August 21 practice blog

This preseason feels much different than last August.

Jeff Monken, a tough but fair coach, and his staff have picked their spots to lighten up practices.

Friday’s practice was no different.

After the team finished its stretching, Monken called his players to the entrance of Howze Field.

Monken told the team that West Point superintendent Robert Caslen was test-riding his motorcycle down below at Michie Stadium. The coach led the entire team in a rush to greet Caslen, the academy’s commanding officer.

Caslen stayed to watch practice. At one point, wide receiver Edgar Poe split out wide and asked Caslen if he was lined up to the football. Caslen nodded his head, “Yes.”

Army finished practice with players lining up between the 10-15-yard line trying to hit the goal post with passes.

Sitting out practice (shells, helmets and shoulder pads): NT T.J. Atimalala; DE Eddy Ruzga; G Jaryn Villegas; LB Blake Goddard; RB Christian Drake; LB Will Dunavant.

Quarterback talk: Monken said sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw has earned “the opportunity” to run the first-team offense in Saturday’s scrimmage. Senior A.J. Schurr will work with the second team at least to start. Bradshaw continues to flash his speed running the football. Schurr looked pretty comfortable running Army’s hurry-up offense. He completed his first three passes in the simulated session. “We are still two weeks away from the first game and it’s shaking itself out,” Monken said. “The good thing is I think both of those guys can play. I think Ahmad and A.J. can play for us.”

Depth chart: Not much changing on the two-deep. Freshmen slotbacks  Jordan Asberry and Tyler Campbell alternated in with the first team in Joe Walker’s spot. Looked like Walker, who has been battling injury, participated in individual drills but not much if any team work.

Catch of the day: Freshman safety Gibby Gibson closed practice with an interception of Ahmad Bradshaw in traffic.

Practice observations: Sophomore John Trainor, freshman Jordan Asberry and junior Tevin Long took turns returning kicks…Freshman Nick Schrage was providing the kickoffs. Almost every one was fielded near the 5-yard line…A.J. Schurr connected with Trainor on a short route…Bradshaw found Deandre Bell near the sideline…Freshman slotback Nick Black went up and twisted in mid air to make a catchIt was Trivia Time at “Muscle Beach,” where injured players work with Army’s strength and conditioning coaches. The category was movies. The questions from Tim Caron, Will Greenberg and Darren Mustin varied from what Christina Applegate’s first movie, name three movies directed by Clint Eastwood and what state “Field of Dreams” was based in.

VIDEOS: Nose tackle Ray Wright, one of the team’s emerging freshman. Defense hitting the bags.

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Recruiting: Another Carolina commit

Army picked up its third North Carolina commit of the 2016 class when A.L. Brown senior running back Sandon McCoy gave his verbal Thursday.

McCoy rushed for 1,247 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014 for the Kannapolis school, according to He is the 18th commit of the 2016 class. McCoy’s Hudl profile says he’s been clocked at 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman has recruited North Carolina well since joining Army’s staff. Among Bateman’s Carolina commits are freshman nose tackle Ray Wright, who has been running with Army’s travel roster and Army Prep quarterback Kelvin Hopkins.

2016 commits (18)
LB Gavin Bassett, 6-1, 205, Farmington (Minn.) HS: Other offers – Air Force. Bassett camped at Army on June 27.
RB Dominic Distefano, 5-7, 160, Hendrickson (La.) HS: Fastest prospect at Army camp on June 27.
DL Tyler Fleagle, 6-2, 265, Linganore HS, Frederick, Md.: Other FBS offers: Old Dominion.
LB Christian Gomez, 6-1, 215, Cypress Bay HS, Weston, Fla.
QB Felix Harper, 6-foot, 160, Creekside HS, Fairburn, Ga.
WR Chance Kennedy, 5-8, 158, South Mecklenburg HS, Charlotte, N.C.
LB Jack King, 6-2, 205, Providence HS, Charlotte, N.C.
CB Joseph King, 5-10, 160, Bolles School, Jacksonville, Fla.: First offer – Army. Named “Most Explosive Athlete” at Army Prospect camp on June 27.
TE Geoff Kirk, 6-4, 230, Avon (Conn.) HS
OL Liam McCarthy, 6-2, 275, Avon (Conn.) Old Farms
RB Sandon McCoy, 5-11, 202, A.L. Brown HS, Kannapolis, N.C.
RB Ostin McPherson, 5-8, 170, St. Paul’s Espiscopal, Mobile, Ala.
T Trey Neville, 6-4, 250, Lafayette HS, Williamsburg, Va.: First offer – Army. Neville’s father, Thomas, played nose guard for Navy in 1994 and 1995.
LB Joe Ryan, 6-1, 215, Plant HS, Tampa, Fla.
K Trey Simons, 6-2, 155, Atlantic Coast HS, Jacksonville, Fla.: First offer – Army.
S Justin Thomas, 6-1, 176, Chaminade-Madonna HS, Hollywood, Fla.
QB Brett Virgil, 5-10, 166, Heritage HS, Brentwood, Calif.: First offer – Army.
CB Collin Whitaker, 5-10, 191, Prestonwood Christian HS, Plano, Texas: Whitaker was named the top defensive back of 2016 class at Army prospect camp on June 27.

