Recruiting: Alabama’s Nick Sawyer first 2021 QB commit

Nick Sawyer always picks the hardest position in any sport that he plays.

Sawyer embraces the pressures and responsibilities that follow as the starting quarterback and point guard for Sparkman (Ala.) High School.

Excelling in the spotlight earned the respect of Sawyer’s coaches and teammates.

Sawyer’s leadership skills will continue to grow following his decision to continue his football career at Army Friday. Sawyer called defensive line coach Tank Wright, his recruiter, with the news of Army’s first quarterback commit of the 2021 class.

“I like being ability to carry the responsibility on my back,” Sawyer said. “I have a strong will to win. I just go with that and lead. 

“It means everything to be able to play for the country’s team. It means a lot for them to just take a chance on me. There’s a lot of benefits for me and for my future going to Army West Point that other schools, even the some of the top schools in the country, couldn’t give me. I looked into all of that and made my decision.”

Sawyer, who also runs track, accounted for 21 touchdowns (14 passing, 7 rushing) as a junior in Sparkman’s spread Air Raid offense. Sparkman uses some flexbone formations, similar to Army’s, in short-yardage, goal-line situations.  

“He’s a nice, humble young man with a strong family structure,” Sparkman coach Laron White said. “He’s a speed demon and a natural leader and athlete. We are blessed to have him as one of our leaders. He’s a ‘Yes, sir, No, sir” kid. He excels in the classroom as well as on the field. Army has a winner in Nick.”

Army started showing interest in Sawyer about a month ago. A week later, Sawyer received an offer from Wright. Air Force texted Sawyer after the offer and Navy texted him early this week. Neither showed the level of interest as Army.

“Going into this season even before I received offers, I was just going to play hard and being noticed would come,” Sawyer said. “Now, I don’t have to think of that as a burden or anything. That’s just one less thing I have to worry about. Now, it’s just go out, have fun, play hard and win.”

2021 commits (3)
FB Hayden Reed, 6-2, 210, Plant HS, Tampa, Fla.: Other offers – Colorado State
QB Nick Sawyer, Sparkman HS, Harvest, Ala.: First offer – Army. Accounted for 21 touchdowns (14 passing, 7 rushing) in 2019.
CB Da’Veon Turner, 5-9, 170, Harper Woods (Mich.) HS: Other offers – Akron, Bowling Green

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Future schedules: Series with Troy, Texas-San Antonio series announced

As college football teams wait for the go-ahead to return to on-campus activities, Army continues to fill its future schedule with the announcements of series against Texas-San Antonio and Troy.

Army and Texas-San Antonio will play a home-and-home series, starting in 2022, the Conference USA school released Friday. The Black Knights will host the Roadrunners on Sept. 10, 2022 at Michie Stadium and play UTSA at the Alamodome on Sept. 14, 2023. Army defeated Texas-San Antonio 31-13 in the teams’ first-ever meeting last September.

The Black Knights will play Troy four times between 2022 and 2031. Army will host the Trojans Oct. 14, 2023 and Oct. 19, 2030 and travel to Alabama Nov. 12, 2022 and Nov. 22, 2031.

Sept. 12 at Rice
Oct. 3 at Miami (Ohio)
Nov. 14 at Tulane
Nov. 21 at UMass
Nov. 28 at UConn
Dec. 12 Navy, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

Sept. 4 at Georgia State
Sept. 18 UCONN
Sept. 25 MIAMI (OHIO)
Oct. 2 at Ball State
Oct. 16 at Wisconsin
Nov. 20 UMASS
Nov. 27 at Liberty
Dec. 11 Navy, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
TBA at Air Force

Sept. 3 at Coastal Carolina
Sept. 17 at Tennessee
Nov. 12 at Troy
Nov. 19 UCONN
Nov. 26 at UMass
Dec. 10 Navy, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
TBA at Wake Forest

Sept. 16 at Texas-San Antonio
Sept. 23 at Syracuse
Oct. 14 TROY
Oct. 21 at LSU
Oct. 28 UMASS
TBA at Air Force
TBA Navy

