April 5 scrimmage blog

The first official scrimmage of Army spring practice.

A defensive-dominated scrimmage. Army’s offense managed just one touchdown – a 5-yard run by freshman quarterback Matt Kaufmann. Freshman Mitchell Howard kicked a 24-yard field goal. Freshman Ralphie Freibert closed the scrimmage with a 28-yard field goal.

Coach Monken’s take: “(The defense) did a good job stopping the run. They allowed some big plays and that was some broken plays. We lost contain on the quarterback a couple of times and he was able to scramble and get outside. We didn’t run the ball inside effectively enough on offense. We’ve been doing that fairly decent at times this spring. I’m not happy yet with how physical we’re playing. There’s a lack of that. I’d like to see us play more physical, play harder, tougher. Everywhere. Every phase. Hopefully, we’ll get better on that and these next two weeks you’ll see an improvement.”

First-team defense: DE Joe Drummond, NG Richard Glover, DE Mike Ugenyi, LOLB Derek Sanchez; ILB Jeremy Timpf, ILB Andrew King, ROLB Steve Ricciardi, CB Josh Jenkins, CB Lamar Johnson-Harris, FS Geoff Bacon, SS Hayden Pierce.

Second-team defense: DE Bobby Kough, NG T.J. Atimalala; DE Jordan Smith; LOLB James Kelly, ILB Seth Combs; ILB Sean McBryde; OLB Addison Holstein; CB Nick Brickous; CB Joey Giovannelli; FS Steven Johnson; SS Gervon Simon.

First-team offense: QB Angel Santiago; FB Larry Dixon; SB Stephen Fraser; SB Joey Giovannelli; WR Xavier Moss; WR Justin Newman; LT Corey Hobbs (moved back to offensive line from tight end): LG Steve Shumaker; C Ryan Powis; RG Matt Hugenberg; RT Justin Gilbert.

Players who didn’t participate in the scrimmage were: RB Terry Baggett; RB Trenton Turrentine; RB Lawrence Scott; WR Chevaughn Lawrence; CB Chris Carnegie; C Lofi Tamasese; C Lance Baggett; C Todd McDonald; T Drew Hennesey; LB Gino DeBartolo; CB Issac Winters; QB Cody Jackson.

Quarterback update: The top three quarterbacks – Angel Santiago, A.J. Schurr and Kelvin White – didn’t really separate themselves. Much of that had to do with Army’s blocking. Santiago broke off a 25-yard run. Schurr scrambled for 10 and 11 for first downs on third downs. White couldn’t get much started against the defense. Freshman Matt Kaufmann was effective against the second or third-team defense. Kaufmann ran six times for 33 yards and completed two passes to Mike Parros for first downs. Parros made a nice move to get a few additional yards after the catch on one throw.

Other offensive notes: Schurr, under pressure, hooked up with RB Joe Walker on a 22-yard pass play. Running between the tackles were tough. Fullbacks Larry Dixon and Matt Giachinta didn’t break a run of more than 10 yards… Army centers struggled with the shotgun snap. One snap was rolled to the quarterback. Another nearly sailed over Schurr’s head. Schurr turned that potentially broken play into a 25-yard run… Army was hit with a delay of game penalty. Offensive coordinator Brent Davis told Schurr he needed the read the defense quicker…Everyone, offensive linemen, running backs, tight ends and wide receivers need to block better.

Defense rises: Army’s defense lived in the backfield. ILB Andrew King came unblocked and dropped Schurr for a 4-yard loss… DE Ryan Alexander, OLB Derek Sanchez and DE Mike Ugenyi also had tackles for loss… Sanchez recovered a fumbled forced by ILB Jeremy Timpf. King and DE Bobby Kough also recovered fumbles…OLB James Kelly had a big hit on QB Angel Santiago…Freshman S Steven Johnson came unblocked on an edge blitz and drilled A.J. Schurr just as he threw the ball.

