April 7, 2012

Spring Forward: The Linebackers

With spring practice come and gone for the Army, GoBlackKnights.com continues our "Spring Forward" feature as we take a glimpse Inside the Huddle at the linebackers.

Coming out of spring practice and fall practice on the horizon, you can expect a slightly different look for the linebacking corp as has been Head Coach Rich Ellerson's pattern, there always seems to be the continuous evolution of his defense.

Now with the backers, expect their adjustment rules and cover down rules to be simpler in 2012. There will be less concern with issues of who will be following the motion man or counting the numbers such as strong side/weak side. But for now, their assignments are worked within the system itself.

What is that system you ask? Well basically, these backers all play or can play Sam, Rover and Free, with the acceptation of the Mike, who will typically stay over the ball (behind the Bandit) with the job description of run and hit.

With this defensive scheme, the look may have the appearance of a 5-3, where the typical fan might view the Bandit, who will normally be 3-yards off the line of scrimmage and over the ball, as an actual lineman. But for the sake our coverage, we have added the Bandit to this article.

Let's kick it off with the Mike linebackers.

Mike (MLB)

Geoffery Bacon started five games as frosh in 2011, where he registered 60 tackles, which was tied for 3rd on the team. Once the 6-foot-0, 207 pound native of Milwaukee (Wis.) gets everything under control as a ballplayer, he is going to be deadly. He has the potential to be an outstanding linebacker.

C.J. Shelly - Although only 5-foot-7, 197 pounds, Shelly had a pretty productive spring and should enter the fall practice session as No. 2 behind Bacon. But of course, Michael Cermak, who is a solid player and has been was moved back to the Mike spot will have something to say about that.

Zack Williams is pushing to be in the mix. Athletically, Williams is not Bacon, but he can wreak some havoc on special teams.

What they all have in common is that they can run and deliver a blow when they arrive.


Justin Trimble - The name Trimble is synonymous with Army football productivity and although Justin was injured the majority of last season, with only six games under his belt ... much will be expected from junior linebacker.


Thomas Holloway - The former free safety, who started 7 games at free safety in 2011, finished his frosh year No. 2 on the team in tackles with 76. The shift to Rover now allows for the 5-foot-11, 196 pounder to get closer to the ball.

Sam (strong safety)

Lyle Beloney - The Katy (Tx) native had an absolutely tremendous spring.

Hayden Pierce - The sophomore started and played in 10 games in 2011, until he felt victim to season ending injury, although he was able to return for the Navy game.

Justin Trimble - Although we have him penciled in at Rover, Trimble could flip flop and see time at the Sam position as well.


The fall will be competitive for this position, but it's also a spot where quality depth is needed because the position is a grind.

Corey Watts had a good spring and already has a lot of reps under his belt. So playing the Bandit role won't be new to him. He's an explosive player, who can get into the backfield, which is ideal at the Bandit spot, which a penetrating position. Watts, who is a crafty player and understands the game inside the game. Even with some quality coached techniques, Watts' challenge will be that he is only 205 pounds and when it comes to mixing it up with the centers and guards.

Jacob Drozd - started at defensive tackle in 2011 and is probably as an explosive an athlete as any player on the team. He's strong enough to be able to mix it up, will hit you in the face and he's a high rep guy .... meaning he needs to see it in practice to make it translate come game day. What does actually mean? He has McNary-ish upside, where if on his "A" game, he won't let the defense get in his way and can cause havoc.

Nate Combs - The 6-foot-1, 216 pound senior was down all spring after surgery, but remember, the senior played in all 12 games in 2011 and started in six at the Bandit position last year.

"The bandit spot is where Nate (Combs) was. He played a lot there last year," Ellerson said. "Corey Watts had a good spring there. Jacob Drozd, Julian Holloway, Colby Miller, James Forgrave, all those guys took some turns there this spring. We have some really unique individuals in there. All those guys do things well. Some of them do different things better than other. Jacob, if he can see the game and gets used to that, he's got more ability in doing all that stuff. Sometimes you're asked to be a defensive lineman, fine, he's been one. Sometimes you're asked to be a linebacker and a pass rusher. He's done all those things and he's been first team doing all those things. Some of those guys are much stronger at part of that job description than others. He has a chance to be extraordinary at all of them. It''s not an exact science."


James Forgrave
Julian Holloway

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