August 31 at Ball State
Sept. 7 at UConn
Oct. 19 at UNLV
Nov. 9 at UMass
TBA Navy

August 30 at Marshall
Sept. 6 at Kansas State
Sept. 13 TULSA
Sept. 20 LIBERTY
Sept. 27 at Syracuse
Oct. 11 UCONN
Nov. 22 UMASS
TBA at Air Force
TBA Navy
TBA at Wake Forest

Sept. 12 BUFFALO
Sept. 19 at Tulsa
Oct. 17 at Coastal Carolina
Nov. 21 at UMass
Nov. 28 at Liberty
TBA Navy

Sept. 11 at Buffalo
Nov. 13 TULSA
Nov. 20 UMASS
Nov. 27 at UConn
TBA at Air Force
TBA Navy

Sept. 23 at Boston College
Oct. 7 UNLV
Oct. 14 UCONN
Oct. 21 at Tulsa
Nov. 18 at UMass
TBA Navy

Nov. 10 at UConn
TBA at Air Force
TBA Navy

Oct. 19 TROY
TBA at Air Force
TBA Navy

Nov. 22 at Troy
TBA at Air Force
TBA Navy

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Recruiting: Florida RB Reed joins 2021 class

Plant (Fla.) running back Hayden Reed announced his commitment to Army Friday, becoming the second member of the Black Knights’ 2021 class.

Some close to Reed might have questioned the early timing of his decision.

Reed’s response: “People have been asking me what if bigger schools offer you. But no other school in the country can provide the opportunities that West Point does.”

Reed, who was also offered by Colorado State, said Army blew him away with interest over other schools. Army is recruiting the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Reed as a “B” back (fullback). Reed rushed for 675 yards and six touchdowns and added 15 receptions for 145 yards and two scores in 2019, according to MaxPreps.

“I loved the opportunity (Army) provided,” Reed said. “No other school provides a great education like West Point and big-time football. I also love the way (Army) runs the ball.”

2021 commits
FB Hayden Reed, 6-2, 210, Plant HS, Tampa, Fla.: Other offers – Colorado State
CB Da’Veon Turner, 5-9, 170, Harper Woods (Mich.) HS: Other offers – Akron, Bowling Green

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Recruiting: Michigan CB Turner gets 2021 class rolling

The Black Knights secured their first commitment of the 2021 class when Harper Woods (Mich.) cornerback Da’Veon Turner announced his decision Thursday.

Turner, who is entering his third season as a starter, had received offers from Akron and Bowling Green and interest from Air Force and Central Michigan.

“What made Army the school for me were the amount of different opportunities available not just athletically but academically and how a degree from there can set me up for the rest of my life,” Turner said.

Army started showing interest in Turner, who is listed at 5-9 and 170 pounds, in February. Turner posted an offer from Army in early March. Cornerbacks coach Daryl Dixon and tight ends coach Matt Drinkall recruited Turner. Turner’s first visit to West Point was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“It’s a great program that has a lot of support and it’s going to continue to improve,” Turner said. “I believe my commitment will open a lot of other recruits’ eyes on Army.”

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Siblings Day: Army football’s best brothers

Here’s a list of the top brothers to wear the Black and Gold in honor National Siblings Day:

Dan and Joel Davis (West Point ’93, ’96): Dan, a three-year letterman and two-year starting defensive lineman, captained the 1992 team that defeated Navy 25-24. Joel, a four-year letterman, is one of the last Army football players to start on offense and defense in the same season. After starting at defensive end as a sophomore, Davis was the first-team nose tackle and guard junior year. He was a captain and started at guard his senior season. Joel was signed by the Bengals as a free agent and was a reserve offensive line with Cincinnati until 1998. He was later signed by the Colts.

Jeremy, Jordan, Justin Trimble (West Point ’08, ’11, ’14): Believed to be the only brother trio to letter at West Point. Jeremy is Army’s all-time leader in receptions (176), receiving yards (2,330), receiving touchdowns (15) and punt return touchdowns (3). He was also an honorable mention punt returner. Jeremy received a tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs. Jordan started four games at three different secondary positions for the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl champions. He made 104 career tackles. Justin, a three-year letterman, played in 37 games, making 12 starts. He had 66 tackles and four interceptions in his career.

