Early spring football observations

Army coach Jeff Monken is looking for leaders this spring to step and replace graduating seniors John Voit, Alex Aukerman and Rhyan England among others.

Monken may have to look not further than the leader of the offensive line. Bryce Holland, a senior center, has been one of the most vocal players as Army enters its second week of spring practice. Holland expressed his displeasure with the loudness of the offensive line’s clapping when breaking the huddle during Friday’s practice. Army’s center returns for his third season as a starter this fall.

“Bryce Holland has been doing an unbelievable job in leading the group,” Army offensive coordinator Brent Davis said. “People feed off his energy. He’s a really good football player and an equal leader. He sets the tone of the group and he’s the right guy to have doing it.”

Junior quarterback Luke Langdon has looked smooth operating the triple-option offense and looks quicker when running. Sophomore Kelvin Hopkins, who has been limited, is throwing the ball well. Sophomore slotback Kell Walker’s reps continue at quarterback. Walker looks like he’s getting more comfortable with the offense. Can still see Walker getting some opportunities at quarterback this fall even if he doesn’t finish spring at the top of the depth chart.

Junior fullback Calen Holt’s blocking is near a pro level. Holt plays every snap the same way – all out. Defensive backs have been on the other end of Holt’s crushing blocks.

Freshman Cam Harrison, Army’s most experienced returning receiver, has had a strong start to his first spring practice. Harrison’s route running is sharp and he’s caught almost everything thrown his way.

“We are out here working trying to get better every day so we can prepare and hopefully perform better than we did last season and have an even better season,” said Harrison, who started the first two games of 2017 and caught Army’s only completion in its Armed Forces Bowl win over San Diego State…”Just as a group, we need to lead ourselves and push each other, In the end, we are leaders.”

Monken on Harrison’s spring, “He’s mature for his age. He’s not older. He’s just a guy that is a little more mature and he’s pretty focused. I think he does a good job. He’s made some pretty good catches. He’s an aggressive kid. When K.J. (Cline, who is banged up) comes back, he’ll be another guy that’s played some. He’s (Harrison) impressed so far.”

Harrison rubbed his fingers together after making a catch Friday. The Allen, Texas native said. “I’m wearing the Johnny Manziel Money Season t-shirt. He’s trying to make his comeback.”

Army is deep in returning secondary talent. So much that sophomores Cameron Jones and Jaylon McClinton, who started six games and five games respectively at cornerback in 2017, are taking reps with the safeties this spring.

“It’s better than it’s been,” Monken said of the secondary. “We are not super, super talented. The more they play the better they get.”

Sophomore Elijah Riley, a two-year starter, is the most experienced cornerback among a group that includes Mike Reynolds, who started seven games in 2017, freshman Javhari Bourdeau and sophomore Glen Coates. Junior Jalen Sharp is rehabbing from a season-ending knee injury.

“I definitely want to work on my leadership skills and getting the young guys going,” Riley said. “I’m always trying to perfect my craft and shine my sword every time I come out here.”

Monken said he’s waiting for a leader to emerge in the secondary to replace four-year starting safety Rhyan England.

“Maybe, it will be Gibby (Gibson, senior safety),” Monken said. “Maybe, it will be Max Regan (senior safety). Maybe, it will be McClinton or Riley. I don’t know, still waiting for a guy. Gibby naturally should be the guy. He’s got the most experience. He’s the older of those guys. We will see.”

Asked Monken, who will be Aukerman in 2018? Aukerman was one of Army’s most valuable players because of his versatility to line up as an outside linebacker and defensive lineman.

Monken said, “Amadeo West but he’s out right now. To do the things that we did with Alex, sometimes, Alex was down there playing 5-technique and sometimes he’s out there battling a tight end. Amadeo is athletic enough and has the body to be able to do all of those things. I don’t know if he’ll do it. Right now we are thinking he’s the guy that can do it. If not, Chandler Ramirez.”

West, a sophomore, is with the team this spring but is rehabbing a knee injury suffered in the preseason last September. Monken had said West will be ready for preseason practice.

Asked Monken, who will be Voit, a three-year starting defensive end, in 2018? Monken said Wunmi Oyetuga, who played opposite of Voit last season.

And, who will fill the void of nose tackle Andrew McLean, who has moved to a student coach after an ACL injury in 2017? “Ray Wright but he’s out (injured),” Monken said. Sophomore Rod Stoddard, freshman Joe King and junior Cordarrell Davis are getting turns at nose tackle.

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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