Thursday, January 14, 2016

Army Football Preview: Recruiting Update

Sal Interdonato is Army Football’s beat writer, and on Wednesday he updated the Army Football Insider blog with his current roster of Army Football commits.   I compared Interdonato’s list to the list that Rivals.Com is tracking, and since it’s now the middle of January, this seems as good a time as any to discuss what I found.  I should point out up front that service academy “commitments” are non-binding due to the unique nature of the academies themselves, and for this reason—and because they just haven’t earned it yet—it is the policy of this blog to discuss recruiting only in general, non-specific terms.  We are not going to name specific recruits here, nor will we assume that any of these kids will actually join the Army Football team until after they complete Beast Barracks.

To put it another way, you’re allowed to change your mind up until the moment you actually report on R-Day, and I won’t think any less of you.  If you quit during Beast Barracks, my buddies and I most definitelyWILL make fun of you, but only in private.  
That seems fair, right?
Last year’s recruiting class was a big step forward for Army Football[1].  We can second guess some of the decisions Coach Monken made on the field, and considering that the team finished 2-10 with an oversized handful of losses in winnable games, some of that is inevitable.  However, the culture that Coach Monken is building is undeniably impressive.  He stresses the brotherhood of Army Football, and players and recruits both are buying in.  We saw 79 plebes join the team in 2015, and while I’m quite sure that not all of those will be back with the team next season, it’s also true that a goodly number of them have already made a difference on the field.
As of this writing, Army is tracking 52 or 53 committed recruits, depending on which source you choose.  This breaks down roughly as follows:
 - 1 center and 5 additional offensive linemen
 - 12 defensive backs, including 4 corners and 5 safeties
 - 5 defensive linemen and 1 defensive end/rush linebacker
 - 12 linebackers
 - 4 quarterbacks, though I’m not sure how many have a future under center.  
 - 7 running backs
 - 1 fullback
 - 1 tight end
 - 5 wide receivers
Of those, six are from Florida, seven from Georgia, seven from Texas, four North Carolina, and two are from my home state of Connecticut—both from the town of Avon.  According to Rivals.Com, Army has twenty-six 2-star recruits (think Angel Santiago) and two 3-star recruits (think Larry Dixon).  The 3-star recruits are a linebacker and a wide-receiver.  The 2-star recruits are from every position group, but most are smaller, faster guys rather than bigger, beefier guys.  Thankfully, there are a small handful of good-looking O- and D-Line prospects.
That said, I honestly don’t know how much stock to put into this star-system.  Dixon was Army’s best player two years ago, sure, and former three-star recruit Kenneth Brinson certainly played well last year when given the chance.  Still, I wouldn’t say that Brinson was necessarily the best plebe on the team.  I take nothing away from the guy; he played very well.  However, some of his classmates also contributed in extremely significant ways, and they weren’t necessarily all highly touted recruits.  That’s fine, but it makes projecting the strength of the incoming class a significantly more challenging.
I mention this because the guy who looks the best on paper—to me, sight unseen—is a 6’2”, 210 lbs linebacker from Alabama who Sal Interdonato notes was the “fastest prospect at Army camp on June 27.”  If that kid can play, I expect he will be a major difference-maker, but Rivals isn’t tracking him at all.  Similarly, the incoming class has four quarterback prospects, two with two-star ratings, but only one is taller than QB Chris Carter, and at 5’11”, 190 lbs, Carter is already on the small side for a Division 1 college quarterback.  One guy is all of 5’10”, 166 lbs; that’s almost exactly my in-season swimming height/weight from way back in 1991!  By comparison, there’s one quarterback coming in from New Jersey who’s 6’4”, 208 lbs.  Rivals doesn’t have him ranked, but if he can play, I’ll bet Coach Monken can find a way to use him.  That said, I won’t be surprised if he winds up playing TE or WR.
Additional notes:
 - Of the seven RBs, one has 4.39 speed.  That’s on-par with QB Ahmad Bradshaw.
 - The FB recruit has 4.6 speed.  I have no idea how fast that is for a fullback.
 - Of the Safeties, one is 6-2, 183.  A couple of years in the weight room could make him a force in the middle.
 - There’s one TE from Connecticut who’s 6-4, 230.  Coach Monken has talked a lot about using tight ends in Army’s offense, but we’ve yet to see that actually develop.  If this kid can catch, maybe this will finally be the year.  I’d like to see that.
Of course, none of this means anything until these kids report and make it through Beast Barracks.  This being January, all we can do is look towards the future and wonder about the team’s performance in the coming season.

[1] If you're wondering, sports that I like to do and the sports I like to watch are completely different sports.  As an athlete, I swim (especially open-water), cycle, and compete in triathlon (especially at the Sprint and Olympic distance).  With the exception of the Tour de France, though, I find these sports mind-numbing as spectator events.  So yes, last year was also a big recruiting year for Army Swimming, and that means a lot to me as a former Army Swimmer.  However, the audience of folks who care about Army Swimming is comparatively tiny, and even I don’t usually go out of my way to watch Army’s swim meets.

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