NCAA Football Preview - Army Black Knights
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From The Sports Network By Ralph Lauro, College Football Staff Writer 2003 SEASON IN REVIEW: Another year and another last place finish for Army, which ended a dismal 0-7 in Conference-USA and 0-13 overall. It was the third time in the last four years that the Black Knights have finished in the cellar of C-USA. Over the last four seasons, Army has won a total of just four conference games. The team also owns one of the longest losing streak in the nation at 15, dating back to the 2002 season. Last year, the Knights were just dreadful on both sides of the ball, as they were outgained by an average of 193.4 ypg. The club was held to fewer than 10 points in six games, including being shutout twice. Out of 13 games last season, Army was defeated by double digits 11 times. The Knights were also hammered by rivals Navy (34-6) and Air Force (31-3). Army hasn't won the Commander in Chief's Trophy since the 1996 season. Although Army did not do much right last year, it did make a big move this past offseason with the hiring of new head coach Bobby Ross, who led Georgia Tech to a national championship and the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl. Ross has the ability and experience to breathe new life into a program that has won just one game the last two seasons combined. 2004 ANALYSIS: OFFENSE: Army's offense ranked near the bottom in every category in 2003, including ppg (15.9) and total ypg (270.8). This year's club returns nine starters with TE and FB being the two positions of uncertainty. Zac Dahman and Reggie Nevels are the two players competing for the starting quarterback job. Dahman is the more experienced of the two, as he has made 15 career starts. A year ago, Dahman set new single-season Academy records for pass attempts (436) and completions (230). As for Nevels, he is the more athletic play caller, but a leg injury in 2003 sent him to the sidelines after beginning the season as the starter. Nevels would certainly add another dimension to the team's ground attack which averaged a horrendous 63.5 ypg last season. Carlton Jones, who led the team with 632 rushing yards last season, will get the starting nod at tailback. Jones has the experience and skills to have a highly successful season in Ross' power running attack. Wideout is an area where the Knights have plenty to work with the return of Aaron Alexander and William White, as the two combined for 104 receptions last season. As a matter of fact, Alexander established a new single-season school record for receptions (64), shattering a standard that was originally established in 1970. Alexander averaged 13.5 yards per catch and pulled down six scoring passes, one shy of the single-season Academy record. As for the offensive line, all five starters return from a year ago which should only make them better. The line must step up its play, as the team was only able to average 3.3 yards per carry. DEFENSE: The defensive unit for Army last season was just a disaster, allowing a whopping 464.2 total ypg which led to opposing team's scoring an average of 36.6 ppg. The group was just dreadful against the run, permitting 210.8 ypg. The defense, however, returns nine starters from last year, including defensive end Odene Brathwaite, who led the club with 3.5 sacks. Accompanying Brathwaite on the defensive line will be DT Will Sullivan. The 6-3 255 senior paced the club with 13 TFLs and could be in for an even better season this time around. Greg Washington is the team's leading returning tackler (129) and will be depended on heavily to duplicate that effort. Matt Maimone will play opposite Washington after earning the starting linebacker spot in camp with his excellent speed and vision. A plethora of experience returns in the secondary for Army. Corners, Delente Brewer and Jonathan Lewis, are the most decorated players in the secondary, as each has held a significant role within Army's defensive package since their rookie seasons. The two have combined for 43 starts, with Brewer carrying a 17-game starting string into his final campaign. Dhyan Tarver mans the free safety spot after finishing fourth in tackles last year with 97. He will be supported by Rob Davis, who is a proven hitter with a serious mean streak. SPECIAL TEAMS: The squad is without a kicker who attempted a field goal last season. Austin Miller is slated to take on the placekicking duties with Tom Dyrenforth holding down the punter spot. The strong-legged Miller blasted 27 of his 30 kickoffs inside the opponent's 10-yard line last season and also registered 17 touchbacks. As for Dyrenforth, he also has a strong leg, but lacks consistency and ideal hang time. If he struggles look for Alex Bradford to take over the punting duties. Ray Stith and Austin Miller will handle the punting and kickoff returns, as they are considered the fastest and most explosive players on the team. OUTLOOK: It's been a long time since Army has put together a football team worth watching and this year it may follow the same path. The team was just horrid last season, but should be able to do a bit better in 2004 with some key players returning and Ross at the helm. Army will need its pair of signal- callers to play above expectations along with its line if the team hopes to have success. The defense also needs to step up with the numerous players returning from last year. Overall, the Black Knights have a tough schedule, but they should be able to at least win a game or two this season.