August 12, 2009

Army Football - Summer Central: Inside the Huddle


Offensive coordinator Ian Shields is beginning to like what he sees, but he will be the first to say that offensively, there is still a long way to go to get to where the team needs to be.

Yesterday we covered the ongoing battle at quarterback, but today in conjunction with our conversation with OC, Ian Shields, reviews the progression of the offensive, but more so, the battle at each positions and the progress of many of the individual players.


With Ian Smith still recovering from surgery, both Jameson Carter & Patrick Mealy are running with the first unit. However, speedy newcomer, Alfred McDaniel is getting reps with the ones, along with sophomore George Fletcher, "We are rotating all those guys around to see what we have there and getting those guys working in both huddles and working with all the guys," confirms OC, Ian Shields. "There's some healthy competition going on and there's not a clear one and two yet.

When asked how McDaniel has adjusted to the practice now that the pads are on and the hitting has picked up, got this from the Black Knights OC. "He's doing well. Some of the contact of football, you don't get that in running the 100M," shares a laughing Shields.

"That part is all new, but he's willing to throw his nose in there. Will he be dominant blocker? No, he's only 165 pounds ,but he's a West Point guy … he's tough and the fact of the manner, when we pitch him the ball, he gets real excited to make something happen."

Also in the middle of the competition are two players out of the prep school, who Army fans are anticipating their potential contribution to the offense. They are Lonnie Liggins and Malcolm Brown.

"They are both in the mix and right now they are getting two reps," shares Shields of his rookie slot backs. "Between the one & two huddles you got six of those guys and they are getting close to the top six. They (Brown & Liggins) didn't have the luxury of going through spring ball, so they are learning. The physical talent is obvious and both those kids are picking it up very very fast. They are football players and they get it. We have a nice group of young skilled kids."

Shield made it clear that he is comfortable in utilizing 5-6 slots in the rotation during the course of a game and they he they can do that without missing a beat.


As it stands right now, CeDarius Williams is running with the ones, but Kingsley Ehie is right on his heals. Although he missed spring practice due to injury, don't count out Bryson Carl, he's right there in the mix and the staff is awaiting a decision on Jared Hassin's status, which should come sometime this week. "He's an emerging talent," declares Shields, after watching Hassin's skills displayed during the initial stages of summer practice. "He's going to be a special player, but we'll wait to see what the out come with the NCAA."

Wide receivers

In summary, and although early, the coaching staff appears to be encouraged by the receiving corps performance so far. If there was area or position that was obviously lacking last season, it was at wide receiver. This was apparent in almost every facet of the receiving game. From speed (lack of), size, route running, catching and when caught, the YAC was an indistinguishable statistic.

Offensive coordinator, Ian Shields did not hesitate to state that the Black Knights receivers were having a solid training camp. He spoke specifically about four upperclassmen and two freshmen who are making some noise this summer.

"Our receivers are having a great training camp and we have a couple of freshmen in the mix."

Ali Villanueva - "Ali is Ali out there and he's catching the ball real well … although he is not going to run away from anyone, but he's taller than everyone. He adds a real physical presence and leadership to our offense."

Damion Hunter - "He is having a great camp … He's been doing great. "I'm expecting a huge year from Damion, but we have to keep him healthy through training camp and get him to the gate fresh … Coach Ellerson is great at that."

Davyd Brooks - "He is having an outstanding training camp, has excellent size, has excellent ball skills and he's coming on."

Austin Barr - "Austin is having a great training camp - he catches everything and is very consistent."

Freshmen receivers

George Jordan - "He's doing great and going to be a heck of a player. He has great size, great ball skills and a high vertical jump."

Kyler Martin - "Tyler is probably the fastest of the group. He was in the top 15 in the nation in the 110M high hurdles and he's catching the ball well. With him and George there, you are really looking for the future with those two guys at the receiver positions."

Offensive Line

This group will never be confused with or labeled "The Hogs" … because you aren't going to find that "typical" 6'4", 300 pound offensive lineman wearing the Black & Gold. But before it's is all said and done, adjectives such as committed, determined, dedicated and explosive might roll off the tongues of some opposing defensive linemen as they go up against this offensive line, that will be lead by Jason Johnson.

"We are doing well," says Shields. "The addition of Fritz Bentler on the line has been a great addition for us. He's competing at left guard. Anees Merzi is having a great training camp and he's playing guard and center. Zach Peterson is having a great training camp at center. Joe Bailey and Seth Reed are doing a nice job at right guard in splitting the reps and they both have the right mindset.

Jason Johnson is a special talent at right tackle. He's going to be a heck of a player for us … he's an excellent leader, strong kid and he's the right type of guy leading that unit up front. At left tackle, Mike McDermott just keeps coming on from the spring. He's a converted tight-end … him and Brad Kelly.

Right now I would say Mike is with the ones and taking the first reps. But he and Brad can both play at the tackle position. Those are our top three tackles, Jason, Mike and Brad and they are all having excellent training camps. We aren't there yet, but we are getting closer.

Mikel Weich is there at guard, he's battling in there at guard … there's some healthy competition, which is a good thing because we are going to need that depth. He's not at the front, but in and out of the front that line.

The depth chart is a fluid & dynamic and we watch each day's tape and change accordingly, but nothing is set in concrete."

For every member of this team understand that each practice, each snap and each rep is significant, not only to their own development, but to that of the team's.

Perhaps it was something that was taken for granted in the past. But the players seem to understand and have embraced Ellerson's philosophy of open competition and each player is taking pride in the fact, that on Saturday, he could be wearing the Black & Gold of the Army Black Knights.

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