Special teams report: Freshman CB Josh Jenkins returned the first kickoff about 30 yards. Jenkins made a tackle on wide receiver Xavier Moss, who was returning a punt.  Freshman quarterback Tevin Long was back returning a kick. Punts by Alex Tardieu and Dan Grochowski were short of 30 yards. Grochowski was wide left on a 45-yard field goal.

Photos: Check out gallery shot by John Meore http://bit.ly/1jipuC1.

Here’s video of  Matt Kaufmann’s touchdown:






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One of the questions that has already come up on emails is what is first-year head coach Jeff Monken’s philosophy on who calls plays on offense or defense this fall.

I asked Monken about the topic earlier this week. The first-year coach had a good story.

When Monken arrived at Georgia Southern in 2010, he decided that he was going to call the offensive plays. Paul Johnson, his mentor, called plays for Navy when Monken was an assistant in Annapolis. So why not.

Georgia Southern started off 3-1 with Monken as its play-caller. Then, the Eagles lost three of its next four games. Monken would never call an offensive play again. He handed the duties to his coordinator Brent Davis and Georgia Southern won six straight games.

Davis, now Army’s offensive coordinator, is still calling plays for Monken.

“That’s one of the best coaching decisions I’ve made,” Monken said.

Monken talked about how there’s too much going on in the game as a head coach for him to call plays. He said he may have some input on certain plays but Davis and Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman, will make the calls.

Monken, who was Johnson’s special teams coach at Navy and Georgia Tech, said he likes to make the calls for those units.

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

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April 2 practice blog

Army’s fifth spring practice and second full-tackling session.

Unhappy Monken: Army has just finished a scrimmage portion of its practice when coach Jeff Monken called for a kicker to attempt a field goal. A kicker came out and was immediately sent to the sidelines because he wasn’t in full pads. Monken asked for any kicker in full pads. Freshman Ralphie Friebert was the only kicker to come out to the field. The rest of Army special teams players were ordered to the locker room to put on full pads. In between practice periods, Monken came over and asked the special teams players what gave them the right not to wear full pads. One player said, “That’s what we did last year.” Wrong answer. Special teams players stayed after practice and were told to drop and roll from goal line to goal line in full pads.

“I want everybody to pay attention to all the little things, every detail, and that’s a little detail,” Monken said after practice. “When you take the field and you are not properly equipped, you are not allowed to play and it’s a penalty on the team. So, come out to practice appropriately in the dress of the day, that’s easy to do. Just do it right. It wasn’t just them there were some other guys.”

Depth chart (nothing official, just my observations): Freshman running back Joe Walker was seeing some reps with the top offense. Outside linebacker Derek Sanchez and cornerback Lamar Johnson-Harris worked in with the top defense. Didn’t see junior defensive end Bobby Kough at practice.

Another observation: Sophomore fullback Matt Giachinta has already turned in a strong spring. Giachinta is running really strong. Fullbacks coach Sean Saturnio complimented Giachinta on his blitz pickups. And, Giachinta looks a lot bigger than his listed weight of 210 pounds.

Team scrimmage highlights: Army quarterbacks were under heavy pressure from blitzes. Linebackers Andrew King and Steve Ricciardi recorded sacks virtually unblocked…Safety Geoff Bacon correctly played the option and dropped quarterback Kelvin White for no gain. Then, Bacon blew up a run by Joe Walker for a loss…Quarterback Angel Santiago running ball off tackle and getting to the sideline for a big gain…Running back Stephen Fraser with a spin move as he crossed the line of scrimmage. The move helped Fraser gain an extra 15 yards.

Quotable: “From day one, we talked about it as group, we are only as strong as our weakest link. We are going to push everybody and everybody has to do their part. When it’s my time to step up, it’s my time to step up. It’s a total team effort. They believe in taking care of one another and that’s why you what you are seeing some times. The other times when it’s bad, it’s because we are not taking care of one another.” – running backs coach Lamont Seward.