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Delaney connects with Black Knights

DeAndre Bell was on the edge of his seat.

Bob Delaney was talking and Bell was listening.

Delaney, a former undercover New Jersey state trooper and NBA referee, spoke with Army’s football team before Wednesday’s practice.

“Mr. Delaney’s story is unbelievable and I imagine he went through some hard things being undercover because I watched a couple of movies on it,” said Bell, a senior wide receiver. “It’s unreal to actually meet somebody that has done that in real life. I can’t fathom it and the fact that basketball has always been my favorite sport and he’s met people like Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, that makes him an instant legend in my book.”

Delaney was undercover for three years inside the mob in a 1970s operation called, “Project Alpha.” Delaney’s work helped put several crime-family members behind bars.

“Like he said in the meeting, he made friends with these people,” Bell said. “He met their families and I couldn’t imagine meeting somebody’s family and then putting their dad in jail. That’s a hard thing to do.”

Delaney also spoke to the team earlier in the preseason. Coach Jeff Monken was originally introduced to Delaney through Commandant J.T. Thomson, a former Army football player. Monken said Delaney, who watched practice Wednesday, will speak to the team again this season.

“He does this for other organizations and other college football teams and just the message about leadership, teamwork, commitment, sacrifice and all those things it takes to be a a success as an individual in any organization,” Monken said. “The humility it takes to put the team first in all of those things and the messages that our guys need to hear and the things we try to teach and we talk to them about every day.”

Monken said sometimes the players need to hear a different, respected voice from outside the team. Last week, former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz spoke with the team and observed a practice. Pat Williams, the senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, spoke with all West Point athletes Sunday. Army director of athletics Boo Corrigan, who was an assistant athletic director at Notre Dame, set up both of those appearances.

“They (Delaney, Holtz and Williams) are in big-time sports and have risen to levels of success in their fields,” Monken said. “There’s some instant credibility when they speak.”

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


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August 19 practice blog

Coach Jeff Monken and his staff have divided the team into a travel/dress team and scout team this week.

The travel team is wearing black (offense) or white (defense) jerseys with their names on the back. While, the scout team wears gold-colored jerseys with just numbers.

“It’s what we think will be the travel squad or there abouts,” Monken said. “We have to get the team ready to play and quite frankly, some of those guys on the scout team aren’t going to factor in on the first and second teams or even the third teams. That’s the team that we have to get prepared to play two Friday nights from now and beyond. Everybody in America does that at some point.”

Seniors – Joey Giovannelli, Grant Escobar, Kyle Ricciardi, Alex Waugh and Wyatt Wilkerson – are scout-team players. Some players, like Giovannelli, were not obligated to participate in the two-week preseason camp. Giovannelli said he lifted weights and ran a lot in that period.

On the injury front: Monken said that senior tackle Drew Hennessy will miss, “at least a couple of weeks,” after suffering an ankle injury early in Saturday’s scrimmage. Hennessy was on crutches at practice. Monken said Hennessy is doubtful for Army’s opener against Fordham on Sept. 4 at Michie Stadium. Sophomore Brett Toth is likely to receive his first college start.

Offensive line news: Sophomore Mike Houghton is back practicing with the team after missing preseason camp due to breaking team rules. Monken said he’s not sure if Houghton will play tackle or guard going forward. He confirmed Houghton will not play in the Fordham game because of the disciplinary matter.

The following players did not participate in Army’s (shells, helmet and shoulder pads) practice: G Jaryn Villegas; NT T.J. Atimalala; SB Elijah St. Hilaire; SB Christian Drake; C Josh Boylan; FB PaulAndrew Rhoden; WR Shafer Swann; LB Will Dunivant.

First-team offense: QB Ahmad Bradshaw, FB Matt Giachinta, SB John Trainor; SB Joe Walker; WR Edgar Poe; WR Deandre Bell; TE Kelvin White; LT Ryan Alexander; LG Justin Gilbert; C Matt Hugenberg; RG Colby Enegren; RT Brett Toth

Second-team offense: QB A.J. Schurr; FB Aaron Kemper; SB Jordan Asberry; SB Tyler Campbell; WR Jermaine Adams; WR Jeff Ejekam; LT Rick Kurz; LG Victor Nieves; C Lofi Tamasese; RG Riko Tamasese; RT Niko Schillaci.

Other offensive players on travel squad: QB Chris Carter; QB Matt Kaufmann; FB Nick Shiver; FB Drue Harris; FB Darnell Woolfork; FB Spencer Sheff; SB Nick Black; TE Quinten Parker; WR Jalen Sharp.

