Monken connects with Ellerson

In a classy move, first-year Army coach Jeff Monken called Rich Ellerson, the man he replaced, last week and asked him if he wanted to say anything about the current senior class.

Army held its football banquet Saturday following the Black and Gold spring game.

Monken addressed the seniors at the banquet, telling them Ellerson said he was proud of the group and very happy to be one, who helped them chose West Point.

Ellerson was fired Dec. 15 after Army’s 12 straight loss to Navy. Monken was hired on Dec. 24.

From what I’m told Ellerson has returned to Tucson, Ariz., his hometown, and turned down an offer to be a defensive coordinator at an FBS school.

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Kendrick Jackson on Army offer

Haynesville (La.) junior linebacker Kendrick Jackson said he’s excited about his recent offer from Army and would consider an official visit to West Point.

Jackson, who helped to 14-0 record and a Louisiana State Class 1A title, said he received a call from Army linebackers coach Kevin Corless after he completed the NUC Five Star Southwest Showcase in Duncansville, Texas Sunday. Corless offered the 6-foot-1, 236-pounder a chance to play Army football. Jackson said the call was the first contact that he’s received from Army.

“He (Corless) said the facilities are nice and I would love to come see them and New York too,” said Jackson, an all-state linebacker, who made 102 tackles, 27 for a loss.

Jackson, who was named the most valuable player out of his position group at the Southwest Showcase, received a scholarship offer from Arkansas of the Southeastern Conference last Tuesday. He also has offers from Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama.

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Quarterback talk

Army coach Jeff Monken said sophomore A.J. Schurr and junior Angel Santiago have put themselves at the top of the quarterback competition following spring football.

Monken said he thinks Schurr and Santiago, “will probably be battling for the starting position at the beginning of preseason camp, which will begin on August 4.

Schurr finished the spring as the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart. Santiago was No. 2. The exact same situation as last spring. Santiago ended up winning the job in the fall and started the first 11 games. Schurr was impressive against Hawaii and earned a start against Navy in the team’s season finale.

Monken said after the Black and Gold spring game that he liked Schurr’s ability as a runner, an important prerequisite as an option quarterback. Santiago, who led Army with 10 rushing touchdowns, didn’t play in the spring game due to disciplinary reasons but Monken said that wouldn’t affect the junior from competing in the fall to be the starter. All things equal and new starting center Matt Hugenberg’s snapping improves, I’d give Schurr the edge because of his ability to make plays with his legs and his comfortability with pitching the ball.

Where does this leave freshman Matt Kaufmann? Kaufmann moved up the depth chart to third-string this spring. He was the star of the spring game, completing 13 of 17 passes for 206 yards. Monken said, “there are just some things that (Schurr and Santiago) are a lot better at and stand out.” Kaufmann seems to have pretty good control of the huddle. He didn’t consistently break off big runs in the spring but he kept Army’s offense “on schedule” with 3-5 yard keepers. And, Kaufmann may have been Army’s most consistent passer throughout the spring.

“He’s (Kaufmann) a smart kid and he plays with a lot of effort, understands the offense,” Monken said. “He’s a coach’s kid and I really like having guys like him around. He’s a good team player and we’ll see how it all shakes out in the fall.”

The X-factor in the quarterback conversation just may be Casey-Westfield (Ill.) senior Nicco Stepina. Stepina ran an offense similar to Army’s with more shotgun formation and is coached by Monken’s brother, Tom, the school’s offensive coordinator. Stepina, who is 6-foot and 180 pounds, will know the offense’s terminology and from what I’ve heard is a pretty effective runner.

When asked if a freshman could compete with Schurr and Santiago for the starting job, Monken said, “I don’t know enough about the freshmen to say and it would be pure speculation. We’ll see when they get here. That’s always the big question on all of the freshmen, who is going to play. Who is going to be the best players in the class? And, I don’t know. I’m hoping that one of the freshmen quarterbacks will at least be able to be a travel guy and maybe be  a guy, who can take some snaps if something happened with the other two.”

