Army 2010 Defense Preview: GoArmySports.com

Friday, July 30, 2010

Here's the second part of the 2010 preview from GoArmySports.com. This one is focused on the defense.

Personnel is the main topic, and all sorts of issues are discussed - starting with filling the void left by the graduation of Victor Ugenyi


Defensively, when you take [defensive tackle] Victor Ugenyi out of the picture, the dynamic at that position is going to change,” notes Ellerson. “It’s inevitably going to be played by a smaller, more athletic guy that will allow us to take advantage of some other parts of our defense. At the same time, it puts more pressure on the play of our nose tackle, Mike Gann, who I was really pleased with this spring. His development is a positive. That’s structurally something that we are evolving into. We think long term that could pay great dividends for us, because we can attract an awful lot of guys that look like [defensive end] Josh McNary. The more of those guys we can find, get on the field, and keep involved — we think that is a nightmare for our opponents, and it’s what’s unique about our system. That work is encouraging, but that work is ongoing.”


Elsewhere, Danny Wild's Wildlife blog hits a couple of stories and asks whether Army is destined for a bowl this year. Make sure to check that site out for a fresh perspective on Army football.




Update: Special teams preview is up at GoArmySports.com

One-Off

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This was originally going to be an add-on to the latest Army preview, but it ended up being the bulk of that update, so I gave it its own post here. I wanted to link to the Birddog's state of academy football and I agree with 95% 90% of what Mike from the Birddog wrote about the direction and state of West Point football, it was the other 5% 10% that I ended up going on about, but really that's neither here nor there, most of his thoughts are dead on. Head over there and read his take.

...

Another item that is pretty much must-read is Mike's write up of Army in Birddog's latest state of academy football.

I can't say I disagree with his take on what the goal should be in getting West Point football to where it can be... the goal should be a bowl - and a bowl game win. Lightening the schedule and gaining some stability for the program are steps in the right direction. While the jury is still out on Rich Ellerson, he has certainly made some progress.

Some of the other stuff; the circular argument that most Army fans lament the recruiting/talent gap, but also blame the recent disparity between Navy and Army solely as a product of Army's coaching - I just can't get on board with.

While it might not be true of all of them, the average Army fan believes two things.
First, they believe that they haven’t been able to beat Navy because they can’t recruit against them...

The second thing that Army fans believe is that there really isn’t much of a talent difference between Army and Navy; Navy might have one or two better players, but for the most part, they’re pretty much the same. The difference between Navy’s success and Army’s failure has been coaching, they say, and not talent.


Firstly, I have never heard any Army fan say both things at once. Secondly - instability at the coaching spot effects a program in more areas than just talent development. There is the issue of continuity of scheme... Army had 3 head coaches in the last 10 years. That means no class in the last 10 years has finished their 4 years under the same head coach they were recruited by. It's that kind of instability that just crushes a college football program. It's not that the coaches can't coach talent, it's that Army's program as a whole hasn't had a chance to gel in over a decade.

...

I'm not trying to get involved in the debate for a number of reasons, the main one being that I couldn't care less about college football recruiting and with that I feel like I am insulated from that part of the assertion. I have no idea where Mike got those characterizations of the average Army fan, but it seems like the kind of thing one could aggregate from a small selection of fans on college football message boards. Again, not trying to get involved, but I every college football message board I have ever seen has been loaded with equal parts stupidity and venom.

Anyway, check the Birddog out, it's worth the visit.

Army 2010 Offense Preview: GoArmySports.com

GoArmySports.com released the first part of their 2010 preview. Today's edition deals with the offense, and it's probably as close to a must read as you get.

There are updates all around... with 8 returning on either side of the ball the notes on the backups were the most important details.

Slotback:


Following the post-spring loss of Jameson Carter, Ellerson will hold an open competition for the lead role opposite Mealy at the other slotback spot.

“Those positions have to be more dynamic and explosive. We have to find a little magic out there. Pat Mealy is absolutely in the front of one of those lines, but we are looking for some magic. We think we have stacked some younger players at the position that could force that issue."

