Rich Ellerson and his staff continue the process of upgrading the incoming football talent. This is obvious in both the speed of the recruits and the results on the field last season by the prep team.
A.J. Schurr (6-0, 185) is a quarterback from Libertyville, Illinois who emerged as the best quarterback at the United States Military Academy Prep school last year. Schurr was a two year starter at Libertyville high school in a spread passing offense. His senior year he passed for 2,227 yards and 21 touchdowns while completing 142 of 246 passing attempts (57.7%). A.J. led his team in rushing with 468 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. In high school he also played defensive back and was the team's punter. He was named to the All-State team as a quarterback after his senior season.
Schurr joins the Black Knights after helping lead the United States Military Academy Prep School to a 7-2 record. A.J. struggled a little bit early in the prep season transitioning from being a spread shotgun quarterback to running the option and playing under center. He began the season as the second quarterback in the rotation as head coach Tom Simi had the quarterbacks split time. A.J. improved each week and emerged as the starter after the opening month of the season. Schurr is a quick runner with good acceleration and 4.6 speed. A.J. didn't play very well against Army JV in the opener. The following week he showed off his speed when he had a 41-yard touchdown run against RPI JV. In his first start against Kings College and did a nice job with his reads and distributing the ball. It was obvious his understanding of the offense started to click. Against Valley Forge A.J. had his best rushing day as he scored a pair of touchdowns. Schurr demonstrated his running ability on a 22-yard touchdown run when he made a terrific cut and outran two defensive backs for the end zone to seal the victory. He had a 20-yard touchdown run in limited playing time during a blowout win over FDU JV. On the road against Columbia JV he ran for 81 yards but was replaced after he fumbled in the second half. He returned to take every snap in the last game against an unbeaten Navy prep team. Schurr played very well in leading USMAPS back from a 14-point deficit. He scored the game winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was USMAPS first victory over NAPS since 2008 when Trent Steelman was the quarterback.
Watching Schurr play reminds me a lot of Trent Steelman both with his running and passing. As a passer A.J. has an average arm for an option quarterback but he throws the ball very well on the move. His best pass completion last season was when he hit wide receiver Andrew Ellerson for a 60-yard touchdown strike against FDU. A few times he missed passes or forced a throw into coverage like against Columbia JV where he was intercepted on a wheel route that wasn't open. In general, he has a nice touch on his passes. A.J. and the other quarterback, Kelvin White, didn't throw the ball much this season at USMAPS. The team played three games in very windy conditions. In other games USMAPS running game dominated. A.J. is both a very good leader and athlete. He makes good decisions with the ball and pitches the ball decisively with both hands. Other than the Columbia JV game he rarely fumbled. He'll have a chance to compete for the starting job after Steelman graduates. In addition to his football skill he earned a basketball scholarship offer. Schurr chose football and Army over offers from Air Force, the Citadel, Illinois State, South Dakota and North Dakota State.
Kelvin White opened last season as the starting quarterback at USMAPS. He split time early in the season with A.J. Schurr but saw less playing time in the second half of the year. White (6-3, 215) was a two year starter at East Pennsboro high school in Pennsylvania. As a high school senior White threw for 1,550 yards and 18 touchdowns. He ran for nearly 800 yards and scored another nine touchdowns on the ground. He was named his area's Offensive Player of the Year. He also saw time at safety for
East Pennsboro high school.
Kelvin earned the starting job in the opener against Army JV. He struggled with the center-quarterback exchange early in the game. White settled down and made a nice 36-yard run to set up a touchdown. Later in the game he demonstrated his strength as he ran through three tackles to score on a 10-yard touchdown run. In the next game against RPI he began to look more comfortable handling the ball. Kelvin scored on a 22-touchdown yard run against King College JV. He also demonstrated his arm strength on 45-yard pass to Dylan Anderson against Globe. White directed one touchdown drive off a turnover against Milford Academy but didn't see as much playing time as Schurr bypassed him and became the starting quarterback. Against FDU JV he played most of the second half and broke off a 37-yard run. In the game against Columbia JV he came off the bench in the second half replacing a struggling Schurr. White ran the ball 13 times and grinded out 40 hard earned yards to preserve the lead. On the final drive he showed his leg drive as he converted three quarterback sneaks to move the chains and run out the clock.