Army Prep quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw will also be in the freshmen mix.

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Coach Monken post-spring presser summary

Getting late. So, I’ll summarize coach Jeff Monken’s post-game press conference. May post excerpts later.

Coach Monken said in his opening statement, “I’m glad we don’t have to play this week. I don’t think we are prepared yet in terms of the things we have in schematically. There’s a lot more that we want to install. I don’t think we are where we need to be in terms of fundamentals and execution. But,  we’ve come a long way. I think our guys put in a great effort during the spring and worked hard.”

Monken said he’s, “not ready to anoint anybody or any part of our team that I feel like we have a strength or that’s something we can count on. We need improvements in every area including coaching.” Monken blamed himself for poor special teams play in Saturday’s spring game. He oversees the unit, which he said, “had countless mistakes, misalignments and blocking the wrong guy,” Saturday.

Monken sees sophomore A.J. Schurr and junior Angel Santiago battling to be starting quarterback in the fall. When asked about an incoming freshman challenging  Schurr and Angel Santiago, Monken said, “I don’t know enough about the freshmen to say and it would be pure speculation. We’ll see when they get here. That’s always the big question on all of the freshmen, who is going to play. Who is going to be the best players in the class? And, I don’t know. I’m hoping that one of the freshmen quarterbacks will at least be able to be a travel guy and maybe be  a guy, who can take some snaps if something happened with the other two.”

Not sure where freshman quarterback Matt Kaufmann, who completed 13 of 17 passes for 206 yards in the Black & Gold game Saturday, stands. Monken said, “Matt had a really good game Saturday. There are just some things that the other two (Schurr and Santiago) are a lot better at and stand out. He’s a smart kid and he plays with a lot of effort, understands the offense. He’s a coach’s kid and I really like having guys like him around. He’s a good team player and we’ll see how it all shakes out in the fall.”

Monken mentioned fullbacks Larry Dixon and Matt Giachinta, running back Tony Giovannelli, quarterbacks A.J. Schurr and Angel Santiago, quarterback-turned wide receiver Kelvin White, wide receiver Xavier Moss, center Matt Hugenberg, tackle Justin Gilbert, defensive ends Joe Drummond and Mike Ugenyi, nose guard Richard Glover, cornerbacks Josh Jenkins and Chris Carnegie, safeties Geoff Bacon and Hayden Pierce as players who impressed.

Monken said he was disappointed that injured players Terry Baggett (running back), Raymond Maples (running back) and center Lofi Tamasese didn’t get a chance to practice this spring and that linebacker Dalton Mendenhall and cornerback Chris Carnegie received limited reps due to injury.

Monken said junior linebacker Julian Holloway, who didn’t participate in spring practice, is still rehabbing an injury (not sure if it’s the leg injury suffered last season) and there’s a possibility that he might need surgery.

Monken said sophomore tackle Drew Hennessy, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, has gained 13 pounds since he and his staff have arrived at Army in January. He told me after the press conference, he’d like his offensive tackles to be 275-280 pounds come fall and that’s still undersized.

Monken said he and offensive coordinator Brent Davis were impressed with the way junior center Todd McDonald jumped into action after missing a good portion of spring injured. “He was able to step right in there and he knew all of the calls and all of the assignments,” Monken said.

When Monken was asked about Matt Hugenberg’s move to center, a question about the sophomore’s listed weight of 285 pounds drew this response, “He must have been carrying some sand bags on him when they weighed him because I don’t know if we have anyone who weighs 285.”

Monken said a leadership council was voted on by the team and it will represent players from every class level. He didn’t want to released names of the council members yet. I’ve heard the council will consist of four seniors including captains Geoff Bacon and Larry Dixon, three juniors, three sophomores, two freshmen and a wild card selection.