Victor and Mike Ugenyi (West Point ’10. ’15): Victor, who lettered all four years, started 31 games in his career with 114 tackles, 23.5 tackles and eight sacks. He was a captain his senior season. Mike made 81 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, in 33 games with 27 starts.

Jarrett and A.J. Mackey (West Point ’13): A two-year captain (2012-13), Jarrett started 28 games including all 13 on the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl champions. He recorded 129 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks and four forced fumbles in his career. A.J. made 37 tackles, 6.5 for loss in 12 starts at nose tackle his junior season.

Ted and Fritz Bentler (West Point ’10): Ted, an Iowa transfer, made 53 tackles in 2018. Fritz started nine games on the defensive line in 2008.

Other brothers: Shane and Evan Finnane (’14, ’16), Tony and Joey Giovannelli (’15, ’16), James and Troy Nachtigal (’19, ’23), Zach and Corey Watts (’13, ’14)

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Video Conference Recap: Jeff Monken, Brent Davis, Nate Woody

Army spring football was lost to the COVID-19 outbreak.

How are coach Jeff Monken and coordinators Brent Davis and Nate Woody adapting to the virtual world of college football and being away from their players?

Monken spoke about how Army players can control two things – the attitude and effort – while they are away from West Point in my story here.

Army isn’t overloading its players with team meetings as they continue to adjust to online education. Position groups get together through video conferencing two to three times a week.

Monken also said how this time is, “great training” for all West Point cadets.

“When our Army officers train themselves and they train their units and soldiers, they don’t often know what the kickoff time is, what the date that kickoff is going to be, who the opponent will be,” Monken said. “We have that in sports. We can prepare for that. When our guys join the Army, they’re not going to know.”

Davis broke down Army’s returning offensive players and delivered this about rising sophomore fullback Anthony Adkins, “If you could see him right now, he’s probably 250 pounds. He was really having an unbelievable offseason. He’s just scratching the surface of what he can do physically. He’s a specimen.”

The returning offensive linemen have a lot to prove after the Black Knights’ disappointing 5-8 2019 season, Davis said. Two-year starters JB Hunter (knee) and Peyton Reeder (shoulder) played through injuries last season, had offseason surgeries and will be ready to go. Davis said Hunter is going to work in at center.

Woody, in his first season as defensive coordinator, talked about Zoom meeting with assistants to discuss his 3-4 scheme. He said that Army has a staff that has experience coaching multiple position in his defense.

“Our defensive staff meetings allow us to go over concepts that may give us problems in certain fronts and coverage and to do a great job of covering that with every position involved and as far as understanding what we are willing to give up on defense and what we want to take away with each one of these calls,” Woody said. “Getting everybody on the same page with these meetings has been great.”

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Army football banquet awards

Army football held its banquet on Friday, Feb. 7. Here are a list of awards that were handed out:

Creighton W. Abrams Memorial Awardpresented to the team captains

Senior linebacker Cole Christiansen; senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr.; senior cornerback Elijah Riley

LTG Garrison Davidson Awardpresented to the graduating senior who maintains the highest military grade

Senior defensive lineman Jacob Ellington

Major William C. Whitehead Jr. Memorial Award: presented to graduating member of the Army Football Team with the highest class standing

Senior place kicker David Cooper

Thomas West Hammond Memorial Awardpresented to the outstanding lineman for the season

Senior defensive lineman Rod Stoddard

COL James B. Gillespie Memorial Awardpresented to the player who displays outstanding dedication, unfailing performance and consistently contributes to the Army Football Team

Senior defensive lineman Jacob Covington

COL Joel B. “Dopey” Stephens Awardpresented to the outstanding football player on the offensive and defensive scout team

