This time of year Army slot backs coach Tucker Waugh young future officers among his stable that will help the Black Knights recruit more talented running backs to succeed them.
Of the six slot backs listed on the depth chart to emerge from spring football, three are sophomores --Terry Baggett, Trenton Turrentine and Stephen Fraser -- and they are pushing No. 1 slot backs Raymond Maples and Malcolm Brown for playing time.
"When a young person comes to visit our campus and we introduce that young man and his family to a Terry Baggett, a Trenton Turrentine or a Stephen Fraser, the vast majority of the guys would say, 'I want to be just like him.'
"They see Army is a fantastic education from the military to the football to the camaraderie on the team. Our players are our best recruiters on the team, and (prospects) see our players are having a fantastic experience."
The depth chart published is fluid and those jobs are going to be earned throughout the summer and the early part of training camp ... It's going to be a great battle to watch. All those guys want it badly.
- Running Back coach & Recruiting Coordinator, Tucker Waugh
But come August and the start of fall camp in preparation for the 2012 season, Waugh will see something else among his cast of slot backs.
"The depth chart published is fluid and those jobs are going to be earned throughout the summer and the early part of training camp," Waugh said. "It's going to be a great battle to watch. All those guys want it badly. All of those guys are talented enough and work hard enough for us to win games. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch."
Maples, a 6-1, 218-pound junior, returns as the ninth Army player to the top the 1,000-yard rushing milestone. He finished last season with 146 carries for 1,066 yards and four touchdowns. His 7.3 yards per carry, with a long of 57, is an Army record for players with 100 or more attempts.
"Raymond has had a great offseason," Waugh said. "At one point he was 220 pounds with 12 percent body fat. He's big, fast and really talented. I think he's a great fit in this offense and it's fun to coach him."
Maples is backed up by senior Jared Hassin (6-3, 228) and Fraser (5-10, 187), who are listed as "or" for the No. 2 spot.
Hassin gives Army two 1,000-yard rushers in their backfield. He ran for 1,013 with 9 touchdowns as a sophomore. Last year he was fifth on the team with 98 carries for 450 yards and one touchdown.
Larry Dixon, who was fourth on the team in rushing with 87 carries for 542 yards and 5 TDs, emerged as the No. 1 fullback, but Hassin is expected to still be called upon to play the fullback role in addition slot back.
"Jared is an excellent football player who had a great sophomore year as a fullback," Waugh said. "He's a versatile kid who can play both positions. He will have enough practice repetitions at both to be able to play both right from the start of the season."
Brown, the only senior in the group as a 5-11, 181-pounder, was third on the team in rushing behind Maples and quarterback Trent Steelman (132 carries, 645 yards, 12 TDs). Brown carried 81 times for 572 yards and three touchdowns. The primary concern is keeping him healthy, but there are no plans to convert him to wide receiver entering fall camp.
"Malcolm is very productive as an inside receiver in the pass game as a slot back and as a ball carrier," Waugh said. "He's been productive in all those areas and as a blocker. We want him to be healthy. We're going take care of his body while still getting him the repetitions in practice to perform well in the games."
Turrentine (5-9, 206) and Baggett (6-1, 200) are listed as "or" on the depth chart for the No. 2 spot behind Brown.
Although Turrentine, Baggett and Fraser saw limited carries as freshman, they produced when called upon. Their promise is one reason Jon Crucitti, who had 123 yards with a 4.6 average and one touchdown, was moved from slot back to wide receiver for his junior year this season.
Fraser averaged 5.0 yards on 17 carries with a long of 17, Turrentine 4.7 with a long of 22 and one touchdown and Baggett 5.3 with a long of 25 and one touchdown.
"It's so much fun to work with those guys (from last year's) freshman class," Waugh said. "They don't care about anything except coming out here and working their tails off every day."
But it's not just the freshmen-turned-sophomores the Army staff is watching.
"We feel good about help that is on the way," said Waugh, referring to the freshmen that are West Point direct admits and the freshmen arriving from a year at the USMAPS. "Fortunately our depth is such we don't' have to have immediate help. But when it presents itself, it's always welcomed."
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