August 2 practice blog

Army’s first full-pads practice of the preseason was moved inside to the Foley Athletic Center due to thunderstorms in the West Point area.

Sophomore cornerback Elijah Riley said he felt an adrenaline rush with his first hit during practice.

“It’s nice to be able to pop again,” Riley said.

What did sophomore running back Kell Walker think of Army’s first full-contact preseason practice?

“It was faster than usual,” Walker said. “We had guys on the ground. As a slotback, we were trying to work hard on perfecting our craft and cut-blocking and low blocking. It was a crazy day.”

Riley, Walker and their teammates should enjoy the full-contact practices when they can. Coach Jeff Monken said his team isn’t going to be in full pads for the preseason as much as they have in the past. Monken cited injuries concerns as the main reason. Read my story on the topic here.

Senior wide receiver Jeff Ejekam practiced for the first time this preseason. Monken said Ejekam, a returning starter, missed Army’s first four practices due to a “disciplinary issue.” Ejekam caught nine passes for 110 yards and a touchdown in nine starts last season.

“He will be out in shorts and a helmet (Friday) and then shells the next two days,” Monken said. “He’ll follow the protocol and then, he’ll be back to full speed. He’s really the only veteran we got over there. There isn’t anybody else.”

Kicking update: Special teams was one of Army’s major weaknesses last season as kickers made just 50 percent of their field goals and punters averaged just 35.1 yards per kick. Asked Monken if five practices were enough to evaluate kicking and punting competitions and if freshmen were in the mix and he said, “We are going to give them all a shot and we see how it plays out.”

Monken said senior kicker Blake Wilson, “has really improved. He’s gotten so much better. I think just being out there and being the guy last year after Mitch (Howard) got hurt gave him some confidence even though he missed some kicks and didn’t perform how we hoped. He’s really kicking the ball better and striking it really well.

“There’s a couple of young kickers that I think are doing a good job already. We’ll find out more as we get through camp and just see how Beast Barracks is taking its toll on their legs. Sometimes, they will come in here and are really excited to be out here and pretty soon they start to get tired and worn down and they are not hitting it really well.”

Monken also said kicker Landon Salyers, who played at Army Prep last year, has some promise.”

Freshman punter Michael Leisle has impressed Monken. “Leisle is doing a good job. He doesn’t have as strong of a leg as J.D. (Mote) and (Nick) Schrage (Army’s returning punters). But, he has a good leg and great technique. You see punters a lot of times swinging across their body. He’s got a really clean stroke and it’s always on the same side as his body as it’s supposed to be.”  We have a kicker Landon Salyers who was at the prep school last year. He’s got some promise. We are going to give them all a shot and we see how it plays out.

Moving up: Freshmen running backs Artice Hobbs, Sandon McCoy and T.J. Wisham, offensive lineman Peyton Reeder and defensive lineman Emmanuel Ukhueligbe practiced with the veterans (upperclassmen).

QUOTE: ”It’s not like we played well last year so I can just go through the motions this year. We still have to build. We still have a lot more stuff that we can work on. We still have to work on the things that we did last year and get better at it…We have younger guys that have an opportunity to contribute like I did as a freshman last year. We have to work with them and continue to be the example and not take a rep off or a day off.” – sophomore slotback Kell Walker

Practice observations: Junior quarterback Luke Langdon connected on a deep ball to tight end Zach Saum…Sophomore wide receiver Kjetil Cline hauled in a deep pass and junior cornerback Zach Scott forced a fumble during the Commander in Chief’s period…Cline also clinched the Fourth Quarter Warriors competition for the offense. Players had to shuffle a lacrosse ball between a few cones and finished the exercise with a quick sprint. Army receivers stayed after practice and worked on catching football from a JUGS machine…Junior linebacker Kenneth Brinson stays late after most every practice to get in extra work. Brinson had some company Wednesday as freshman long snapper Paul Lawless worked on his game.

VIDEO: Sophomore defensive backs and returning starters Elijah Riley and Jaylon McClinton on the first day of full pads and how the secondary is shaping up.

VIDEO: Quarterbacks Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Carter, Kelvin Hopkins and Luke Langdon warm up before practice

VIDEO: Freshmen defensive backs Joe King and Jahvari Bourdeau drilling

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and Sound Cloud @salinterdonato. For Army coverage on Facebook, here’s the link.

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    Sal Interdonato

    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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