Sights and sounds: Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman was very animated with his unit throughout practice. Heard Bateman say during one portion, “Just so there’s no confusion, no game was lost because of too much communication.” Bateman’s message was for his defense to be more vocal in calling out formations…Monken is always coaching. He pulled wide receivers Xavier Moss and Edgar Poe aside to go over route running…After running back Stephen Fraser just missed a pass on a leaping attempt downfield, Monken showed Fraser the proper technique and catching a ball in the air…Quarterback A.J. Schurr dropped back to pass and the ball slipped out of his hands. Schurr recovered the fumble and proceeded to do up-downs…One of Army’s strength coaches yelling, “Walking will not get it done,” as the team headed to drill stations…Former Army running back Carlton Jones stopped by practice.

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

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April 1 practice blog

Army’s fourth spring practice and its first full tackling practice.

Coach Jeff Monken instructed the players before practice that the play is done when the whistle blows. “You don’t slam anyone to the ground,” Monken said. “We don’t want to have any freak injuries. We wanted to see who can make a play in space and get a guy to the ground.”

Monken and sophomore linebacker Justin Fahn spoke about their trip to Knoxville, Tennessee Monday for the services of Navy running back Will McKamey.  http://bit.ly/1ec3Qen

Junior fullback Larry Dixon got up limping after a 10-yard run near the middle of practice and didn’t return. Freshman wide receiver Xavier Moss was banged up after running a route but returned.

The following players did not participate in practice: RB Terry Baggett; RB Trenton Turrentine; RB Lawrence Scott; WR Chevaughn Lawrence; C Todd McDonald; C Lofi Tamasese; T Alex Cauley; CB Chris Carnegie; LB Julian Holloway; QB Cody Jackson.

Army’s first-team defense (from what I could gather): DE Mike Ugenyi; NG T.J. Atimalala; DE Joe Drummond; OLB Steve Ricciardi; ILB Andrew King; ILB Jeremy Timpf; OLB James Kelly; CB Josh Jenkins; CB Shaquille Tolbert; S Geoff Bacon; S Hayden Pierce.

Position change: Freshman Gervon Simon, a cornerback, is seeing some reps at safety.

The defense won the period of the team scrimmage. Story: http://bit.ly/1mKxbED

Scrimmage highlights: Safety Geoff Bacon was playing behind the line of scrimmage, dropping running back Jared Rogers for a 5-yard loss…Sophomore CB Shaquille Tolbert broke up a pass and intercepted another. QB A.J. Schurr broke out of a pile and was gone for a long run…QB Tevin Long scrambled from pressure and found wide receiver DeAndre Bell, who made a nice catch on a low throw…RB Joe Walker made a nice one-handed grab on a pass in traffic over the middle…TE Eddy Ruzga caught a pass downfield from Angel Santiago as he fell to the turf…LB Caleb Newman stopped a Santiago run in the backfield.

Sights and sounds: Offensive coordinator Brent Davis gave a tongue lashing to his offensive line before an early drill. Not sure if Davis was disappointed in the group’s tempo or technique. Head coach Jeff Monken and at least six assistants coaching through special teams drill.

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Recruiting: Hopkins on commitment

Independence (N.C.) junior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins was waiting for college offers to come in.

Hopkins’ height (5-foot-10) scared some college coaches including Ball State, Hopkins said.

But once Jay Bateman left Ball State to become Army’s defensive coordinator, Hopkins was one of the top recruits on his list.

Last Monday, Bateman called Hopkins. After a few minutes, Bateman put Army head coach Jeff Monken on the phone. Monken offered Hopkins his first Division I chance. The next day, Hopkins became Army’s second commit of the 2015 class.

“It’s a great opportunity, school-wise and educational-wise,” Hopkins said. “I can go to medical school for free and it’s just a great opportunity for me in the future. I just couldn’t turn it down.”

Hopkins, a dual-threat quarterback, should fit well in Jeff Monken’s option offense. He threw for 2,724 and 29 touchdowns and ran for 579 yards and nine touchdowns in leading the Charlotte school to the second round of the North Carolina playoffs.

“It’s an offense I can excel in,” Hopkins said. “I get to play D-1 football at my height at quarterback, that’s really not an ideal picture by I get to do it playing for Army.”