First-team defense: DE John Voit; NT Cordarrell Davis; DE Jordan Smith; LB Bayle Wolf; LB Andrew King; LB Jeremy Timpf; LB Alex Aukerman; CB Chris Carnegie; CB Steven Johnson; S Rhyan England; S Xavier Moss.

Second-team defense: DE Emmanuel Aka; NT Raymond Wright; DE Evan Finnane; LB Calen Holt; LB Scott Washle; LB Justin Fahn; LB Kenneth Brinson; CB Tevin Long; CB Brandon Jackson; S Gibby Gibson; S Luke Proulx.

Other defensive players on travel squad: DE Shawn Lemoto; LB Andy Davidson; LB Tyler L’Hommedieu; LB James Nachtigal; LB Harrison Rooney; CB Jared Rogers; CB Michael McFadden; S Max Regan.

Practice observations: Former NBA Bob Delaney watched practice. Delaney spoke with the team before it took the field (I’ll have more on this in a future blog entry)….Freshman Chris Carter and sophomore Matt Kaufmann split time with the travel and scout teams… Carter and Kaufmann appear to be in the running for third-string quarterback…Didn’t see freshman quarterback William James at practice…Senior quarterback A.J. Schurr completed the longest pass of a 1-on-1 period, connecting 35 yards with junior receiver Edgar P0e…Freshman tight end Joe Corless made a nice one-handed catch near the sideline against the second-team defense…Sophomore linebacker Alex Aukerman broke up a short pass intended for tight end Quinten Parker late in practice.

Note: Apologize for the lack of Periscope footage. I caught drill late in a one-on-one period.

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

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Updated Army Prep roster

Army Prep football roster with some numbers.

1 Kellyen Walker, RB, 5-9, 177, Lakeside HS, Atlanta, Ga.
3 Donovan Franklin, RB, 5-9, 177, Old Mill HS, Millersville, Md.
5 Tank Scott, CB, 6-foot, 185, Highland Springs (Va.) HS
7 Jaylon McClinton, CB, 5-10, 185, Charlotte (N.C.) Christian HS
8 Kelvin Hopkins, QB, 5-10, 194, Independence HS, Charlotte, N.C.
9 Josh Walker, RB, 5-6, 160, Jacobs HS, Algonquin, Ill.
10 Ryan Miller, RB, 6-2, 205, Charlotte (N.C.) Christian HS
13 Richard Hanson, CB, 5-10, 170, Prince George (Va.) HS
14 Glen Coates, WR, 5-11, 188, Davidson (N.C.) Day HS
16 R.J. Trimble-Edwards, WR, 6-1, 220, Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, N.J.
17 Zach Potter, K-P, 5-10, 180, Terre Haute (Ind.) North HS
18 Bryce Sutherland, WR, 6-1, 186, De La Salle HS, Chicago, Ill.
19 Donavan Lynch, LB, 6-foot, 207, Noblesville (Ind.) HS
21 Lawrence Stevens, CB, 5-foot-10, 178, Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, N.J.
25 Robert Heyward, RB-LB, 6-foot, 195, Calvary Day School, Savannah, Ga.
27 A.J. Keene, CB, 5-9, 165, Calvary Day HS, Savannah, Ga.
30 Hayden Haupt, LB, 6-2, 210, Clovis North HS, Fresno, Calif.
31 Rashaad Bolton, S, 5-11, 205, Veterans HS, Kathleen, Ga.
36 Olajuwon Adepegba, SB, 5-8, 160, DuVal HS, Lanham, Md.
43 Konnor Houston, LB, 6-4, 230, Buford (Ga.) HS
44 Jalen Nash, DE-OLB, 6-2, 235, Southlake Christian Academy, Gastonia, N.C.
45 B.J. Harris, RB, 5-11, 180, Peoria (Ill.) HS
48 Cole Stacklin, FB, 5-11, 185, Buckeye Central HS, New Washington, Ohio
49 Khahil Yelding, DT, 6-1, 290, Daphne (Ala.) HS
51 Rad Jang, OL, 6-2, 265, Kamehameha HS, Honolulu, Hawaii
53 Michael Owens, OL, 6-4, 270, Nazareth Academy, LaGrange Park, Ill.
63 Jaxson Deaton, G, 6-5, 295, Frisco (Texas) HS
65 Jake Baumert, OL, 6-3, 300, Lovejoy HS, Lucas, Texas
67 Chase Madden, OL, Lakeland (Fla.) HS
74 Mike Johnson, OL, 6-3, 280, Hinsdale (Ill.) HS
75 Michel Toure, OL, West Forsyth HS, Alpharetta, Ga.
77 Eric McAllister, C, 6-1, 270, Central Catholic, Pittsburgh