One of those younger players upon which Ellerson will be counting is sophomore Malcolm Brown. Brown started five times as a plebe and ran for 112 yards on 26 carries. He saw action at wide receiver during spring drills, but was returned to the backfield where he is expected to challenge for a starting berth.


Offensive Line Depth:

Junior Brad Kelly, who logged significant game duty a year ago, and sophomore Tom Houser provide depth behind Merzi at left tackle, while junior Joe Bailey and senior Mike Weich rate as the top backups at left guard. Senior Thomas Hagen remains the primary reserve behind Peterson, while junior Robert Kava provides depth behind Reed and Villanti at right guard. Another seasoned veteran, junior Mike McDermott, and sophomore Derek Bisgard rate as the top backups to Johnson at right tackle.


“Bisgard moved from defense and really looks like he has a bright future along with Houser,” states Ellerson. “McDermott and Kelly have a lot more game experience and that needs to pay off for them this fall. Tom and Derek don’t know their way around the offense as well, but are gifted newcomers. That is going to be the competition.”

Fullback Depth:

While Army enters preseason camp with a newcomer sitting atop the depth chart, plenty of game experience resides at the position. Junior CeDarius Williams began the 2009 season listed as the Black Knights’ starter, but missed the majority of the season with an ankle injury. He averaged 4.3 yards per rush during his two games, but was still hobbled a bit this spring. Senior Jacob Bohn shifted from linebacker to the backfield midway through last season and gained 14 yards on three carries in limited duty.

Backup QBs:

Senior Chip Bowden boasts the most game experience beneath center of anyone listed on the Black Knights’ roster. The starter for the majority of the 2008 season, Bowden played in nine games during the 2009 campaign before suffering a season ending knee injury during a late-season showdown at Air Force. Bowden rushed 19 times for 59 yards and completed 9 of 26 throws for 106 yards and one touchdown on the year. He missed spring practice while rehabilitating his injury, but is expected back to compete for playing time during preseason drills.
Max Jenkins and Jimmy Reitter have not taken a snap under center during live game action, but both have maximized their opportunities in practice. The junior duo has displayed the ability to handle expanded roles if called upon.

“I think Max Jenkins took advantage of the spring with Chip on the sidelines,” Ellerson states. “We trust him like we trust Chip to go in and run the offense. He does everything well — he really gets it in terms of why we are doing what we’re doing. He’s probably the best, including Trent, of understanding. He can stay right with you as you start to adjust, fix and check. That’s certainly his strong suit, but the good news is that he runs well and throws well.

“Jimmy Reitter got a lot of turns this spring and demonstrated that he could compete at that position. With all his physical woes behind him, he was able to settle in and there and run the offense. It will still be competitive in the fall because we will have some freshmen come in that will be trying to get into that next spot. We have our fingers crossed to see where Chip is physically coming off his injury, but right now all arrows are pointed up.”

I count on more from GoArmySports.com soon. Is it just me, or does it feel like the 2010 season is getting close?

Football Outsiders Top 100 Teams

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

These weeks before media day are supposed to be the slow days. I expected all of the 2010 previews to be done with... I was wrong about that.

I had a bunch of yearbook entries queued up to auto post cool content© on Sundays... and in the meantime I came across even more and cooler content (patents pending).

Today I was very pleased with my output - a 2010 preview, a post looking at UConn's yearbook and some new links and things on the sidebar. I put my time in today and I'm happy.


I've been keeping up with Football Outsiders' top 100 all-time teams and I knew this one was coming, but I didn't know what kind finish Army's top teams would receive on the list. Full knowing that it is an honor just to have so many Army teams on the list, and being aware that the rankings are largely subjective - take a look at Football Outsiders' latest and final installment of the Top 100 College Football Teams of the Last 100 Years:

BLAM!

Three Army squads in the top 10.


Clocking in at #10... 1946 Army rightfully mentioned in the same breath as '46 Notre Dame.