Monken said he was awaiting the results on MRIs for junior RB Stephen Fraser and freshman WR Xavier Moss, both who injured in the spring game Saturday. Fraser suffered a right leg injury. Moss appeared to have hit his arm when he was hit returning a kickoff. But, the injury could be to his shoulder.




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Dixon, Bacon 2014 captains

Junior fullback Larry Dixon and junior safety Geoff Bacon were named captains for the 2014 season by head coach Jeff Monken at a team banquet Saturday night.

Dixon and Bacon are both three-year starters and Army’s most experienced players their respective sides of the ball. They are both respected by their teammates.

Talking to Dixon and Bacon after Saturday’s Black and Gold game, they both brought up keeping the positive momentum from first-year coach Jeff Monken’s spring football practices into the rest of the school year and summer. Bacon talked about organizing 7-on-7s and Dixon spoke of how the players need to keep their hunger for a winning season in 2014.

Dixon, who has played in 33 games, ranks third among Army fullbacks in career rushing yards  (2,086) behind Charlie Jarvis (2,334) and Doug Black (2,098). Bacon has played in 32 games, has 259 career tackles and can become just the 11th Army player with more than 300 stops this season.

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter @salinterdonato

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Black and Gold game blog

Tony Giovannelli dislikes losing.

Giovannelli’s been known to break XBox controllers when his Army teammates beat him in games in his room at West Point.

Giovannelli was bothered by his Black team’s 20-14 loss in Army’s Black and Gold spring football game Saturday. But, Giovannelli saw gains by his teammates on the opposite side of the field.

“I did not like the fact that we lost,” said Giovannelli, a junior running back. “But, at least, it’s my friends that were winning and it’s my teammates that won.”

How much did winning the spring football game mean to Army players? Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, West Point’s superintendent and head coach of Black team, reminded his players in the locker room at halftime that he hates losing. He told his team, which was trailing 17-7,  that bragging rights were on the line in the second half.  Now, members of the Gold can talk up their victory to their teammates until preseason camp in August. Somewhat similar to when Army and Navy football graduates meet in their service. Navy players have mentioned bragging rights over Army the last 12 years.

Freshman safety Steven Johnson, a Newburgh Free Academy graduate, made an impact for the Black team. Johnson was in on seven stops including a five-yard tackle for a loss of Tevin Long. He also recovered a fumble.

“Everyone won today because we all did a lot better than the last scrimmage,” Johnson said. “Coaches made the play call. They put me in the best position to make plays. We just have to execute when we get out there and get on the ball. Tackling, that’s definitely an area that I’m trying to improve in. I feel that I got better with coaching and talking to other seniors I’ve definitely improved in that area and I’m just going to work on that throughout the summer.”

First-team offense: QB Angel Santiago, FB Larry Dixon, RB Tony Giovannelli, RB Stephen Fraser, WR Xavier Moss, WR Kelvin White, LT Ryan Powis, LG Steve Shumaker, C Matt Hugenberg, RG Stefan Moreau, RT Justin Gilbert.

First-team defense: DE Joe Drummond, DT Richard Glover, DE Victor Ugenyi, OLB Derek Sanchez, MLB Andrew King, ILB Jeremy Timpf, OLB Steve Ricciardi, CB Josh Jenkins, CB Lamar Johnson-Harris; FS Geoff Bacon; S Hayden Pierce

The following players were among a group, which didn’t play in the game: QB Angel Santiago (click here for more ); RB Terry Baggett; RB Trenton Turrentine; LB Julian Holloway; LB Sean McBryde; LB Chasen Brown; LB Kyle Ricciardi.

Banged up: Junior running back Stephen Fraser left the game late in the first quarter after suffering an apparent right leg injury after his only career. Fraser did not return and was on crutches in the second half. Freshman wide receiver Xavier Moss suffered a left arm injury after he took a hit from Nick Brickous on a kick return. Moss did not return and his arm was in a sling after the game.