Missing numbers for…

S D’Angelo Amos, 6-1, 175, Meadowbrook HS, Richmond, Va.
LB Marco Carrabotta, 6-1, 220, Thomas Dale HS, Chester, Va.
LB Jacob Covington, 6-2, 215, Liberty Hill (Texas) HS
OL Nick Dabbelt, 6-1, 260, Centerville (Ohio) HS
WR Christian Hayes, 6-foot, 185, La Jolla (Calif.) Country Day
RB Kevin Hicks, 5-10, 195, Bishop Sullivan HS, Virginia Beach, Va.
QB Dario Highsmith, 5-10, 190, Middletown (Conn.) HS
DE T.J. Jackson, 5-11, 245, Trinity Christian HS, Jacksonville, Fla.
RB Dejoun Lee, 5-9, 170, Lake Braddock HS, Burke, Va.
QB Malik McGue, 5-8, 170, Science Hill HS, Johnson City, Tenn.
DE Julian Meares, 6-3, 219, John Carroll School, Bel Air, Md.
DE Nathan Rodriguez, 6-3, 260, Westerville (Ohio) HS
DT Tanner Sheffield, 6-3, 245, North Paulding HS, Dallas, Ga.
WR Chris Shelling, 5-9, 165, Central Gwinnett HS, Lawrenceville, Ga.
RB Connor Slomka, 6-foot, 205, Pine-Richland HS, Gibsonia, Pa.
LB Jacquese Steen, 6-foot, 230, Skyline HS, Oakland, Calif.
DE Nick Steinhaus, 6-1, 235, Milton HS, Alpharetta, Ga.
DL Roderick Stoddard, 6-foot, 250, Hillcrest HS, Simpsonville, S.C.
RB Calen Taylor, 5-7, 160, Christian Brothers Collegiate, St. Louis, Mo.
DE Amadeo West, 6-2, 235, Oceanside (Calif.) HS
S Thai Wright, 5-11, 185, Wilson Memorial HS, Fisherville, Va.

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Recruiting: McPherson joins 2016 class

St. Paul’s Episcopal (Ala.) senior running back Ostin McPherson committed to Army Monday night.

McPherson was named most valuable player of the 2014 Alabama state 5A championship game. He rushed for 1,628 and 17 touchdowns, according to, in helping the Mobile school to a 15-0 record.

In his sophomore season, McPherson rushed for more than 1,000 yards. McPherson is the 17th commit of Army’s 2016 class.

2016 commits (17)
LB Gavin Bassett, 6-1, 205, Farmington (Minn.) HS: Other offers – Air Force. Bassett camped at Army on June 27.
RB Dominic Distefano, 5-7, 160, Hendrickson (La.) HS: Fastest prospect at Army camp on June 27.
DL Tyler Fleagle, 6-2, 265, Linganore HS, Frederick, Md.: Other FBS offers: Old Dominion.
LB Christian Gomez, 6-1, 215, Cypress Bay HS, Weston, Fla.
QB Felix Harper, 6-foot, 160, Creekside HS, Fairburn, Ga.
WR Chance Kennedy, 5-8, 158, South Mecklenburg HS, Charlotte, N.C.
LB Jack King, 6-2, 205, Providence HS, Charlotte, N.C.
CB Joseph King, 5-10, 160, Bolles School, Jacksonville, Fla.: First offer – Army. Named “Most Explosive Athlete” at Army Prospect camp on June 27.
TE Geoff Kirk, 6-4, 230, Avon (Conn.) HS
OL Liam McCarthy, 6-2, 275, Avon (Conn.) Old Farms
RB Ostin McPherson, 5-8, 170, St. Paul’s Espiscopal, Mobile, Ala.
T Trey Neville, 6-4, 250, Lafayette HS, Williamsburg, Va.: First offer – Army. Neville’s father, Thomas, played nose guard for Navy in 1994 and 1995.
LB Joe Ryan, 6-1, 215, Plant HS, Tampa, Fla.
K Trey Simons, 6-2, 155, Atlantic Coast HS, Jacksonville, Fla.: First offer – Army.
S Justin Thomas, 6-1, 176, Chaminade-Madonna HS, Hollywood, Fla.
QB Brett Virgil, 5-10, 166, Heritage HS, Brentwood, Calif.: First offer – Army.
CB Collin Whitaker, 5-10, 191, Prestonwood Christian HS, Plano, Texas: Whitaker was named the top defensive back of 2016 class at Army prospect camp on June 27.

2016 offers (partial list)
Note: The following high school seniors have contacted me or tweeted they’ve received an official offer letter from Army. If you have received an official letter and are not on this list, direct message me on Twitter @salinterdonato and I will add you.