11. 1946 Notre Dame

Record: 8-0-1
Conference: Independent
Best Wins: def. Illinois (8-2) 26-6, def. USC (6-4) 26-6
Blemishes: tied Army (9-0-1) 0-0
Point Differential: +247 (271-24)

10. 1946 Army

Record: 9-0-1
Conference: Independent
Best Wins: def. Michigan (6-2-1) 20-13, def. Oklahoma (8-3) 21-7
Blemishes: tied Notre Dame (9-0-1) 0-0
Point Differential: +183 (263-80)

For these two near-flawless teams, the 1946 season came down to but a single game: No. 1 Army vs. No. 2 Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium on November 9. This game, a slugfest between two of the top 11 teams of all-time (according to this list), might be the greatest ever played. The previous two seasons, Army had handed Notre Dame defeats by a combined score of 107-0. But in 1946, the Irish were getting some of their stars back from military service. Johnny Lujack, the savior of the 1943 squad, would not only return in 1946, but he would play All-American caliber football in advance of his 1947 Heisman run. With Lujack back on the field and Frank Leahy back on the sideline, the 1946 squad would be ready for the Black Knights. Of course, Army was not exactly going to back down, not with halfback Glenn Davis (Mr. Outside) and fullback Doc Blanchard (Mr. Inside) in the backfield. Quite likely the most talented backfield combination of all-time, they split both carries and the Heisman Trophy -- Blanchard won in 1945, Davis in 1946. In fact, this was the only time in college football history when three former or future Heisman winners would grace the field at the same time.

...

Both finished undefeated, with the tie as the only blemish (the first blemish of any type for Army since 1943). Notre Dame finished with the better scoring margin, but Army's tougher schedule gives them the slimmest of edges here.



Yeah, it gets better...

5. 1945 Army

Record: 9-0
Conference: Independent
Best Wins: def. Notre Dame (7-2-1) 48-0, def. Navy (7-1-1) 32-13, def. Michigan (7-3) 28-7
Blemishes: none
Point Differential: +366 (412-46)

4. 1944 Army

Record: 9-0
Conference: Independent
Best Wins: def. Notre Dame (8-2) 59-0, def. Navy (6-3) 23-7
Blemishes: none
Point Differential: +469 (504-35)

We won't spend a lot of time on these two teams, as we covered their greatness above. But we should probably spend another few moments explaining just how great these wartime teams were. The aforementioned "Mr. Inside" Doc Blanchard led the country in touchdowns in 1945, winning the Heisman and Maxwell Awards. "Mr. Outside" Glenn Davis won the Maxwell in 1944 and had to wait until 1946 to get his Heisman. The two would combine for 97 career touchdowns. With great depth (aided in part by high enlistment numbers, obviously) and the two best players in the country, the Cadets were unstoppable. They astoundingly won seven of their nine games in 1944 by at least 46 points; only good Duke (27-7) and Navy (23-7) teams were able to keep it even reasonably close. That season, they also beat 8-2 Notre Dame by 59, 5-3 Penn by 55 and 6-3 Coast Guard by 76. Unreal.

In 1945, their schedule was even tougher, at least in theory. A seven-win Michigan team gave it the old college try but fell 28-7 at Yankee Stadium. Duke went down by a 48-13 score, and Notre Dame improved to just a 48-0 defeat. The 1945 Army-Navy game was one of the most anticipated of all-time -- Army was an easy No. 1, while the 7-0-1 Midshipmen of Navy were No. 2. In front of over 100,000 fans in Philadelphia, Blanchard scored three times, twice on offense and once on a pick-six. The effort gave him a narrow win over Davis for the Heisman (Davis had also finished second in 1944).

It is almost boring to have three teams from the same school in the same three-year span in the top 10. But this series of Army teams -- even with a bit of an unfair recruiting advantage at the time -- was simply amazing. Their only blemish in the three-year span was the 1946 tie with Notre Dame.


Three of Army's most dominant teams were represented in the top 20. These teams could just as easily been rated #1, #2 and #3. The list speaks to the disparity in college football during the World War 2 era and also to the natural advantages that service academies held over most college football programs during that time.

The 1940s and World War 2 absolutely crushed some football programs, but in the case of Army, it proved to be their heyday. The mix of compulsory service, total wartime victory, the 1944 GI bill, and the revitalization of competitive athletics in America was the perfect storm to clear Army football's path to greatness.

