February 19, 2011

GBK.com's Inside the Huddle: Spring Practice Day 3


The Black Knights hit the practice field today, in what could be categorized as a pretty spirited first day in pads.

It was your typical padded practice where the players went after it a little.
The team went through their Combative period along with some team drills that were live as well.

Upfront saw
As the staff continues to utilize this spring as the evaluation period, you saw the rotation of players who have been waiting in the wings to show what they could do.

With the wide receivers and corners pulled out of the drill the Black Knights went to a 9-on-9 competition, which was more run dominated period and it was the first time that team has done that. Overall, it was a good session.

"We really aren't evaluating schemes as much as we are evaluated personnel right now," shares Army offensive coordinator Ian Shields shared after practice. "The spring is for identifying personnel … almost like recruiting in a way … seeing what guys are capable of."

But even in the evaluation process there has to be a starting point, and the five up front that rolled on the offensive front today consisted of mainstay and only 2010 returning starter, Frank Allen at left guard. You had Will Wilson at center, along with Joe Bailey and Matt Villanti who rotated at right guard. "Both guys did a great job today… really encouraging," said Shields, on today's performance from Villaniti and Bailey, as he continued to speak the balance of Saturday's first team line.

"Derek Bisgard at right tackle was phenomenal today … I don't know how you improve in the last 48 days, but looks like we have," shares Shields about Bisgard, who came into the Army program as the top ranked defensive linemen in Arizona his senior year.

"A lot of these guys have been waiting in the wings and I think they are excited about a chance to prove themselves. I was really encouraged by the guys up front. Now it's the first day of pads you don't want to get too carried away, but they played well."

Rounding out the fist was left tackle Brad Kelly and Mike McDermott, who saw time on both sides.

If you ask Shields, he is quick to point out that he is less concern about the talent of the offensive line as many Army fans have expressed.

Well, if continued progression of the line goes according to plan, they will plenty of talented to block for this season and spring ball is already bringing out some serious competition.

Although there are a couple of notable who are MIA, such as Brian Cobbs who was participating in a track meet today but he will back in the mix and Jonathan Crucitti, who will miss spring altogether because of his baseball commitment.

In Cobbs' absence, speedster Brian Austin is progressing well and taking advantage of the available time.

On hand and running with the first unit is freshman Raymond Maples. "Raymond really practiced well today and coming into his own … he will be a force," Shields says.

"Marcus McInerney was taking some turns today, with Crucitti out for baseball, along with Kelechi Odocha, who had some turns today at "A" back.

Today was an opportunity for several players to battle for that spot behind fullback Jared Hassin and there are some quality players in the stable.

"Dan McGue had a good practice and he's a physical guy," states Shields. "CeDarius Williams has some strengths and I like Hayden Tippet and Jay Tully."

With the cupboard full, there is a strong likelihood some may move as the spring and fall progresses, especially with the arrival on prepster Larry Dixon, who will be making his way on campus this summer.

So how has the Army offensive coordinator assessed the offensive progression so far?

"The best thing so far this spring is that we have gone out there for three practices in and in our team settings and the ball has not hit the ground yet," he says.

"Which is extraordinary and even more special when you consider we don't have Trent out there because you are talking about at guy who played all 25 games."

Max has done a nice job at quarterback and is a great leader. He has a ton of respect of his teammates and has operating well. Cody Jackson has done a nice job after sitting out last year and for him it's like riding a bike ... he's a good football player.

Jimmy Ritter is also in the mix and of course the arrival of Angel Santiago may change Ritter's status.

At wideout, the Black Knights will be looking for the current corp to make significant strides from their output last year. Davyd Brooks, has showed some progression this spring, but the 6-foot-3, 212 pounder needs to work even harder to get his output to match his potential.

Unfortunately, 2010 starter Austin Barr has been a little dinged up, which has truly opened the door for Anthony Stephens, for whom the staff has high hopes for.

The former two may have to watch out for Stephens, who has has three good practices.

He made a really nice catch on a ball thrown by Jenkins and has been running a lot with the first unit.

Then when you really talk about potential and talent, the two to really watch out for will be arriving this summer. The leader of the arriving duo is Chevaughn Lawrence, who along with Michael Hudson have both the speed and size.

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