WR Antoine Cannady, 6-3, 225, Dawson HS, Pearland, Texas
LB Eron Carter, 6-2, 215, Palatka (Fla.) HS: Carter has Army at the top of his recruiting list. Other offers – UMass, Troy.
QB JaVaughn Craig, 6-2, 185, McCallie School, Chattanooga, Tenn.: Other offers – Navy.
CB Shamon Elliott, 6-foot, 185, Sanford HS, Fayetteville, N.C.: First offer – Army
RB Darrynton Evans, 5-10, 181, New Smyrna Beach (Fla.): Other offers – Air Force, Ball State. Resume – Scored 16 rushing touchdowns in 2014 despite missing last 3 games due to injury. Orlando Sentinel listed Evans as the No. 27-best prospect in Orlando area.
RB Jake Funk, 5-11, 205, Damascus (Md.) HS: Other offers – Wisconsin, Navy, Air Force, Ohio, Eastern Michigan.
WR Jeremy Garcia, 6-3, 192, Warren HS, San Antonio, Texas: First offer – Army.
QB Darius Gibson, 6-foot, 185, Franklin HS, Somerset, N.J.: Attend Army Prospect camp on June 27 and made unofficial visit to West Point last weekend.
RB Romello Harris, 5-10, 180, Tulare (Calif.) Union HS:
RB Artiss Henderson, 5-10, 200, MacArthur HS, Irving, Texas
LB Andrzej Hughes-Murray, 6-3, 230, Federal Way (Wash.) HS
RB Datron James, 5-10, 207, Fort Dorchester HS, North Charleston, S.C.: First offer – Army
DL Alema Kapoi, 6-foot, 250, Kamehameha HS, Honolulu, Hawaii
DB Nate Lewis, 6-3, 175, Western Branch HS, Chesapeake, Va.
DT Makai Manuwai, 6-1, 255, South Medford HS, Medford, Ore.
DT Jake Monroe, 6-foot, 265, Coldspring-Oakhurst HS, Coldspring, Texas
WR Thomas Nolley, 6-3, 190, South Hills HS, Ft. Worth, Texas: First offer – Navy.
TE-DE Stephen Omorobe, 6-3, 238, River Ridge HS, Woodstock, Ga.: Other offers – Kent State, Florida International, Georgia State, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Cornell, Brown
RB Murphy Paschall Jr., 5-9, 205, Franklin HS, Baltimore, Md: Camped at Army on June 27.
RB Micah Reed-Campos, 5-9, 180, Chandler (Ariz.) HS: Hudl profile – 4.39 40-yard dash.
S Chido Rwakonda, 6-2, 186, Delaware Valley HS, Westfall, Pa.: Rwakonda is receiving interest from New Hampshire and Patriot League schools.
RB Christian Saulsberry, 5-7, 175, Northpoint Christian HS, Southaven, Miss.
C Justin Self, 6-3, 274, Byron Nelson HS, Trophy Point, Texas: Other offers – Navy.
QB Lindsey Scott, 6-foot, 205, Zachary (La.) HS: Passed for 2,231 yards and 24 touchdowns and added 965 rushing yards and 15 scores as a junior.
S Tyshawn Suddoth, 5-11, 178, Lake Ridge HS, Mansfield, Texas
CB Andre Wiley, Jr., 5-10, 175, Liberty-Eylau HS, Texarkana, Texas.: Other offers – Navy.
LB Jalen Williams, 6-foot, 215, Hewitt-Trussville HS, Trussville, Ala.: Other offers – Navy.

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Quick thoughts: Preseason scrimmage

Ahmad Bradshaw took a step toward becoming Army’s starting quarterback Saturday.

Bradshaw hasn’t won the job yet but the sophomore showed why Army coaches are so high on him late in the preseason scrimmage.

The offense wasn’t as productive as coach Jeff Monken would have liked, but Bradshaw was more effective as the scrimmage went on. Bradshaw broke off some big runs in the open field. When speaking with Army offensive coordinator Brent Davis at media day Thursday, he said Bradshaw is, “a tough runner and very hard to tackle.”

Bradshaw still needs to work on his pitches and become a more consistent passer.

Monken said A.J. Schurr’s snaps were limited in the scrimmage because he was coming off a hamstring injury. Schurr looked sharp, completing a 22-yard pass to Edgar Poe. The offensive line’s blocking broke down a few times and Schurr, a senior, took the loss instead of forcing anything.

See how the next week and week half plays out at quarterback. Right now, looks like Bradshaw has a slight edge. Freshman Chris Carter is competing with junior Matt Kaufmann for the No. 3 spot. Like Carter’s confidence running the option and his ability to get outside and make plays.

It seems like senior Matt Giachinta and junior Aaron Kemper have rotated every other practice as the first-team fullback. Freshmen Drue Harris and Darnell Woolfork showed they are reliable options in the scrimmage. Both are physical runners. Junior Nick Shiver didn’t get as much of a run as I expected. Spencer Sheff, another freshman, has been moved to fullback and could push for playing time too.

The lack of depth and injuries to Joe Walker and John Trainor have opened up plenty of snaps for freshmen slotbacks Jordan Asberry, Nick Black, Tyler Campbell, Christian Drake and Malik Crossdale. Read my story on Asberry and Campbell here.