Just visiting: Several 2014 Army commits and 2015 recruits attended the game. Among the 2014 commits were TE Zach Saum; QB Seth Gonzales; FB Teran Barnitz; DE Austin Weaver; WR Jalen Parson, OL Sheldon Johnson and LB Zach Maxwell. Sparta (N.J.) junior WR-CB Teddy Fischer was among the 2015 recruits in attendance.

Sights and sounds: Former Army RB Pat Mealy was in attendance…RB Raymond Maples took in the game. Maples is expected to return for a fifth season after returning home to recover from an injury this semester.


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Five players who shined at Black and Gold game

When Jeff Monken and his staff look at the video from Army’s Black and Gold game, they will see some players, who stepped up on both sides of the ball.

Here’s my take on five players, who shined during the spring game:

1. Freshman quarterback Matt Kaufmann. Some Army fans were ready to annoint Kaufmann as the Black Knights’ 2014 starting quarterback after his performance. Kaufmann completed 13 of his 17 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown. All but one of throws were on target. He threw a perfect ball to tight end Jacob Owens streaking down the middle of the field for a 41-yard gain. Kaufmann placed a pass in the perfect spot for Mike Parros to go up and win the ball for a 36-yard touchdown. He keeps Army’s offense moving. Kaufmann doesn’t make many mistakes and the offense seems to play with a spark with he’s at the helm.

2. Freshman cornerback Josh Jenkins. In my opinion, Jenkins was Army’s best and most consistent defensive player in his first season. It looks like Jenkins will have more of an impact in 2014. Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman is taking advantage of Jenkins’ speed by blitzing him off the edge. Jenkins sacked quarterback A.J. Schurr, forcing a fumble, which he recovered with 1:49 left to seal the Gold team’s 20-14 win. He also had a 25-yard punt return.

3. Junior running back Tony Giovannelli. Giovannelli might have been Army’s most consistent offensive player this spring. He showed his versatility Saturday. Giovannelli has nine touches for 151 yards including six catches and 112 receiving yards. Coaches have love Giovannelli’s fire and leadership this spring. When running backs Terry Baggett and Raymond Maples returned from injuries in August, they may not automatically jump to the front of line due to Giovannelli’s play.

4. Sophomore fullback Matt Giachinta. Giachinta recorded five first downs on his game-high 14 carries. He broke up the middle and untouched on a 17-yard touchdown run and had a game-high 68 rushing yards. Giachinta’s emergence this spring gives Army a strong 1-2 punch at fullback needed when running the triple option.

5. Sophomore linebacker Justin Fahn. Fahn’s not at the top of the depth chart but his play was on point Saturday. He led the Black team with eight tackles including a fourth-down stuff of running back Elijah St. Hilaire at the Black 5.

Game videos of Jenkins and Giovannelli below

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter @salinterdonato


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Black and Gold spring game: Why Angel Santiago did not play

Junior quarterback Angel Santiago, who started 11 games in 2013, sat out of Army’s Black and Gold game Saturday due to disciplinary reasons, coach Jeff Monken said.

Monken said Santiago and two other unnamed football players were involved in a situation within his first few weeks as head coach in January. The situation was not academic-related, Monken said.

“There was a deal earlier in the semester that we had talked to him about,” Monken said. “There was some criteria that we set forth that he had to do to earn a spot in the spring game and he didn’t get all of those things done so we sat him out today. Nothing major that we need to talk about.”

Monken said Santiago’s absence from the spring game doesn’t change his place on the depth chart. Santiago was running second string behind sophomore A.J. Schurr. He was expected to be the starting quarterback for the Gold team Saturday. Freshman Matt Kaufmann took Santiago’s place and led the Gold team to a 20-14 win over the Black.

“It doesn’t change the way we feel about him,” Monken said. “He’s a great kid, who is extremely coachable. I expect him to be right in thick of a starting position (in the preseason).”


