Under the Surface

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I glossed over the football stories yesterday without really reading into any of them. Yesterday I referenced Trent Steelman's apparently forgiven off-the-field issue, and completely missed the mention of his on-the-field issue - via Sal Interdonato's Aug. 19th practice blog:

Sophomore quarterback Trent Steelman, who was banged up, was held out of contact drills.
Junior Max Jenkins took first-team snaps. Senior Chip Bowden was the second-team quarterback.

I don't know if "banged up" is a euphemism for Steelman's honor code transgressions, I kind of hope it is, because Army's offense would be starting from scratch without Steelman under center.

Personnel stories dominated the week's news as LB Andrew Rodriguez missed some time to injury.

Starting whip linebacker Andrew Rodriguez continues to be held out with a back injury. Army is preparing itself just in case Rodriguez isn’t ready for the Sept. 4 season opener at Eastern Michigan. Sophomore Nate Combs moved from bandit (defensive line/linebacker combo) to whip linebacker and sophomore Jarrett Mackey is now playing the bandit.

Sal looks at one of the defensive noobs as a replacement.

He may be Army's most versatile defender. (Nate) Combs worked with the first-team defense, playing middle linebacker and bandit, a combination defensive lineman/linebacker, in the spring.
He moved to whip linebacker to fill the void of junior Andrew Rodriguez in the preseason. Rodriguez, the team's leading tackler last season, has sat out the preseason with a back injury.

Lastly, Sal lists Army's first 2011 football commitment.

Offensive lineman Nick Bennett of Eastern High in Louisville, Ky. became the first high school senior to verbally commit to Army last weekend, according to the Courier-Journal.
Bennett, a 6-foot-2, 275 pounder, chose Army over Navy.

Football Items

Friday, August 20, 2010

A couple of stories that could and probably should be covered a bit more, but I'm short on time this week, so I've just got the links.

The big news item today concerns Trent Steelman's 2010 eligibility, as the starting QB found himself in front of a West Point honor code board for an unspecified honor code violation. There isn't a lot of info as to what the violation might have been, but I'm sure there will be speculation, but as of now, Steelman is cleared to start the season opener.

From NBC, here's an interesting take about how ESPN reports on and ranks college football games, while they also bid for big time TV contracts

With each victory on the way to starting 9-0 in 1996, Army's football players and coaches were convinced this would be the one that launched them into the polls.
It took until that ninth win for them to slip into the AP Top 25.
"Week after week, we'd think we were going to get into the rankings, but you'd have some ESPN guy saying, 'West Point, they're playing a powder-puff schedule,"' recalled New Mexico coach Mike Locksley, an assistant on that squad.

Go Army Sports has recent practice reports, but there's not much news, and I'm lucky, because I'm also late...

BlogPoll Week 1 Ballot

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Here's my official ballot. I tried to rank them on how I thought the teams would finish, with a few exceptions. I don't expect Alabama to run the table this year, and with an Alabama loss the SEC West would be up for grabs. I can't justify dropping the Crimson Tide from #1 since they just plain haven't lost a regular season game in two years.

There is a lot of risk placing Pittsburgh so high, but they don't have to beat the world to win the Big East, and if they achieve a ten win season, as I project, that means they will have beaten at least three of: Miami (FL), Notre Dame, Utah or West Virginia.

A lot of participants seemed to hold TCU to the top-10 standard; with their slate one loss has them at about top 10, two would likely drop them to about 16 or 17.

Some of the ranked teams have no business being on the list, but that is for the most part the work of the MGoBallot, who pragmatically listed the top twenty five teams alphabetically.

Interestingly, MGoBlog's ballot unintentionally gives Army its highest preseason rank of the summer... #2 for all the marbles. Let's hope the team sets that ranking as their standard rather than the previous

With no further adieu, I present The Unbalanced Line's first official top 25 ballot.

The Unbalanced Line Preliminary Top 25

I'm proud to announce that I will be participating in MGoBlog's football blogpoll. I'm signed up and in the system, and I will submit my first ballot later today or sometime tomorrow.

I've spent a little bit of time pondering my season opening rankings, and I have settled on a list ranking the top 25 on how I think teams will finish the season.

Chime in in the comments section if I missed something, or if you think I could have done better.

Here is a look at my early top 25.

1. Alabama
2. Texas
3. Nebraska
4. Ohio State
5. Virginia Tech
6. Oregon
7. Pitt
8. Florida
9. Oklahoma
10. Florida State
11. Boise State
12. Iowa
13. California
14. Penn State
15. Georgia
16. TCU
17. Houston
18. Auburn
19. North Carolina
20. Arkansas
21. West Virginia
22. Miami
23. Stanford
24. Oregon State
25. Utah

I also took long looks at UConn, Temple, UCLA, Boston College, LSU and Michigan

My only real regret was squeezing LSU out at the last minute in favor of Auburn. The way I see it, there's just not enough space in a top 25 for all of the SEC's talent.