Hopkins, who has played quarterback since he was 8 years, runs an offense with the  option and spread at Independence. With his college decision out of the way, Hopkins had one goal for his senior season.

“I want to win a state championship,” Hopkins said. “I want to leave a legacy at Independence. I want people to think of me as one of the best that has came through there because there’s been a lot. I just really want to leave my mark.”

Former Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, Chris Leak, a quarterback who led Florida to the 2007 national championship, Joe Cox, a former quarterback at Georgia and NFL receiver Mohamed Massaquoi are Independence alums.

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

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Updated spring football roster

An updated spring roster from my observations of the first three practices.

A few notes.

Junior Colin Linkul is assisting with practices and not in uniform. Linkul, who is listed at 188 pounds, was Army’s pass-rushing specialist the last three years under Rich Ellerson. Don’t know if Linkul doesn’t fit into Jeff Monken’s 3-4 defense or he has an injury.

The players with an asterisk are injured and have yet to participate fully in practice. Still trying to confirm full names of a few walk-ons.

Check here in future will contain to update position changes.

Spring football roster
QB - 3 Angel Santiago, Jr.; 11 A.J. Schurr, Soph.; 2 Kelvin White, sophomore; 8 Tevin Long, Fr.; 5 Cody Jackson, Jr.; 4 Matt Kaufmann, Fr.; 9 Brandon Carletti-Silva, Fr.
RB – *31 Terry Baggett, Jr.; *10 Trenton Turrentine, Jr.; *20 Lawrence Scott, Jr.; 27 Stephen Fraser, Jr.; 19 Tony Giovannelli, Jr.; 18 Jared Rogers, Soph.; 29 Elijah St. Hilaire, Fr.; 30 Brandon Schmidt, Soph.; 44 Grant Escobar, Soph.; 22 Joe Walker, Fr.; 32 Jeffrey Malm-Annan, Fr.; 37 Acha Ndando, Fr.
FB - 26 Larry Dixon, Jr.; 40 Matt Giachinta, Soph.; 25 Aaron Kemper, Fr.; 33 Richie Smith, Fr.; 23 PaulAndrew Rhoden, Fr.; *38 Tirone Young, Soph.
WR - 21 Chevaughn Lawrence, Jr.; 86 Xavier Moss, Fr.; 82 Edgar Poe, Fr.; 85 Justin Newman, Jr.; 15 DeAndre Bell, Soph.; 88 Mike Parros, Soph.; 83 Lane Holmes, Fr.
TE - 5 Jacob Owens, Soph.; 80 Corey Hobbs, Soph.; 45 Eddy Ruzga, Fr.
C - 52 Ryan Powis, Jr.; *51 Todd McDonald, Jr.; *74 Lofi Tamasese, Fr.; 62 Lance Baggett; 69 Chris Smythe, Soph.
G - 70 Steve Schumaker, Jr.; 58 Matt Hugenberg, Soph.; 56 Will Butler, Soph.; 64 Jack Plunkett, Fr.; 77 Adam Szott, Fr.; 71 O.J. Hall, Fr.
T - 60 Justin Gilbert, Soph.; 57 Nick Bennett, Jr.; 73 Drew Hennessy, Soph.; 72 Colby Enegren, Fr.; 75 Stefan Moreau, Fr.; 78 Alex Cauley, Fr.; 68 Niko Schillaci, Soph.
OL -  65 Steven Makowicki, Fr.
DE - 99 Bobby Kough, Jr.; 92 Mike Ugenyi, Jr.;  54 Joe Drummond, Jr.; 50 Ryan Alexander, Soph.; 97 Wyatt Wilkerson, Soph.; *73 Khodadod Kia, Soph.; 75 Evan Finnane, Fr.; 53 Jordan Smith, Fr.
NG – 98 Richard Glover, Jr.; 93 T.J. Atimalala, Soph.; 96 Ammon Tuimaunei, Fr.; 58 Jonas Niusulu, Soph.
*42 Julian Holloway, Jr.; 25 Marcus Poling, Soph.; 11 Andrew King, Fr.; 13 Seth Combs, Fr.; 20 Tunde Akinniyi. Jr.; 48 Shawn Lemoto, Fr.;  39 Jeremy Timpf, Fr.; 28 Sean McBryde, Fr.; 49 Chasen Brown, Fr.; 34 Jim Forgrave, Jr.; 66 Luke Fetla, Fr.
OLB - 7 Dalton Mendenhall, Soph.; 90 Malcolm Hudson, Fr.; 43 James Kelly, Jr.; 94 Derek Sanchez, Jr.; 47 Addison Holstein, Jr.; 51 Caleb Newman, Fr.; 91 Justin Fahn, Soph.; 85 Kyle Fleming, Soph.; 56 Robert Jenkins, Fr.
CB - 14 Chris Carnegie, Soph; 3, Josh Jenkins, Fr.; 33 Shaquille Tolbert, Soph.; *4 Marques Avery, Jr.; 16 Lamar Johnson-Harris, Jr.; 15 Issac Winters, Jr.; 29 Joey Giovannelli, Soph.; 19 Michael McFadden, Soph.; 10 Gervon Simon, Fr.;  16 Jared Vallner, Fr.
S - 6 Geoff Bacon, Jr.; 9 Hayden Pierce, Jr.; 32 Stephen Ricciardi, Jr.; 2 Steven Johnson, Fr.; 17 Gino DeBartolo, Jr.; 22 Luke Proulx, Soph.; 27 Adam Bungum, Fr.; *44 Kyle Ricciardi, Soph.
DB - 37 Curtis Gardner, Soph.; 37 Jeff Williams, Fr.; 38 Adam Waugh, Soph.; 21 Tyler Anderson, Fr.; 46 John Barnett, Soph.
K - 95 Dan Grochowski, Soph.; 19 Cale Brewer, Soph.;  17 Mitchell Howard, Fr.; 5 Michael MacDonald.
P - 80 Alex Tardieu, Soph.; 21 Ralphie Friebert, Fr.
LS - 58 Connor Farley, Soph.

