Army kicked off the fifth season of the Rich Ellerson era when spring practice began last Tuesday.…
Army Spring Practice: Week II Review
This week we saw an entirely new approach to spring practice. During past spring and summer practices Ellerson would often have the team in just shoulder pads and helmets with limited contact this early in the schedule. It's proved to be the wrong approach as the Black Knights have had ball security issues on offense and suffered from poor tackling on defense. I believe the lack of hitting to prepare such a young team was one of the reasons for the Black Knights getting blown out by a combined 91-35 score in their last two openers. The lack of contact also may have failed to expose the limitations on the field of defensive players like Waverly Washington, Ty Shrader and last season with Tyler Dickson at cornerback. Once the hitting began these players who were recruited by Stan Brock proved not to be the answer.
The amount of contact was definitely was one of the most noticeable changes beginning week two once it was allowed by NCAA rules. The team was in full pads every day last week. Even with the increased hitting the Black Knights are still practicing at a high tempo. There has been a lot of fluidity in the depth chart with no positions seemingly set and a lot of moving players around. Three fullbacks, sophomore Marcus Poling, senior Hayden Tippett and junior Brady Earnhardt who made up most of the depth chart behind Larry Dixon last fall, are being tried at linebacker this spring. The staff had gone back and forth about using Tippett at Mike linebacker or keeping him at fullback. This week Hayden was at Mike linebacker.
Tippett is very physical and offers nice size for the position in that he is 5-11 and weighs 225 pounds. It's an interesting move because when Hayden entered as a direct admit in 2010 he was more highly regarded as a linebacker. In high school in Arizona he was the Class 4A Division I Desert Sky Region Defensive Player of the Year, despite missing two games with a fractured right hand. Hayden led his team with 95 tackles and produced 2 1/2 sacks. He finished as the school's third all-time leader in total tackles. Tippett has been one of the team's hardest workers in the weight room and has improved his game each year. In Saturday's scrimmage Tippett forced a fumble with a big hit in Saturday's scrimmage.
Since the staff has moved Bacon off Mike linebacker the position is wide open. Former JV quarterback Gino DeBartolo (6-2, 205) after working with the secondary week one is now in the mix at Mike linebacker. He picked off a pass in Tuesday's scrimmage. James Kelly has moved from defensive end where he started late last year and is now being used at bandit linebacker. Kelly sacked Kelvin White for a loss with a huge hit during Saturday's scrimmage.
At cornerback Lamar Johnson-Harris has returned after missing his sophomore year after breaking his leg. Johnson-Harris is currently running with the first team and is moving fairly well in coverage. Lamar lacked top end speed before his injury. He should face a stiff challenge this summer after fellow junior Marques Avery returns from an injury and a cornerback from the 2012 United States Military Academy Prep school class arrives after R-day.
A.J. Schurr leads in the starting quarterback battle. Schurr was elusive during Saturday's scrimmage and handled the ball well all week. Schurr has been on target with most of his throws. Angel Santiago is seeing time with the second unit along with sophomore-to-be Kelvin White. Santiago has been solid running the team but missed a few throws. Angel did throw a nice 35-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Laird in Saturday's scrimmage. Kelvin White is bigger and more physical but not as athletic as the other quarterbacks. However, he continues to impress with his arm strength and ability to drive the ball down the field.
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