Venue Change for the Armed Forces Bowl

Monday, August 16, 2010

In line with the recent optimism that is swirling around in my own head, I feel obligated to share this bit. With Army as a probable qualifier for the Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl there is a bit of a scheduling change for the Black Knights' postseason plans.

Renovations to TCU's football stadium will shift the 2010 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl from Fort Worth to Dallas for at least one year, a source said Monday.

TCU on Monday announced a $105 million renovation project, the first major upgrade to Amon G. Carter Stadium since 1956, to begin immediately following its final home game on Nov. 13. The Armed Forces Bowl is expected to announce Tuesday that it will play this year's bowl game at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

The planned stadium looks nice enough, there are some representations of the refurbished stadium here.

TCU also released this press release regarding the stadium work.

Construction will begin immediately following TCU's final home game in the 2010 season. After construction, Amon G. Carter Stadium will have a seating capacity of 40,000 that can be expanded to more than 50,000 seats.

The renovations will include:

* Significantly upgraded and new concession stands for better access and reduced wait times
* Elevators and escalators to better facilitate stadium accessibility and crowd flow
* A new, raised seating bowl on the west and north end for enhanced field views
* Upgraded and additional men’s and women’s restrooms
* Suites, club seating and lounges on the west side of the stadium
* A new press box

I guess the stadium work could be seen as TCU jockeying for inclusion into a BCS conference. It makes sense for them to do so, and they would be best served by following up this highly anticipated season with some serious infrastructure additions.

Considering that they are changing the venue of the Armed Forces Bowl just to get a jump on the stadium construction, TCU's motivation must be that they have one eye on the Big XII.

Not a big deal, really. I can't blame TCU for trying to cash in on their recent success (and this season's potential greatness) by building up their assets. Any other team in TCU's position would do the same.

Post Scrimmage Link Clearance

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Some encouraging reports have come out of Michie Stadium regarding Army's situational scrimmage yesterday. Optimism for the upcoming season is good, but improving in all phases is better. It looks like Army has done just that, as Coach Ellerson had this to say about the upperclassmen in Army's press release.

“I think you see that there is a group on offense and a group on defense who have done this before,” Ellerson said after the scrimmage. “We have some guys with ability who have been in the systems for a year or more, and it looks like that. You can see that discrepancy I’ve talked about between the veterans and the relatively inexperienced guys. It was good to see those veteran players go out and execute with the speed and efficiency and confidence.”

Everything points to this being a break through year for Army, and with such positive reports coming from practice the pressure is on for the top units, but that doesn't mean overlooking the young guns...

Sal Interdonato gives us a look at a few of the freshmen who are getting involved on the field.

Slotback Raymond Maples is probably the freshman closest to seeing steady time early this season.

“We are going to see how far Raymond can come along,” Ellerson said. “He’s going to get a lot of turns there. In terms of a guy who’s in the two-deep, Raymond is probably the closest. But Raymond frankly isn’t there right now.”

Freshman middle linebacker Reggie Nesbit impressed Ellerson and senior captain Stephen Anderson in the scrimmage.

“Reggie did a great job today,” Anderson said. “I think he had more tackles than I did.”

Sal Interdonato has a good notebook of events from the scrimmage- it's worth a look like all of Sal's stuff.

Looking at the amount of seniors on the depth chart who will graduate after this season it is necessary to get the younger players ingrained with the offensive and defensive schemes right now.

A lot of teams on the 2010 schedule are poised for good years, 4 out of the 12 teams on Army's schedule - Hawai'i, Ball State, Kent State and Notre Dame- make Phil Steele's most improved teams list. A lot of things line up for a potential great season at West Point, but there will be competition. That got me looking down the line a little bit... This year should be great, I'm more optimistic about the upcoming season than ever... but looking toward 2011, if Army can get some of the young guys up to speed - particularly on the line and on the defensive side of the ball, I feel that next year can be a another important step in the right direction.

The more I hear out of Army's practices the more I like Rich Ellerson's approach. Earlier today I rewatched the Tulane and Vanderbilt games and was appalled at the overall ineffectiveness of Army's special teams. It was to my relief to hear that the emphasis of Saturday's scrimmage was placed on situational play and special teams. A winning record this year depends on improvement in all phases of the game, it's clear that Rich Ellerson understands that and I have to believe that the team is making those improvements daily.

Just one aside: this one is a season preview from Bleacher Report. Nothing special, talks option football and calls for a 6-6 season.


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