Black, who sat out the scrimmage Saturday, was taking the most reps early in the preseason. But, Asberry, Campbell, Drake and Crossdale are right behind. The freshmen, who pick up on blocking the fastest, will get on the field behind Walker and Trainor to start the season.

Not sure how severe senior right tackle Drew Hennessy’s ankle injury is. Hennessy got rolled up in a pile early in the scrimmage. He played through some injuries last season. Hennessy was battling with sophomore Brett Toth for a starting position. Monken said Toth has put on 40 pounds since last season. He’s one of team’s more athletic lineman.

The improving play of freshman nose tackle Ray Wright is something to watch in the next few weeks. Army is thin right now at the position with sophomore Andrew McLean, slated to back up starter T.J. Atimalala, sidelined with a foot injury. McLean has been on crutches but he isn’t expected to miss an extended period of time.

It’s going to be fun watching Army’s freshmen linebackers continue to get better as the season progresses. Kenneth Brinson, Andy Davidson, Calen Holt, Cole Macek, Corey Sanders and Cole Jones have had their moments in the preseason.

Junior cornerback Steven Johnson and sophomore safety Rhyan England returned to action late in the week after sitting out a few practices with injuries. Both are key to Army’s success on defense. Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman said he’s confident pairing Johnson, who is stepping in for the injured Josh Jenkins, with senior and three-year starter Chris Carnegie at the corners. England has put on 15 pounds and should be one of Army’s top tacklers.

Monken said after the scrimmage the kicking game is undecided. All three kickers – senior Dan Grochowski, senior Cale Brewer and freshman Nick Schrage, had difficulty elevating their field goals Saturday. A frustrated Monken said Army might have to go for it on every fourth down in opponent territory this season.

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August 15 Scrimmage blog

Rhyan England likes to think his defensive unit wins every practice over the offense.

On Saturday, the defense outperformed the offense in Army’s scrimmage to close preseason camp. Army’s offense scored only 10 points late in the scrimmage.

“I think everybody gave the effort that we needed,” said England, a sophomore safety. “I think our guys have been pushing ourselves this whole summer especially during this summer camp, everybody has been working as hard as they can and I think it showed today. There were some missed assignments and some things that we probably could have done better.”

England had a sack and recovered a fumble on a punt return during the scrimmage. Earlier this week, defensive coordinator Jay Bateman had high praise for England, saying, “the game of football comes as easier to him (England) as anyone I’ve ever coached.”

“Football has always been something in my family,” England said. “I’ve always talked football with my older brother, who always helped me out. He could always teach me and coach me. Football’s always been a game that he came to me pretty well. I’ve always had great coaches so I can credit a lot of that to my coaches, high school even down to Pee Wee ball, I always had great coaches.”

Nick England, England’s brother, is a junior wide receiver at Old Dominion.

The following players were among a group, that did not participate in the scrimmage: RB Joe Walker; RB John Trainor; RB Nick Black; G Jaryn Villegas; C Josh Boylan; NT Andrew McLean; LB Blake Goddard; S Gervon Simon; FB Teran Barnitz

Offense notes: Sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw started the scrimmage with the first-team offense and rotated in with senior A.J. Schurr with the top unit. First-team slotbacks Joe Walker and John Trainor sat out the scrimmage with injuries. Trainor, who has a thumb injury, warmed up to participate in the scrimmage but Monken said it was a late decision for the sophomore not to play. Senior right tackle Drew Hennessy appeared to suffer an ankle injury in a pileup early in the scrimmage.

Catch of the day: Freshman slotback Malik Crossdale needed to keep his concentration as a pass from freshman QB Chris Carter and safety Kory Brady were coming at him at the same time. Crossdale caught 22-yard pass and absorbed the big hit from Brady.

First-team offense: QB Ahmad Bradshaw; FB Matt Giachinta; SB Tyler Campbell; SB Christian Drake; WR Edgar Poe; WR Deandre Bell; LT Ryan Alexander; LG Justin Gilbert; C Matt Hugenberg; RG Colby Enegren; RT Drew Hennessy. Other players, who saw first-team snaps: QB A.J. Schurr; FB Aaron Kemper; TE Kelvin White; RT Brett Toth.

Second-team offense: QB A.J. Schurr; FB Nick Shiver; SB Jordan Asberry; SB Elijah St. Hilare; WR Jeff Ejekam; WR Jermaine Adams; WR Christian Poe; LT Rick Kurz; LG Victor Nieves; C Lofi Tamasese; RG Riko Tamasese; RT Tim Gant. Other players, who saw second-team snaps: FB Drue Harris; TE Eliezer Hernandez; TE Zach Saum.

Third-team offense: QB Matt Kaufmann; FB Darnell Woolfork; SB Ray Hardaway; SB Malik Crossdale; WR Luke Peterman; WR Tyler Lampe; LT Niko Schillaci; LG Rowan Godwin; C Josh Rea; RG Ethan Palelei; RT Nick Miller. Other players, who saw third-team snaps: QB Chris Carter; QB Luke Langdon; QB William James; FB Spencer Sheff; SB Grant Escobar; SB Louis Napoles; WR Jalen Sharp.

