Army co-defensive coordinator Payam Saadat and defensive line coach John Mumford have challenged their unit all spring.
The coaches want the defense to step up play inside its own 20-yard line.
Fullback Larry Dixon and Army’s offense want to improve scoring in the “Green” zone (inside the 20).
Something had to give in Army’s Black & Gold spring game.
And, Army’s offensive got the best of the defense, scoring on all four of its green-zone possessions. Freshman quarterback A.J. Schurr rushed for a score and threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Chevaughn Lawrence. Junior running back Julian Crockett scored on a 9-yard run and junior quarterback Cody Jackson lobbed a 15-yard TD pass to freshman DeAndre Bell.
“The last two scrimmages it was 10-10 (in the green-zone),” senior captain and defensive end Jarrett Mackey said. “We started off hot on the defense. We were beating up on the offensive line. The pass rush was getting after it and then all of sudden we look up at the scoreboard 30-18 what happened.”
Ball security is always a hot Army topic since the Black Knights have led the nation in fumbles lost the past two seasons. The issue was addressed in the spring and coach Rich Ellerson is satisfied with the results.
Army’s top quarterback Schurr and Santiago didn’t lose a fumble Saturday. The Black Knights fumbled three times. Sophomore middle linebacker Gino DeBartolo caused a fumble by Jackson. Another fumble occurred on an exchange with Jackson and Crockett. I believe the other fumble involved Crockett.
“Right now, it’s (ball security) much, much better,” Ellerson said. “When the ball was on the ground today, it was the other guys. We are playing an awful lot of people with that gold offense. Some are relatively new to the style of play and the offense. There may be a few more issues with the football. The good news is that the guys that have been with us the longest, I thought they were very good today…They really have been really good down the stretch. I wouldn’t have said that midway through spring football. It’s obviously been a tremendous point of emphasis and down the stretch here the last half of spring ball, I think we have done a really nice job.”
If sophomore running back Terry Baggett can stay on the field in 2013, Army’s rushing offense can be better than the last two seasons, when it ranked No. 1 on the ground.
Baggett, who played in just two games last season due to a knee injury, looked to be locked up off right tackle. He kept his legs moving, escaping to the outside where he made safety Addison Holstein miss a tackle twice.
A.J. Schurr can throw the football. Schurr was slinging a few 40-yard passes effortlessly. Schurr is also very poised. On one play, Schurr bought some time by making defensive linemen Mike Ugenyi and Kyle Maxwell miss in the backfield. Schurr picked up a good block from running back Stephen Fraser to gain 10 yards on the play.
Army offensive coordinator Ian Shields said earlier this week that the move of Tucker Waugh from running back coach to wide receiver may give junior Anthony Stephens a new life. Shields said Stephens, who has caught two passes in each of his last two seasons, had a good spring. Stephens made an impact with his legs in the scrimmage, taking an end around 35 yards.
Is Army’s kicker still in question after the spring? Freshman Dan Grochowski, who made 10-of-16 field goals and missed three extra points in 2012, struggled during “Field Goal Derby” to end the scrimmage. Freshman Cale Brewer made the most field goals. Junior Billy Fisher found his groove toward the end.
Each kicker attempted six field goals with the rest of Army’s team lined up on the defensive side, trying to them by yelling. Wide receiver Chevaughn Lawrence blocked one of Fisher’s kicks. Lawrence admits he had some help.
” Larry (Dixon) was holding my feet and kind of threw me in the air.” Lawrence said. “It was illegal but I got a block.”
The team wrapped up the spring by singing its fight song, “On Brave Old Army Team.”
VIDEO: Larry Dixon talks about the offense’s progress following the Black & Gold Game.