A lot of today's college football fans speak out against looking back at a team's past successes. I'm not mentioning any names, but sentiments like, "Your team's only championships came before you were born," usually come from fans of teams without championships. Either that or it's fans of college football's newly rich that bash a team's football history. Well let me just say that someday every one of us will move on, and the championship teams and alma maters that we currently devote ourselves to will one day - probably sooner than later - be washed away by the tides of history. With that, I think it is important to look back and admire the accomplishments of the past and this list gives all of us a chance to do just that.

Represented in full, here's Football Outsiders' All-time Top 100 list.

100-81
80-61
60-41
40-21
20-1

Yearbook: UConn

Another fantastic collection comes from the University of Connecticut's Archives & Special Collections department.

Their Yearbook, the Nutmeg is complete from 1915-1990 and is viewed in searchable PDF format.

Taken alone, the Nutmeg is another great addition to the yearbook project. Couple the yearbooks with a selection of mid-century football highlights and we're looking at one of the more ambitious athletic archives on the list.


Connecticut Football, 1934



At about 10 minutes each, I watched a few reels all the way through and I'm glad I did. It's such a great look at how and why the game was played so long ago. If I could recommend just one watch Rhode Island vs Connecticut State College, 1934. (ASX file - playable in Windows Media player)

The game ends 18-0, Connecticut... check the end of the reel - the goalposts come down and get paraded off the field. Then there is some sort of dust up involving police and sideline revelers.

Just an amazing piece of film.




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It is the mission of The Unbalanced Line Online Library to present important and interesting historical texts to college football fans. Items will be added regularly as blog postings and can be easily indexed in the Yearbooks button on the site bar.

Copyrighted material is used expressly under the fair use guidelines of U.S. Code 17 #107 through #118 stating that the criticism, comment, news reporting, educational use or research of copyrighted material is not held in violation of copyright laws.

_______________ © 2010 The Unbalanced Line _______________








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Army Preview: Scout.com

Scout's preseason preview came out yesterday.

Pretty legit synopsis in 7 paragraphs. Scout notes the wave of optimism that Army followers have been riding this offseason.

They touch on the 8 returning offensive starters, and mention the 8 returners from last year's 16th ranked defense. The totally unheralded return of Richard King is also brought up.

Another thing that gets mention is the light, light schedule. Last year's light slate certainly contributed to the #16 national ranking for the defense. The way Scout puts it, not only is the schedule similarly soft - but the team has improved in turn.

Schedule:
There are six very winnable games scheduled for 2010, not considering the other service academies. Last year’s team would have won 5 of these games. The home schedule, aside from the Air Force game, is a farce. Assuming even modest improvement, Army should compete in 10 of the 12 games. The second half of the season is going to be very challenging for this Army team: Rutgers at the new Meadowlands Stadium, a breather against VMI, Air Force, at Kent State, Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium, and Navy - but you play the games for a reason. If they can earn a split of these six games, it will be a hugely successful season. Anything more than a split, and a successful season will become a great season.


They allude to some of Ellerson's flawed calls last year, which I had -to this point- blocked from my memory.

I was riding pretty high tonight when I visited @Sal Interdonato and looked back at his 2010 prediction this spring of 7-5.

Imagine my surprise when I saw Scout's prediction for Army's 2010 campaign...

9-3 with a trip to the Bell Helicopter Bowl.

Another very positive preview. I'm a pretty optimistic football fan but with so many extremely positive previews, I'm actually getting a little uncomfortable with the level of optimism flowing around.

Army Preview: College Football Zealots

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's been a little while since I had anything related to Army football to post, but that's understandable with the short lead up to preseason practice.

I was approached by College Football Zealots to do a Q&A for their site.
It's was a nice exercise to answer questions about the team and the upcoming season, since I normally just go on about Army news stories and whatever I want to talk about and a lot of important items don't get mentioned. You can find my responses to their questions here.

College Football Zealots puts out a lot of content. There are a ton of other teams' Q&A previews on the site and I like most of the blogs that participated, so check out the Q&A and take a look at the other previews. You'll find a link to College Football Zealots on the left sidebar under CFB Blogs. If you're unfamiliar with the members of their blogroll, by all means click through and see the sites.

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