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

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March 28 practice blog

The first full-pads practice (Army’s third of the spring) is complete.

Here’s coach Jeff Monken’s assessment: The defense made some good plays. I thought the guys upfront did a nice job pushing the line back. We hit some plays on the option handing the ball off. We hit some plays on the trap. Most of the long plays were inside plays. We didn’t hit a lot long plays on the perimeter tossing the ball or pitching the ball. We hit some passes. But, there were enough passes that fell short and were thrown out of bounds. We are inconsistent there. There’s good things on both sides. There’s just a lot more that we need to get better at.”

Sidelined: Good news. Junior Terry Baggett dressed for practice. Baggett did not participate in drills. He was walking very slowly and gingerly. Coach Jeff Monken said Thursday that Baggett has an injury and wasn’t sure if he would be able to practice in the spring…Junior linebackers James Kelly and Julian Holloway and cornerback Chris Carnegie were among the other players, who didn’t participate in practice.

Position changes: Some movement on the top offensive line. Sophomore Justin Gilbert moved from left tackle to right tackle, where he started 12 games in 2013. Sophomore Drew Hennessy joined the “first team” at left tackle…Freshman Steven Johnson, a Newburgh Free Academy graduate, is now playing safety. Johnson was a cornerback last year.

St. Hilaire stands out: Freshman running back Elijah St. Hilaire made a nifty move and made a defender miss a tackle on two separate plays. St. Hilaire also made a nice catch near the sideline off a pass from A.J. Schurr.

