ARMYSPORTS.com continues to review this year's incoming freshman class by position. Army's defensive…
Army Incoming: Special Teams & Athletes
Head coach Rich Ellerson's approach to recruiting emphasizes position flexibility. This applies not only to athletes that are mentioned here but to ones already discussed in previous position segments that may be moved to help the team.
Brady Earnhardt is a player that might be best to categorize right now as an athlete. Brady is listed as a linebacker and saw time at three positions last season at the United States Military Academy prep school. Brady was considered a top running back recruit after his junior season when he rushed for 1,286 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns for Mt. Juliet High School. On defense he made 58 tackles and had two sacks. Earnhardt was named offensive MVP and All-Region. In the summer of 2009 he suffered serious knee and hamstring injuries at the University of Tennessee summer camp. Expected to be out all year he made a tremendous recovery to return by the third game of his senior year. Earnhardt played a reduced role as the team captain rushing for 560 yards on 55 carries and scoring eight touchdowns in Mt. Juliet's Wing- T offense. The concerns by recruiters over Earnhardt's physical status were similar to what happened to former Army football captain Mike Viti. Army was the only FBS program to offer Earnhardt.
Last year at the prep school Earnhardt found himself buried on depth chart behind talented B back Larry Dixon. He was switched to defense to get on the field. He saw some time at strong safety and linebacker after Geoff Bacon was injured late in year. Against Air Force prep he had four tackles and a fumble recovery. In the finale versus Navy prep Earnhardt made six tackles including one behind the line of scrimmage.
Earnhardt (5-8, 193) is an incredible physical talent. He is a workout warrior who was one of the top athletes tested in the National Underclassman football combines after his junior year. Brady's 40 yard dash time of 4.32 was the fastest recorded time in the nation for all NUC events. He showed his strength with a tremendous effort of 35 bench reps at 185 pounds. He is a hardworking player with a very positive attitude and has completely recovered from his injuries. The only issue with Brady is where to play him. Earnhardt offers tremendous position flexibility since he can play linebacker, rover, strong safety or any of the running back slots.
Collin Downs is a coach's son who was the starting quarterback and a defensive back for his Camden Hills high school team in Maine. He is listed as a quarterback on the R-day list but don't expect to see him play there. Downs had good speed and ran an 11.0 100 meter dash this past spring. Downs is 6-2, 205 pounds and will probably be looked at initially at rover or defensive back.
Zach Williams from Canyon High School in Texas is listed as a specialist but he actually played mostly as a wide receiver and defensive back in high school. Williams was an All-District wide receiver and defensive back. Williams is 6-1, 172 pounds and had his best season as a junior when he made 39 receptions for 579 yards and 6 D's in his 7 varsity games. Like most Ellerson recruited athletes he was a good track performer jumping 6' 2'' in the high jump and running a 49.9 seconds in the 400 meters. Williams was also an All-District soccer player and played on the basketball team.
The kicking game receives no immediate help. Last year at United States Military Prep School the team had an outstanding kicker in Tyler Strickland. Strickland, who has a huge leg and nailed a 53-yard field goal against the Naval Academy Prep school in 2010, but decided the Army life wasn't for him. Strickland left USMAPS after the season ended and signed a scholarship offer with Nevada. The staff rebounded when Coach Clarence Holmes secured the commitment of Florida kicker Daniel Grochowski. Grochowski, who chose Army over the chance to walk on at Florida, hit 8-of-10 field goal attempts last year, averaged 42.7 per punt and consistently hit almost all his kickoffs for touchbacks.
Grochowski was thought to be a direct admit but will attend the prep school. Grochowski, who is built like a linebacker at 6-2, 210 pounds, hit a 57-yard field goal his senior season. While Grochowski can punt, he was recruited as a field goal kicker. With Grochowski attending the prep school Williams is the only kicker in this year's incoming class of new recruits.
The return teams should receive a boost with Larry Dixon on kickoff returns. Dixon is a fullback but impressed on returns last year at the prep school with his vision and speed. He had a kickoff return for a touchdown called back against Air Force prep last year. The running back class offers a number of candidates like Stephen Fraser, Ryan Morgan, Terrence Baggett and Lawrence Scott that could help in the return game. Special teams Coach Joe Ross mentioned last year that he'd rather not have a freshman return kickoffs and punts. The coverage teams should benefit from the depth and speed at defensive back of the incoming class. Defensive back Lamar Johnson-Harris did an outstanding job covering punts and kickoff returns last year at USMAPS.
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