White is a different type of option quarterback. He is a built more like a drop back passer. He reminds me a lot of Brian Hampton who was an option quarterback at Navy from 2004-2007. Kelvin is a physically big quarterback who runs more like a fullback. He lacks the true quickness and has a longer stride than the normal option quarterback. White is a strong, determined runner who can run over people and through arm tackles. White will consistently lower his shoulders to finish his runs and drive his legs to pick up extra yards. He demonstrated that strength on the final drive of the Columbia JV game. On a key fourth-and -1 with USMAPS trying to run out the clock a Columbia linebacker shot the A-gap and hit White under the chin after he received the snap. Kelvin took the hit, kept his balance and powered forward for two yards to give USMAPS a first down that helped secure the victory. As a passer White has a strong arm, throws a nice, tight spiral and can drive the ball. Not surprising, he moves well in the pocket to buy time. He needs to work on being more consistent his release point and his passing mechanics. At times he can fire his fastball behind or over the heads of open receivers. He needs to improve his ball handling and pitching the ball with his left hand. Kelvin is a natural charismatic leader who is a highly competitive player. While the staff intends to keep him at quarterback I could envision him at fullback or linebacker if that didn't work out. White chose Army over offers from Georgetown, Lafayette, Lehigh, Bucknell, Maine, Massachusetts, Stony Brook and Duquesne. He also received some interest from Connecticut.
With quarterback Trent Steelman entering his senior season and last season's back-up Max Jenkins a lieutenant in the Army, the quarterback position needed to improve its depth. Direct admit Blake McPherson is an exceptionally talented direct admit who can help. He is a 6-1, 190 pound dual threat quarterback from Arlington, Washington. He should eventually compete for a starting role. His senior year he completed 55.1 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,355 yards and 27 touchdowns. Blake carried the ball 60 times for 301 yards and scored six touchdowns on the ground. Blake was an under the radar recruit after he suffered a knee injury in the 2010 causing him to miss about half of his junior season which scared away other FBS programs. McPherson is so tough that he started the next four games with the torn ACL in 2010 as a junior and played until further knee damage ended his season.
McPherson is a superb athlete who excelled in football, wrestling and track. After recovering from serious knee surgery on his right knee he played and excelled in every game his senior year. He joined the wrestling team as a senior and finished the year with a 34-1 record. His only loss happened in the state tournament. In the spring of this year he won the Washington State decathlon. McPherson still has 4.5 speed in the forty yard dash after his knee surgery. He possesses a terrific arm and will easily have the strongest throwing arm among all the quarterbacks in the program. He's thrown the javelin over 204 feet. Watching McPherson pass the ball reminds me of former Cal Poly' quarterback Jonathan Dally. Dally was Rich Ellerson's star quarterback when he coached at Cal Poly. McPherson is able to throw the deep outs and fade routes with ease. He can fire the ball deep even on the move or off his back foot. Blake's brother recently graduated from West Point. McPherson plans to join the Army track team as well. He will be one of the most talented athletes on the roster.
Brandon Schmidt (5-11, 200) is a direct admit triple option quarterback. Brandon was a three year starter who has rushed for more than 3,000 yards and passed for 1,500 yards at Bethel high school in Connecticut. Brandon rushed 211 times for 1,435 yards (6.8 avg.) and scored 15 touchdowns his senior year. Schmidt passed for nine touchdowns against three interceptions but he struggled with his accuracy during his high school career. His junior year he ran 194 times for 1,101 yards (5.8 avg.) and scored 18 touchdowns. He passed for 622 yards and threw four touchdowns. He was Bethel's team captain and was an All South-West conference selection. He earned All-State honors during both his junior and senior seasons.
Schmidt is a physical, hardnosed triple option quarterback. Schmidt isn't especially fast (4.68 in forty yard dash) but he is surprising sturdy and is stronger than he looks. Brandon doesn't throw the ball very well. He almost pushes the ball and doesn't have a lot of velocity on his throws but Schmidt is as tough as they come on the field. He broke three bones in his hand during a rivalry game last year and returned to the game to lead his team in the second half. Brandon has the athleticism to play running back or defensive back if the staff moves him from quarterback.
Next: A look at the incoming Army fullbacks.