Quotable: “We are just trying to turn the corner. Coach (Monken) said we have 44 practices until we play a game now. You just lose one every day. The intensity comes from I got one less day with these guys. I love them to death…Everybody on this team would agree. The feeling in December needs to be different and it will be. We are going to work hard for it. You asked anyone on this team. That’s the mindset we have and we are going to work together and represent this university well.” junior fullback Larry Dixon

Sights and sounds: Offensive coordinator Brent Davis running stride for stride with guard Steve Shumaker following a long pass play from Angel Santiago to Xavier Moss. After “scoring” plays, the entire offense is required to run to the end zone and finish the play…Army fullbacks Larry Dixon, Matt Giachinta and Aaron Kemper had long runs against Army’s defense. Dixon twice broke into the secondary and was gone. Sophomore nose guard T.J. Atimalala was given an earful by defensive line coach Ray McCartney following a mixup with an offensive lineman after the whistle…Army Prep’s football team watched about half of the practice.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for images of practice shot by John Meore

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

Check below for video interview with junior defensive end Joe Drummond and practice footage:


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March 27 practice blog

Army junior RB Terry Baggett has missed the team’s first two spring practices and is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury. Coach Jeff Monken said he’s not sure whether Baggett, Army’s leading rusher in 2013, would be back before spring practice ended. But, Monken said he was “hopeful.”

Junior running backs Trenton Turrentine and Lawrence Scott remain out with injuries. Sophomore running back Jared Rogers is making the most of his reps. Rogers, who is listed at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, could be a good fit in Monken’s triple-option scheme. He reminds me of past Navy slotbacks, shifty and quick.

Rough day for Army quarterbacks. Don’t know if it was the cold or the second day of practice but there were a bunch of poorly thrown passes. The quarterbacks didn’t receive much help from their wide receivers, who dropped their share of passes.

The best catch of the day that I saw was a diving grab by junior wide receiver Chevaughn Lawrence off a pass from freshman Matt Kaufmann.

Sophomores Alex Tardieu and Dan Grochowski and freshman Ralphie Friebert rotated in for punts. Tardieu was Army’s punter last year. Grochowski has been Army’s kicker the past two seasons. Freshmen receivers Xavier Moss and Edgar Poe were back catching punts.

Walk-on update: Confirmed with Army sports information that freshman wide receiver Lane Holmes and sophomore defensive back John Barnett were on the sprint football team in the fall.

Position change: Freshman Colby Enegren was working at right tackle and took reps with the top offensive line. Enegren was a guard last season.

Sights and sounds: Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman was coaching up junior cornerback Lamar Johnson-Harris and encouraging him to be more aggressive on his break to the ball…Junior fullback Larry Dixon finished a run/drill strong.

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

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North Carolina QB commits to Army

Independence (N.C.) junior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins said on his Twitter account that he verbally committed to Army football Wednesday night.

Hopkins, who threw for 2,724 yards and 29 touchdowns and rushed for 579 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, received an his first offer to play Division I football from Army Monday.

“When you know something is right, why wait,” Hopkins tweeted.

Hopkins is Army’s second commit of the 2015 class.

Highland (Ill.) defensive end Nick Czar committed to Army last June under the Rich Ellerson’s coaching staff. Czar has recently received an offer from Air Force.

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

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Anderson gets his NFL shot

Steve Anderson grew up a die-hard Baltimore Ravens fan.

Anderson, father, Ron, had Ravens season tickets. Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis became Steve’s favorite player.

“He got bigger the longer his career went,” Anderson said. “He was a 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker that just understood the game and continued to be student of the game to where he allowed his mental preparation to make him as dominant as his physical abilities.”

On Saturday, Anderson will work out in the same place Lewis honed his NFL skills. He is participating in an NFL regional combine at the Ravens’ practice facility in Owings Mills, Md. If Anderson, a first lieutenant and infantry platoon leader at Ft. Stewart, Ga., impresses scouts, he will earn an invitation to the NFL Super Combine on April 12-13 at Ford Field in Detroit.

Anderson was considering becoming an Army Ranger or a member of the Special Forces before he was approved by his chain of command in January to train for the combine. West Point graduates must serve two years of active duty before applying for their release to pursue a professional sports career. Anderson’s two years was up in December.

“This is a little flip in my military career where I’m going to concentrate on just training for the NFL,” said Anderson, 25. “This weekend will determine a lot of things for me and we’ll go from there.”

For more on Anderson’s story including former Army defensive end and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Josh McNary’s role in Anderson’s decision, click here.

Follow me on Twitter @salinterdonato for more on Army football


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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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