Meet the New Black Knights: OL

Will Butler

ArmySports.com continues its review of this year's incoming freshman class by position. Last year the Army offensive line did an outstanding job. The Black Knights led the nation in rushing for the first time since 1998. The 2011 team averaged over 346 yards per game as they ran for a school record 4,158 yards.

It was the first time in school history that the team exceeded four thousand rushing yards in a single season. Last year's class produced immediate results in freshman star center Ryan Powis. This incoming group of offensive linemen have some players who can contribute down the road.

One of the best players last year on the United States Military Academy Prep School offensive line was Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is from Myerstown Elco High School in Pennsylvania. He is an athletic offensive tackle who stands 6-foot-5, and weighs 265 pounds. He was a versatile three year starter in high school on the offensive and defensive lines. His sophomore year he played guard. As a junior he started at tackle. During his senior season he played center and defensive tackle. After his 2010 senior year he was named to the All-Lebanon County team at both center and defensive tackle.

At USMAPS Gilbert started every game at right tackle. He has the mobility, good feet, balance and agility Army needs in a triple option tackle. He has long arms and is very athletic for his size. Justin was able to get to the second level consistently to take out linebackers. Unlike many triple option tackles, Gilbert is very good in pass protection. He plays under control, uses his long arms well and has the lateral agility to slide and recover. Gilbert will need a year to develop and get stronger but he has a terrific upside. He had potential walk-on opportunities with Temple and Bowling Green but chose Army.

Corey Hobbs (6-0, 230) was the center at USMAPS last season. Hobbs was a high school teammate and friend of current Army reserve center Todd McDonald at Esperanza high school in California. Hobbs attended Junior College in 2011 playing for Fullerton College and was recognized for an academic athlete award. McDonald spoke with his friend about his West Point experience and Hobbs decided to walk on at USMAPS like McDonald did the year before. The rare West Point Junior College transfer proved to be the most consistent lineman last fall at USMAPS. Hobbs has very solid experience and was the most technically proficient of all the linemen at the prep school. Corey dominated in some games like against Valley Forge. Hobbs is a good player but he needs time in strength coach Brett Gerch's weight room to add more weight and get stronger.

Jake Peterson (6-2, 235) was the starting left tackle last year at the prep school. Most Army fans remember his brother Zach Peterson who was the starting center during the first two years of the Rich Ellerson era. Zach Peterson actually coached his brother last fall at the prep school as a graduate assistant. Jake Peterson was a middle linebacker for Northgate high school in Georgia. He recorded 72 tackles his senior year. He played both offensive tackle and defensive end for his first three years in high school. After a coaching change before his senior year he was moved to middle linebacker and didn't play offense.

Jake was converted back to offensive tackle after arriving at USMAPS and won the starting job. Peterson did a great job all season. He had excellent games against Globe, Kings College and FDU JV. He fires off the ball and plays fast and low. Peterson has an excellent skill set and has run a personal best 4.72 forty yard dash. He is a hard worker both in the weight room and in refining his technique. He'll need time to fill out and add some weight but he is a good prospect. In addition to Zach, his mother, father and grandfather have served in the military. Jake chose Army over interest from Navy and other schools.

Last year's starting right guard USMAPS was Matt Hugenberg from Quincy Notre Dame high school in Illinois. Hugenberg played right tackle and nose guard for Quincy Notre Dame high school. He was named to the second team All-Mid State Six Football Team as a high school senior offensive tackle. Hugenberg played at a very good high school program that has developed a number of division I offensive linemen. Matt was an accomplished wrestler as a heavyweight qualifying for the state tournament.

Last year Hugenberg was moved from his high school right tackle spot inside to right guard. At 6-5, 285 pounds Matt puts the "huge" in Hugenberg. He is much bigger than the traditional Army option guard. He is very strong physically, has good feet for a big man and can move. He is more of a big, traditional style lineman who tries to maul people inside. He had to adapt to playing lower and faster in the Black Knights system at the prep school. Matt improved as the season progressed. He has a very good attitude and is coachable but needs to be quicker and more effective at getting to the pursuit at the second level. He lost about twenty pounds last year as he is transforming his body into that of a triple option lineman. He chose the Black Knights over offers from Western Illinois, Murray State and Northern Iowa.

Will Butler started last season at USMAPS at defensive tackle before being switched to offensive guard. Butler played three years on the varsity for Wakefield high school in Raleigh, North Carolina. Butler played both offensive line and defensive line in high school. He earned the 2010 Cap Eight 4-A Co-Defensive Player of the Year after his senior year. In 2011 Butler started last season at United States Military Academy Prep School playing defensive tackle but was moved to the offensive line for the Milford game. He suffered a shoulder injury that ended his prep campaign early.

Butler is a good player who has excellent potential. He is 6-3, and weighs 240 pounds with the frame to potentially add more muscle. He has a very good general skill set that can work on either side of ball. Will is powerful and can bench press over 400 pounds. When he was on defense he played well. Butler is very athletic, active and explosive off ball. He runs extremely well for a lineman. He may have the most raw potential of all the prep school offensive linemen even though he barely played there last fall.

Drew Hennessy (6-4, 250) is a local product from Trinity Pawling high school where he played on both the offensive and defensive lines. His senior year he made 37 tackles and had five sacks in eight games. A natural leader, Drew was the captain of his high school team and was named team MVP his senior season.

Hennessy was a reserve offensive tackle last season at USMAPS who has some potential. He's a rather long, lean player who currently lacks functional strength and explosiveness off the snap. Drew plays hard and is a fighter but needs to get a lot stronger to compete at the FBS level. He's worked hard in the off-season program but will need to spend a lot of time in the weight room if he wants to develop his skills and become a factor down the road.

Wyatt Wilkerson is a California recruit who was a backup at offensive tackle and defensive tackle for USMAPS last fall. Wilkerson also played on both sides of the ball as a lineman in high school. The 6-2, 265 pound offensive lineman was voted First Team by the Mercury News, All-Central Coast as well as League MVP. Wyatt has good strength but needs to get quicker, stronger and learn the system. He has to keep on developing athletically and play faster if he hopes to eventually impact the depth chart. In my opinion Wyatt actually played better as a defensive tackle for the prep team last season. It will be interesting to see how he develops and which side of the ball he ends up on.

Taylor Harrison was a reserve offensive guard last season at USMAPS. Harrison played left tackle at Camden Hills High School in Maine. Harrison, who is 6-2, 270-pounds, was moved inside to guard last season at USMAPS. He isn't a great natural athlete and needs to improve his foot speed and play faster. Harrison had a lot of baby fat on him when he arrived at USMAPS. He's lost weight and is still adapting to playing in a triple option system. He offers decent size but needs to continue to work hard in the weight room to maximize his ability. He is very raw from a technique standpoint. He'll have to play guard in this scheme because he lacks the athleticism to play tackle. He is more of a developmental recruit at this point.

Army had two direct admit offensive linemen in this year's class with Tony Peterson and Nicolos Schillaci joining the Long Gray line. Tony Peterson is an offensive tackle from Moorpark, California. Peterson is a very athletic 6-3, 225 pound offensive tackle. Peterson is quick off the ball and into his blocks. He has the prototypical footwork and quickness needed for an option offensive tackle to get to the second level to cut off pursuit. He has good change of direction skills and understands blocking angles and positioning. Obviously since he weighs just 225 pounds he'll need some time in the weight room to build up, fill out his frame and add more muscle. Peterson will be joining his brother Tyler at West Point. Tyler plays on the Army sprint football team.

Nikolos Schillaci (6-5, 225) is the other direct admit offensive tackle. Schillaci is from Memorial high school in Texas. Schillaci helped Memorial win its third consecutive area championship while playing left tackle as a senior. He also played tight end during his high school career and is a long snapper. Earlier in his high school career he played defensive end. Schillaci wanted to join Army after attending the West Point's Summer Leaders Seminar following his junior year. Schillaci is a mobile, athletic tackle with 4.9 speed in the forty yard dash. He has a long wing span with excellent height and speed for the position. Schillaci is right now rather lean physically and inexperienced as an offensive tackle. He is a good prospect but will need time in the weight room and on the practice field to develop his skills.

Next: A look at the incoming defensive tackles.

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