#84 Army Football Preview

Army Black Knights

Overall Rank: #84
#4 Independent

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2010 Record: (7-6)
2010 Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl vs. Southern Methodist (W 16-14)
Coach: Rich Ellerson (12-13 at Army, 12-13 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ian Shields
Defensive Coordinator: Payam Saadat and Chris Smeland

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jared Hassin, FB, 999 yards
Passing: Trent Steelman, QB, 995 yards
Receiving: Davyd Brooks, WR, 238 yards
Tackles: Steve Erzinger, LB, 76
Sacks: Jarrett Mackey, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: Richard King, CB, 4

Other Key Returnees: G Frank Allen, WR Austin Barr, K Alex Carlton, CB Josh Jackson, LB Chad Littlejohn, RB Raymond Maples

Key Losses: LB Stephen Anderson, S Donnie Dixon, DT Mike Gann, DE Marcus Hilton, OT Jason Johnson, DE Josh McNary, RB Patrick Mealy, OT Anees merzi, C Zach Peterson, G Seth Reed, S Donovan Travis

Quarterback Trent Steelman has led Army for the past two seasons and last year steered the Black Knights to their first bowl victory since 1985. In Army’s option attack, Steelman is not asked to throw very often, but he is relatively efficient when he does throw the ball. Last year he threw for 995 yards and seven scores, while only throwing three interceptions.

With the option, it is of course the ground game that makes things tick. Steelman rushed for 721 yards and a team high 11 trips to the end zone. Fullback Jared Hassin led the Black Knights with 999 rushing yards. Patrick Mealy will need to be replaced, but sophomore Raymond Maples got some valuable playing time as a freshman and should be able to fill the void. Add split back Malcolm Brown to the mix and Army’s ground attack will once again be among the best in the nation. Even when Steelman does pass, he has two very experienced wide receivers at his disposal. Davyd Brooks and Austin Barr will never put up big numbers, but they have the talent to make the opposing defense pay when they get too predicated on the run. Both averaged over 15 yards per catch a year ago and should once again stretch out the defense. The problem on offense could be the offensive line, which returns just one starter. However, there are a ton of experienced players ready to step up and center Will Wilson and guard Frank Allen should keep the line intact.

The line on the other side is a big cause for concern. Three starters need to be replaced from a defense that was not that dominating to begin with. End Jarrett Mackey is a quality player who can consistently put pressure on the quarterback, but he needs some help. That help could come from his brother A.J. Mackey, but the rest of the line will likely be filled by relatively inexperienced sophomores. Senior Steven Erzinger will lead the group of linebackers from the middle. He tallied 76 tackles a year ago and should emerge as the leader of the defense. However, the other linebacker spots are pretty much up for grabs. Chad Littlejohn is the experienced option, but eventually Army may look to more athletic youngsters to fill in the gaps.

The Bottom Line:
The secondary has talent with corners Richard King and Josh Jackson. King tallied four interceptions last season and was a big part of Army’s superb turnover margin. While the corners are in good shape, the safeties have a couple new faces. Sophomores Lyle Beloney and Tyler Dickson are the likely candidates to fill out the secondary and they could be tested early and often if the front four cannot get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. The corners can deal with that, but it may take some time for the safeties and that could be a big problem for Army.

Projected Bowl: Kraft Fights Hunger Bowl

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 251.62 (8th in nation, 2nd among independents)
Passing Offense: 78.08 (120, 3)
Total Offense: 329.69 (93, 3)
Scoring Offense: 26.62 (60, 2)
Rushing Defense: 139.15 (46, 1)
Pass Defense: 199.08 (31, 1)
Total Defense: 338.23 (29, 1)
Scoring Defense: 24.31 (54, 3)
Turnover Margin: 1.23 (3, 1)
Sacks: 1.92 (67, 2)
Sacks Allowed: .62 (3, 1)

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