Army recently completed its first spring practice under new head coach Jeff Monken. ArmySports.com…
Army Incoming: Defensive Backs, pt II
Last year Simon was initially tried at quarterback at the United States Military Academy Prep School preseason camp but was outplayed and quickly moved to defense. He was a reserve at rover, SAM safety and cornerback during the season. I was a little surprised when Army beat writer Sal Interdonato labeled Simon as a player to watch among the plebes. Last year Simon looked like a fish out of water on the USMAPS defense. He struggled with the learning curve after switching to defense and he missed a lot of assignments. His father is a professional wide receiver but that doesn't make him Brandon Fusilier-Jeffires as a plebe. He's not at the same level as a cornerback as Jenkins or Noble in my opinion.
I do think Simon is a good athlete with some upside to his game. He has average speed for a FBS cornerback with 4.88 speed timed in the forty yard dash at a junior combine. Simon is strong, tough and competitive. He'll need some time to develop his defensive techniques and skills before he'll emerge as a contributor. Simon chose Army over an offer from Bucknell and a chance to be a preferred walk-on as a safety at his father's college Maryland.
Steven Johnson (6-0, 190) is a diamond in the rough type of athlete. He was persuaded to play for his high school team by the head coach as a senior after not having played football for five years. Johnson was an instant star for the Newburgh Free Academy football team at defensive back. Steven picked off eight passes as his team won the state championship. He originally agreed to walk on at FCS Albany University and then New Hampshire started showing interest before he accepted Army's last minute offer.
Johnson saw time last year at the United States Military Academy Prep School at cornerback. He played in a reserve role before he missed a few games after he injured his ACL in practice. After returning he saw more time and started the final game at cornerback against the Naval Academy Prep school. Johnson made four tackles and did a solid job in coverage. He allowed one touchdown pass late in the game but he actually had perfect position on the play. Steven looked like he would intercept the ball but the NAPS receiver James Stovall got away with a blatant offensive pass interference push off that would have made even Michael Irvin in his prime blush. Johnson is quick and played well last season despite his limited playing experience. He's improved his strength and added fifteen pounds since his senior year. The Army staff is going to try him at safety. From a technique stand point Johnson is as green as the grass turf at Michie Stadium and will need time to mature and improve. I do like his upside and think he has the speed to play cornerback as well.
Jared Vallner is a 6-1, 190 pound direct admit from Bellarmine Prep in California. He played both sides of the ball at cornerback and wide receiver. He adds some size and athleticism to the cornerback corps that lacked both on the spring depth chart. Vallner's forty-yard dash is probably exaggerated but he can run. He produced a 31 inch vertical leap when tested at a junior football camp. Vallner was named first-team in the West Catholic Athletic League as a senior.
Vallner offers nice size for an Army cornerback. He runs well but seems to have a rather upright running style that may be better suited to wide receiver than cornerback. He has good hands and on defense is a wrap up tackler at this point. It will be interesting to see how he develops. He can run and is faster than many on the Black Knights secondary depth chart at the end of spring practice.
Tyler Anderson is a 6-1, 205 pound transfer direct admit safety. Anderson played quarterback at Magnolia West high school in Texas and graduated in 2012. Last year he walked on to the Oklahoma Sooners football team as a linebacker but didn't play. He transferred out to West Point and has four years of eligibility left. In 2011 at Magnolia West he threw for 1,329 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. In 2010 he threw for 1,1018 with 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Anderson benefited from the Sooner strength and conditioning program and has added ten pounds since high school. He's not an option quarterback and looks to have below average speed for a FBS safety based on the forty yard dash times I've seen. He's might eventually end up at linebacker.
Jack Mueller and Jeff Williams are direct admit SAM safety candidates that played linebacker in high school. Jack Mueller was a linebacker at Upper Arlington high school in Ohio. Mueller was a team captain and a top tackler. He had a strong interest in attending West Point. He was an athletic 6-2, 215 pound linebacker who returned an interception for a touchdown last season. He earned honorable mention All-League honors. Jeff Williams (6-2, 200) played both middle linebacker and running back at Tualatin high school in Oregon. He made 75 tackles and earned All Conference honors his senior year. Williams is a very good athlete. At the Portland Nike SPARQ combine he was ranked second out of the 600 athletes who participated and made the All- Combine team. He has good range for an Army safety with legit timed 4.8 speed, can bench press 315 pounds and has a 34 inch vertical leap. At Tualatin he also ran track participating in the 400 meters and triple jump. Williams chose Army over offers from Portland State and Southern Utah.
Next: A look at Incoming Special Teams
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