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Spring depth chart: Defense

Here’s Army’s depth chart on defense prior to the Black & Gold game on Saturday:

DE: Mike Ugenyi, Jr.; Ryan Alexander, Soph.; Evan Finnane, Fr.
DT: Richard Glover, Jr.; T.J. Atimalala, Soph.; Ammon Tuimaunei, Fr.
DE: Joe Drummond, Jr.; Jordan Smith, Fr.; Bobby Kough, Jr.
OLB: Steve Ricciardi, Jr.; Addison Holstein, Jr.
OLB: Derek Sanchez, Jr.; James Kelly, Jr.; Malcolm Hudson, Fr.
MLB: Andrew King, Fr.; Sean McBryde, Fr.; Jim Forgrave, Jr.
WLB: Jeremy Timpf, Fr.; Seth Combs, Fr.; Justin Fahn, Soph.
CB: Josh Jenkins, Fr.; Lamar Johnson-Harris, Jr.; Mike McFadden, Soph.
CB: Chris Carnegie, Soph.; Jared Vallner, Fr.; Nick Brickous, Fr.
FS: Geoff Bacon, Jr.; Steven Johnson, Fr.; Gino DeBartolo, Jr.
S: Hayden Pierce, Jr.; Gervon Simon, Fr.; Luke Proulx, Soph.

Not listed on depth chart: LB Julian Holloway, Jr. (injured); LB Chasen Brown, Fr. (injured), LB Marcus Poling, Soph. (injured); S Alex Waugh, Soph. (injured); DE Wyatt Wilkerson, Soph.; LB Dalton Mendenhall, Soph.; CB Marques Avery, Jr.; CB Issac Winters, Jr. (injured); S Joey Giovannelli, Fr.; LB Shawn Lemoto, Fr.; LB Adam Bungum, Fr.; LB Caleb Newman, Fr.; LB Luke Fetla, Fr.; LB Rob Jenkins, Fr.; CB Caleb McNeill (walk-on); DB Curtis Gardner, Soph.; S Akintunde Akinniyi, Soph.; DB John Barnett, Fr.

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter @salinterdonato

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Spring depth chart: Offense

Here’s a look at depth chart on offense before Army’s Black & Gold game Saturday:

QB: A.J. Schurr, Soph.; Angel Santiago, Jr.; Matt Kaufmann, Fr.
FB: Larry Dixon, Jr.; Matt Giachinta, Soph.; Aaron Kemper, Fr.; PaulAndrew Rhoden, Fr.
RB: Stephen Fraser, Jr.; Elijah St. Hilaire, Fr.; Jared Rogers, Soph.; Trenton Turrentine, Jr.
RB: Tony Giovannelli, Jr.; Joe Walker, Fr.; Jeff Malm-Annan, Fr.
WR: Xavier Moss, Fr.; Justin Newman, Jr.; Deandre Bell, Soph.; Chevaughn Lawrence, Jr.
WR: Kelvin White, Soph.; Edgar Poe, Fr.; Lane Holmes, Fr.; Mike Parros, Soph.
TE: Eddy Ruzga, Fr.; Jacob Owens, Soph.
LT: Drew Hennessy, Soph.; Ryan Powis, Jr.; Adam Szott, Fr.
LG: Steve Shumaker, Jr.; O.J. Hall, Fr.
C: Matt Hugenberg, Soph.; Todd McDonald, Jr.
RG: Stefan Moreau, Fr.; Colby Enegren, Fr.; Parker Bates, Soph.
RT: Justin Gilbert, Soph.; Corey Hobbs, Soph.

Not listed on depth chart: RB Terry Baggett (injured); RB Lawrence Scott (injured); C Lofi Tamasese (injured); T Alex Cauley (injured); G Will Butler (injured); G Jack Plunkett (injured); QB Cody Jackson; QB Tevin Long; FB Richie Smith; FB Tirone Young; RB Acha Ndando (injured); RB Grant Escobar; G Chris Smythe; T Niko Schillaci

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter @salinterdonato

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    Award-winning writer Sal Interdonato has been on the Army football beat since 2007. He'll take you inside the huddle and into the lives of the Black Knights. Read Full
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