First-team defense: DE Jordan Smith; NT T.J. Atimalala; DE John Voit; LB Alex Aukerman; LB Jeremy Timpf; LB Andrew King; LB Bayle Wolf; CB Chris Carnegie; CB Steven Johnson; S Rhyan England; S Xaiver Moss.

Second-team defense: DE Eddy Ruzga, NT Raymond Wright; DE Emmanuel Aka; LB Kenneth Brinson; LB Justin Fahn; LB Scott Washle; LB Andy Davidson; CB Brandon Jackson; CB Jared Rogers; S Gibby Gibson; S Luke Proulx.

Third-team defense: DE Spencer Welton; NT Cordarrell Davis; DE Shawn Lemoto; LB Chandler Ramirez; LB Tyler L’Hommedieu; LB Harrison Rooney; LB James Nachtigal; CB Mike McFadden; CB Isa Muhammad; S Casey Dionne; S Kory Brady. Other players, who saw third-team snaps: LB Cole Macek; S Max Regan; S Boomer Bakich; NT Evan Finnane.

Offensive highlights: Sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw scored the game’s only touchdown on a 4-yard run late in the scrimmage. Dan Grochowski hit a 28-yard field goal…Junior slotback Elijah St. Hilaire turned an edge run on the left side into a 44-yard gain. An official ruled St. Hilaire touched the sideline but it was close…Bradshaw broke off a big 30-yard run, which would have gone for a 60-plus yard touchdown, if the play wasn’t called dead. Once quarterbacks broke into the open field, the whistle was blown for any contact, protecting the player…A.J. Schurr, working with the first team, connected on a 25-yard pass to Edgar Poe over the middle…Freshman fullback Darnell Woolfork knocked over safety Xavier Moss during a big run…Senior slotback Grant Escobar had 18-yard run…Junior quarterback Matt Kaufmann sold a good fake on a 12-yard run by freshman fullback Drue Harris.

Defensive highlights: Junior cornerback Tevin Long batted away a pitch in the backfield and recovered it 20 and more yards behind the line of scrimmage…Sophomore Rhyan England sacked A.J. Schurr for an 8-yard loss…Freshman linebacker Corey Sanders sacked Luke Langdon on a blitz…Freshmen linebacker Kenneth Brinson and Andy Davidson combined to tackle Matt Kaufmann for a 5-yard loss…Freshman defensive end Emmanuel Aka had tackles on back-t0-back plays. He dropped Schurr for a 2-yard loss and then tackled fullback Nick Shiver near the line of scrimmage…Freshman safety Casey Dionne batted a third-down pass away near the sideline.

Special teams: Senior Dan Grochowski missed a 50-yard field goal, wide left…Senior Cale Brewer’s 47-yard field goal attempt was kicked into the line of scrimmage. Steve Johnson had good pressure on the try…Freshman Nick Schrage missed a 38-yard field goal, short…Grochowski made a 28-yard field goal…Rhyan England recovered a fumble on punt return. The punt kicked off returner Christian Poe’s foot…Senior cornerback Chris Carnegie, who is entering his fourth year as a starter, made a tackle on punt…Freshman slotback Tyler Campbell was the first player down the field in kick coverage, making a tackle…Senior Alex Tardieu’s punt fell inside the 20-yard line.

Quotable: “Gosh, no, did you see us kick? We stunk up the place kicking field goals. I have no idea who it’s going to be. We might have to go for it every time.” – coach Jeff Monken on the kicking competition. Army kickers were 1-of-4 in field-goal attempts Saturday.

VIDEOS: 1. Coach Monken assesses scrimmage. 2. Players warm up before scrimmage.

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

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Media Day blog

Some interesting developments/insight coming out of Army Football Media Day:

Army coach Jeff Monken said senior quarterback A.J. Schurr has missed practice recently with a pulled hamstring. Monken said Schurr was on top of the depth chart before the injury but the setback has given sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw a chance to close the gap.

“We expect to see him (Schurr) back in the next couple of days,” Monken said. “It will be interesting to see how that quarterback battle plays out with Bradshaw and A.J…I think really the battle is between A.J. and Ahmad right now and I don’t know if either is pulling away from each other yet. I think A.J. probably at the beginning of camp just with his confidence and playing experience he had kind of put him in front but being hurt has given Ahmad a chance to take a lot reps with the 1s the last couple of days and that’s going to help him. I think they both capable of being our quarterback. It will be interesting to see who pulls ahead and has the confidence to lead our teams.”

The subject of injured cornerback Josh Jenkins came up. Monken said what he’s been saying all along, “He’s in camp with us right now. He’s not practicing with us right now. Beyond that, I really don’t have a lot of information. We are taking it day by day with him.”

When asked he expects to see Jenkins on the field this season, Monken said, “I don’t know.”

