, the view from a macro versus micro perspective may work the best. With almost all positions interchangeable, the initial evaluation process for the staff will look at the defensive front as "one" position and the back six as another position. Up front of the front five, which particular players are standing out and the same for the back six.

"We may change letters up and alignments up throughout," Saddat says. "We have to get it where we allow the football player come out in our guys and not let him get so caught up in defensive position. Obviously we have some fundamentals that we teach right now which we will have as the backbone of what we do defensively. We are focusing on letting the individuals show up.

When you look at the team this spring, and it has been this way since the Ellerson Era … for the most part, everyone should be able to rotate amongst the front five positions and likewise for the back six and it is no different this year.


During the first two practices, the first team backfield consisted of quarterback Max Jenkins who is filling in for Trent Steelman this spring, Jared Hassin at fullback, along with slotbacks Malcolm Brown and Raymond Maples.

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