Without question, this is linebacker Nate Combs' defense and this was confirmed in Army's recent win over Air Force, as the Black Knights' tri-captain returned to the defensive line-up that was ignited by both his leadership and presence.
But there is also a built up supply of young talent, with such players as sophomore linebacker Geoffrey Bacon, who not only leads the team in tackles, but is 7th in the nation in that category at 11.11 per game.
However, Bacon is not the lone "youngster" on this very youthful Army defense that continues to shown signs of improvement.
Army's four freshman starters on the current depth chart are whip defensive end T.J. Atimalala, rover Alex Meier, free safety Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires and cornerback Chris Carnegie (6-0, 180).
The first-year starting sophomores are defensive tackles Bobby Kough and Richard Glover.
Their performance on Saturday hopefully gave the Army fans a glimpse of the future. However, in college football as the Black Knights will find out this Saturday ... the future is always 'now'.
"The feeling after the win was really emotional and it was really good to beat Air Force because we've been losing a few games in a row," says frosh free safety, Jeffires. "It was also a good win as we go into Rutgers." "Of course the whole school was emotional, so it was a really big win for Army football history, for our team and for entire West Point community."
"The big thing that our coaches preach is clear and look forward to the next snap. That's exactly what we are doing," adds Kough, who says the is now moving past Saturday's win to this week's upcoming contest. "Air Force was a great game and great win, but we have three more games left on the schedule. We are just taking the positives from Air Force (game) and applying it to Rutgers."
Yes, Army will travel southward to Piscataway, New Jersey and take on No. 24 Rutgers. This is the same Scarlet Knights ball club that has had an extra week to prepare due to having a bye this past weekend. The same Rutgers' team that is looking to rebound from their upset loss to Kent State two weeks ago ... yes, a very angry Rutgers team.
"Everyone is going to talk about Air Force because we just beat them," explains Jeffires. "But coach (Ellerson) always talks about present day focus and as a team, that's Rutgers. We feel that we match up against them well and even though they have only lost one game, we feel we can beat them if play the way we played last week."
The plus side for the Black Knights is that are coming into the contest with their best defensive performance of the season, with the hope of rolling that momentum into High Point Solution Stadium.
And it's that same level of intensity from the Air Force game that defensive tackle Bobby Kough hopes to build on. He had his best game of the 2012 season, where the Army fans are hopping that the 6-foot-4, 254 pounder is able to carry over his steady improvement against Rutgers.
When facing the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers, Kough & Co. will go head to head against an offensive line who from tackle to tackle are 6'4", 300; 6'4", 305; 6'4", 290; 6'3", 275 and 6'7", 310.
"It's definitely a transition going from those fast smaller guys to the big boys," shares Kough. "But we are just going with our basic stuff that we ran against other teams. We're trying to take the momentum from that Air Force game and apply it to this game."
I really don't think it's much of the strategy and I think the energy and the momentum from Air Force and transfer that over to Rutgers, I think we can be pretty successful.
For the 6-foot-1, 190 Jeffires, he know longer considers himself a frosh and feels that he has adjusted well to calling safety his home.
"I'm really in the role at this stage of the season," adds Jeffires, who has the ability to roam in the secondary, as well as being effective against the run.
"As a free safety and when we get two running backs in the backfield, I will typically step in the box, where I play with the Mike to ID the fullback and running back. I like hitting and if I can get a pick that's all good, but we're the type of defense where we like to swarm and so I can't be afraid to put my hand on the ball and make the tackle."
As much as Jeffires enjoys the physicality of the game, he showed off his athletic ability when he pulled down his first interception of his career as a a Black Knight versus Air Force. "It felt really good, but it felt more better for our team than myself," he adds. "It was a real emotional game and the pick made me feel like I stepped up big-time."
Both Jeffires and Kough admit to having seen the maturation of their individual performance, along with their adjustment to the speed of the game.
"Every team we play is pretty the same when it comes to speed, offers Jeffires. "Every team may have that 1 or 2 fast guys, but the game has definitely slowed down for me. Every team is the same to me, we just have to go out and execute."
"I definitely think that Saturday prove that a little bit," says Kough, when discussing the positive step that the defense took last week. "We just have guys getting more comfortable with what they are being ask to do from the coaches."
"I know personally, that's how I feel and I know from talking to some of the guys, they're feeling more comfortable. Everyone knows that we are a pretty young defense and playing experience is one thing that we do need and as the season goes on, each game players are progressing."
"Obviously you are going to have those games that you don't do as well as you want. But I think overall as a unit we've made some strides the last few weeks that are definitely going to benefit us the last three games of the season."
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial