Meet the new Black Knights: Special Teams

Meet the new Black Knights: Special Teams

With the graduation of inconsistent Alex Carlton the place kicking job is wide open. Senior Eric Osteen won the starting job this spring. If plebe Dan Grochowski kicks as well has he's did at the Prep school last fall this should be an interesting battle this summer.

The Black Knights have a number of incoming players that may help the return teams. ArmySports.com will discuss special teams kickers and athletes. This is our final installment discussing this year's incoming football freshman.

Daniel Grochowski is a kicker who excelled last year at USMAPS. Grochowski chose Army over the chance to walk on at Florida in 2011. As a high school senior at Riverview high school Grochowski hit 8-of-10 field goal attempts and averaged 42.7 yards per punt. He nailed a 57-yard field goal his senior season. Grochowski was a rock of stability last year at USMAPS. I saw five prep games and never saw him miss on a field goal attempt. On the season he missed only one field goal attempt all year. In the opener against Army JV he hit all four of his extra point attempts. He hit his first field goal attempt the next game against RPI JV. Dan hit a 36-yard field goal in the loss to Milford Academy. He was very impressive nailing two field goals against Valley Forge in a heavy cross wind. On the road against Columbia JV he had an impressive game. The field was frozen after a heavy snow a few days before and Grochowski hit all three of his field goal attempts from 32, 47 and 23 yards. His field goals were the difference in a close game. Grochowski proved that he is a clutch kicker in the battle for the Reasoner Trophy against Navy Prep. Heavy winds were whipping the flags in Newport, Rhode Island on game day. Dan powered both his field goal attempts through the stiff winds and split the uprights each time. His leg provided the margin of victory in the 34-28 comeback win over Navy Prep.

Grochowski is built more like a linebacker at 6-2, 205 pounds than a kicker. Unlike a lot of high school kickers he had no problem adapting to kicking field goals off the ground rather than a kicking tee like he did in high school. Grochowski has a very steady, consistent and powerful follow through. He was able to drive the ball with remarkable accuracy in some horrid weather conditions. He kicked well in three games during very windy conditions. Grochowski, despite the 57-yard field goal in high school, has a very good but not a huge leg. Dan's kickoffs tend to be short and land about the 10-yard line. That might be a result of his kickoff technique. He seems to have a rather short, deliberate approach to the ball on kickoffs. This is an area of his game that can improve. Last fall he proved to be very reliable and clutch kicker up to 50 yards out. Grochowski chose Army over offers from Navy, Elon, Central Florida and the previously mentioned opportunity to walk on at Florida.

Cale Brewer (6-0, 175) is a direct admit kicker from Prosper high school in Texas. Brewer is a good athlete for a kicker. He was the starting varsity kicker for three seasons. He was also captain of his soccer team. Brewer earned First team All-District honors last season. Brewer has a good motion and accuracy kicking field goals. He has solid lift on his kicks. His consistent range maxes out around 45 yards because he lacks a real strong leg. He also needs to improve his consistency on kickoffs.

Alex Tardieu was the punter last season at the United States Military Academy Prep School. Tardieu played at Grant's Pass high school in Oregon. Tardieu punted, played tight end and linebacker during his high school career. He is a 6-4, 190 pound punter who earned All-Area honors as a senior. His junior year he averaged 40 yards on his 21 punts with nine downed inside the 20-yard line. He was ranked 25th in the nation as a punter after the Ray Guy camp before his senior year. In addition Tardieu participated on the track team in the pole vault. Last season at USMAPS Tardieu didn't really boom the ball on his punts. He was often asked to directional kick and his punts are generally high with pretty good hang time if not especially long. Most of his punts were downed and not returned.

The kickoff return teams could receive a boost if Jared Rogers or Ja'Quail Haskins are healthy and able to return kicks. Rogers did a nice job on kickoff returns for USMAPS until he was hurt against Valley Forge and missed the rest of the year, Rogers isn't blazing fast with his 4.63 speed but he is quick, elusive, has run vision and can usually makes the first man miss. Rogers has excellent hands but isn't very big and needs to get stronger. I'm not sure if the staff is comfortable with Rogers handling kicks as a freshman since he needs to build himself up physically. Haskins' issue is his health after knee surgery. He might be a year away from contributing in a big way. Haskins, before his knee injury, had explosive acceleration and demonstrated the ability to cut on a dime. He has run a 10.3 wind aided time in the 100-yard dash. If Haskins has recovered he can make a difference as a plebe.

The coverage teams should benefit from the depth and speed at defensive back of the incoming class. Defensive backs Chris Carnegie, Alex Meier, Shaquille Tolbert and Brent Hill all did a nice job on kick and punt coverage last season at USMAPS.

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