Army’s next goal is a bowl game

Rich Ellerson’s first season at Army was successful in several
ways. The Cadets won five games and were more competitive than they
had been in years.

The goal now for Ellerson will be building on the
accomplishments of the first year.

Ellerson installed a triple-option attack similar to the one Jim
Young used with great success at Army in the 1980s, and the Black
Knights responded by going 5-7, a season-ending loss to Navy
depriving them of their first bowl berth since 1996.

Ellerson expects more this season, and he’s not alone.

”The offense in general has made leaps and bounds since last
year,” senior offensive tackle Jason Johnson said. ”The cohesion
level is much better than it was last year. It feels like everyone
is on the same page and knows what they’re doing. There is a lot
more trust in the huddle.”

It starts with quarterback Trent Steelman, who last season
became just the second plebe to start at quarterback for the Black
Knights against Navy and the first Army quarterback, regardless of
class, to start 12 games in a season.

The Black Knights averaged just more than 200 yards rushing
behind Steelman, who ran for a team-high 706 yards and five
touchdowns and threw for 637 yards and three TDs with two
interceptions.

One of the biggest questions of the offseason was how effective
senior quarterback Chip Bowden would be after recovering from
surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee.

So far in preseason camp, Bowden, the backup to Steelman for
seven games in 2009, has not displayed any ill effects from the
surgery.

Bowden has shared reps with the first string with junior Max
Jenkins while Steelman nursed a minor knee injury.

Freshman wide receiver Anthony Stephens, a walk-on from
Greenville, S.C., also has impressed the coaches and will be called
on to help fill the void left by wideout Alejandro Villanueva, who
at 6 feet 10 was the tallest player in Army football history.

Villanueva had 34 catches for 522 yards and five touchdowns in
2009 after playing offensive tackle the previous year.

”Anthony has been a pleasant surprise,” offensive coordinator
Ian Shields said. ”He just kind of showed up here. His dad went to
school here. We knew about him, but he’s been better than
advertised.”

Pat Mealy, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry and scored three
times last season, is the top returning running back. Freshman
Raymond Maples, Malcolm Brown, Brian Cobbs and fullback Jared
Hassin round out the group.

”It has a chance to be an explosive group,” Ellerson said.

Kicker Alex Carlton is back after he tied a single-season
academy record with 18 field goals in 2009. Though he missed twice
against Navy in the season finale and twice more in the annual
spring game.

”He got rid of the shanks and went right back to work,”
Ellerson said. ”It looks like he’s grown from last year.”

The past eight seasons have ended with losses to Navy, which has
won 11 of 13 to take a 54-49-7 advantage in the rivalry.