Sophomore offensive lineman Daniel Parrish; senior defensive lineman Jack Hough

Anthony Miller Coaching Staff Awardpresented to the team’s most inspirational player

Junior fullback Sandon McCoy

Army Lifter of the Year Award: presented by the Army strength staff to a player who performed at a high-level in the weight room

Senior fullback Connor Slomka

1LT Chase Prasnicki Memorial Awardpresented to the First Class Cadet on the Army Football Team who embodies the characteristics of 1LT Steven Chase Prasnicki, Class of 2010, who was killed in action in June, 2012.  Prasnicki’s sacrifice epitomized the values of loyalty, selfless service, and teamwork taught by both the United States Army and the United States Military Academy.  Prasnicki was always a team player, continuously putting the needs of the team above his own personal goals and serves as a role model for all past, current, and future Army Football Players

Senior punter Zach Potter

Black Lion Awardawarded for Leadership, Courage, Devotion, and Selfless Service

Senior offensive lineman Jack Sides

COL Thruston Hughes Memorial Awardpresented to the Most Valuable Player on the team

Senior cornerback Elijah Riley

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Cole Christiansen accepts invite to NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

Army senior linebacker Cole Christiansen has accepted an invite to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. The game will take place on Jan. 18, 2020, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Roughly 200 scouts, general managers, head coaches and player personnel staff from all 32 NFL teams are expected to attend to watch practices, conduct interviews and review tape.

A few days earlier, Christiansen was named a Lott IMPACT trophy semifinalist.

Christiansen is tied 13th nationally in total tackles (99) and solo stops (58).

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Army releases 2020 schedule

Army released its 2020 schedule on Wednesday. You can read a breakdown of the games here. Below is the list of opponents. Times TBD.

Sept. 4            BUCKNELL

Sept. 12          at Rice

Sept. 26          OKLAHOMA

Oct. 3              at Miami (Ohio)

Oct. 10            PRINCETON

Oct. 17            EASTERN MICHIGAN

Oct. 24            BUFFALO

Nov. 7             AIR FORCE

Nov. 14           at Tulane

Nov. 21           at UMass

Nov. 28           at UConn

Dec. 12           vs. Navy (Philadelphia)

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Army offensive line shake-up

Army played arguably its strongest game of the season Saturday against Air Force, yet the Black Knights suffered another discouraging defeat. The offensive line, a source of concern heading into the Air Force game, held up surprisingly well, considering the guys who received the starting nod.

The starting offensive line looked like this: LT Luke McCleery, LG Jake Baumert, C Noah Knapp, RG Dean Powell, RT Jack Sides. For those keeping score at home, that’s four new starters from Army’s usual lineup. Aside from Sides, who, luck would have it, went down with injury at Air Force, the other four guys are generally backups.

There could be multiple reasons for this. The first is that the starting offensive line (Alex Herndon, Jaxson Deaton, JB Hunter, Sides and Peyton Reeder) just wasn’t getting the job done. The more accurate answer likely is that some of the starters simply weren’t healthy to play a full game. Many of them have battled injuries all season, and head coach Jeff Monken probably made the decision that healthy backups were going to be better than hobbled starters.

Now, Hunter, who was starting at center, did play, as a blocking tight end first and then at tackle once Sides left the game. And Deaton was involved, though he was called for two false starts, including one where he literally tackled quarterback Jabari Laws while shifting to his right.

The offensive line actually played well for most of the game, though Laws did ultimately exit with injury — his second in as many games — late in the fourth quarter. Although the running game was once again lagging behind, Laws was given plenty of time behind the pocket to throw for 214 yards (you read that right).

Army coaches and players talk about being able to win no matter who is under center, but with four different centers and three different quarterbacks receiving extended playing time this season, it’s tough to get into a rhythm. This season, Army is averaging less than 25 points per game. Last season? 32.8.

If Las Vegas put betting odds on who the starting five Army offensive linemen would be next week, the sports books would be raking in money. It’s almost impossible to predict who to expect at each position. At least Army can be happy that there are so many offensive linemen with experience playing in big games, even if that experience came under not the most ideal circumstances.

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