When defensive coordinator Jay Bateman was asked to go under the assumption that Jenkins is out this season, Bateman said, “I don’t assume anything with Josh Jenkins.  He’s pretty special guy.”

Jenkins wasn’t made available to the media under the orders of the academy’s public affairs office. He suffered a head injury during a fight in the barracks in July.

Bateman said sophomore defensive end John Voit and sophomore outside linebacker Bayle Wolf have stepped up and assume leadership roles at their respective positions. He pointed out linebacker Kenneth Brinson, safety Gibby Gibson and nose tackle Ray Wright as freshmen, who will contribute to the defense this season.

Offensive coordinator Brent Davis said his unit is on point to have all of its playbook installed and ready for the opener against Fordham on Sept. 4. This is the 19th year I’ve been in this offense and this is the first year I can remember saying on (the installation) schedule. So everything we’ve set out to install is in and should be available for the first game.”

Davis said junior Aaron Kemper, “might be a little bit ahead” of senior Matt Giachinta in the battle for starting fullback but Army plans on splitting snaps between both Kemper and Giachinta during games. Davis said the Black Knights may play as many as four fullbacks in a game to keep the position fresh for the fourth quarter.

Read my Media Day story on senior CB Chris Carnegie here.

Check out my Periscope (salinterdonato) accounts for extended interviews with Monken, Bateman and Davis. Hurry, think the videos are active until Friday afternoon.

Isabelle Monken asked her father Jeff, Bateman and Davis questioning during Media Day. Isabelle, 12, wanted to know what books the coach likes to read his three daughters before bedtime. She wanted to know what Army’s defense can do to create more turnovers and if the Black Knights will pass the ball more this season.

Here are videos of Monken, senior fullback Matt Giachinta and Isabelle Monken


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

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August 12 practice blog (morning edition)

Army’s strength and conditioning staff called the area just to the left of Howze Field’s entrance, “Muscle Beach.”

It’s where the team’s strength coaches work with players, who are not cleared to practice.

Muscle Beach was full Wednesday morning during Army’s first of two practices on the day.

Senior quarterback A.J. Schurr was joined by Army’s top two slotbacks Joe Walker and John Trainor on the sidelines.

Junior cornerbacks Steven Johnson, a Newburgh Free Academy graduate, and Tevin Long, first-team safety Rhyan England, first-team guard Jaryn Villegas, sophomore linebacker Blake Goddard, sophomore nose tackle Andrew McLean, junior safety Gervon Simon, freshman fullbacks Teran Barnitz and Isaiah Williams, freshman linebacker Corey Sanders and freshman wide receiver Shafer Swann were among the players, who did not practice.

Senior safety Luke Proulx was upgraded to limited and saw some snaps with the second-team defense.

Freshmen continued to take advantage of more snaps due to the injuries. Slotbacks Nick Black, Christian Drake and Tyler Campbell all saw work with the top offense. Highly-touted safety Gibby Gibson worked in with the first-team defense in England’s absence.

Coaches encouraged and pushed their players to drink water during four separate breaks in the two-hour practice.

Catch of the day: Freshman slotback Spencer Sheff ended practice with a sliding grab near the far sideline.

Position switches: Junior Lofi Tamasese has moved from guard to center. Freshman Rick Kurz, who started camp at center, worked at left tackle. Freshman Joe Corless has moved from defensive back to tight end.

Practice (shells, helmet and shoulder pads) observations:  Junior guard Colby Enegren stepped in for Jaryn Villegas at right guard on the first-team offensive line…Can’t recall a pass being completed against senior cornerback Chris Carnegie. Carnegie was in great position to forced an incompletion on a deep pass to Jeff Ejekam…Freshman Brandon Jackson broke up a deep pass intended for Jamal Tookes…Sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw getting to edge for a block on a run by freshman Christian Drake…Bradshaw took first-team snaps with junior Matt Kaufmann and freshmen Chris Carter and Luke Langdon getting some work…Langdon completed a smooth pass over the middle to freshman running back Ray Hardaway…Freshman cornerback Michael Reynolds was in good position, broke on the throw and intercepted Bradshaw…Junior receiver Edgar Poe helped up slotback Nick Black after freshman drove for a pass…Freshman slotback Tyler Campbell has caught just about every pass thrown to him in the preseason…Junior defensive end Eddy Ruzga continued his solid play, reading option and dropping Bradshaw for a loss…DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Summertime” and Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On” echoed through Michie Stadium’s sound system during breaks in practice…Running backs doing steps at Michie Stadium presumably for a missed assignment or fumble.

Freshmen (head-to-head highlights): LB Cole Jones recovered a fumble in the backfield…fullback Kendall Tu’ua broke off a big run…quarterback Luke Langdon recovered from a bad snap and completed pass down left sideline to Tyler Campbell.

VIDEO: Junior linebacker Andrew King on defense’s development and lining up alongside Jeremy Timpf for another season.

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

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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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