Who will be the defensive MVP?
Charles Grevious: It appeared that each practice followed by each game, that linebacker Geoffery Bacon ability as a backer continued to improve, to extent that he became a difference maker on defense. His work ethic, along his physicality and natural ability make him a defensive presence and my projected 2012 defensive MVP.
A.M. Allan: The combination of cornerback Josh Jackson's athleticism, swagger and potential will all come together this season for the season out of Georgia. Last year saw Jackson take on more a leadership role defensively and that should carry over into the 2012 season. In addition, to corner spot, Jackson is an above average punt returner and don't be surprise to see him bring one back to the house this season.
Tom Shanahan: Linebacker Geoffery Bacon. The linebackers and secondary will both benefit from an improved defensive line, but Bacon was already productive in 2011 as a freshman behind an undersized unit. He finished tied for third on the team in tackles with 60 despite not breaking into the starting lineup until seventh game at Vanderbilt. He started five of the last six contests.
Which freshman will have the biggest impact?
Charles Grevious: I really like what Chris Carnegie brings to the table and he also addresses an ongoing need, which is to is to fill the pipeline with quality athletic-talent at cornerback. At 6-foot-0, 180 pounds, he already provide decent size as a freshman and from what we have observed during tenure at USMAPS and most recently, Head Coach Rich Ellerson's comments, where he stated that "I would say Chris Carnegie is ahead of the curve at corner."
A.M. Allan: There is little question that the Black Knights were physically under-manned on the interior defensive line, where the utilization of defensive ends in these roles in 2011 confirmed the need for true DT presence. One such player is Tala Atimalala (T.J.) from the prep school, who will get his shot at game time reps once summer practice kicks off.
Tom Shanahan: Defensive tackle Evan Finnane. There is room for a newcomer among the two defensive tackles on the depth chart and Evan Finnane of St. Elgin (Ill.) St. Edward already brings more heft at 6-2, 260 than the four returning varsity defensive tackles listed on the depth chart coming out of spring ball. Finnane's (smaller) big brother, Shane Finnane (5-10, 238), who is No. 2 at left DT, can help his (bigger) little brother get his feet on the ground in the transition from high school to Division I football.
Which player will have a breakout season?
Charles Grevious: Bobby Kough has been chopping at the bit after missing the 2011 campaign. The 6-foot-3, 250 defensive tackle had a solid spring and there no reason to believe that the 'Mo' won't flow into summer's training camp. Kough's style of play is getting off the ball quickly, constantly moving his feet to driving up field. This spring saw him working on becoming more aggressive; Aggressive in his pass rush, aggressive in getting a good knock off on the guard ... simply put, to play physical and fast.
A.M. Allan: I think cornerback Tyler Dickson has tremendous upside and after being thrown into the fire after the move from free safety to cornerback, I look for him to have a solid summer training camp and lock down the starting spot opposite Josh Jackson. Although not fast, his athleticism offsets the speed fact, along with his size (5'11', 203).
Tom Shanahan: Cornerback Josh Jackson. The senior cornerback plans to play more aggressively to put himself in position to make more plays on the ball. Army can't help but improve its play up front with true defensive tackles playing in the trenches as opposed to defensive ends and linebackers. The secondary will benefit from the run defense forcing more third-and-long plays and pass rush forcing more harried throws.
Which starter will be missed the most from last season?
Charles Grevious: Unanimously we have selected linebacker Steve Erzinger. His sideline to sideline play netted a team hight 103 tackles, but equally, if not more important was the leadership qualities that he offered last year's squad that must be inherited by others in order to fill the void left behind by Erzinger's graduation.
A.M. Allan: I will have to go with linebacker Steve Erzinger. The 2011 team captain, was not only an impact player statistically, but he experience and leadership could be sorely missed if the Black Knights' relatively young defense does not see someone step up to the leadership plate .... immediately.
Tom Shanahan: Linebacker Steve Erzinger. Army's linebackers didn't get much help from the undersized play upfront, but Erzinger was still a steady run-stopper with a team-high 103 tackles.
What is the area of most concern?
Charles Grevious: I will have to say the defense as a unit. They are still small and although tons of underclassmen were able to cut their teeth last season, it remains a very young group across the board. The combination of lack of size, inexperience and leadership will have to be addressed during summer training camp.
A.M. Allan: An ongoing concern is at defensive tackle. This position was sorely misrepresented in 2011 mostly due to injuries, that saw co-defensive coordinator Payam Saadat have to regulate several defensive ends like Brian Zalneraitis play out of position. Although Bobby Kough, Richard Glover, Joe Drummond, Mike Ugenyi, along with frosh Tala Atimalala (T.J.) and Evan Finnane offer a better quality of size in 2012, they also step into the season with limited to zero college game experience.
Tom Shanahan: Defensive line. The d-line is bigger and more athletic, but it is still thin on experience, depth and overall size. The linebackers and secondary won't be able to fully impact games without steady play up front.
What is the team's biggest strength?
Charles Grevious: The combination of Josh Jackson and Tyler Dickson compliment one another at two corner spots and the duo have the potential to become outstanding, as take the field after going through some growing pains in 2011.
A.M. Allan: I projected that Tyler Dickson would have a breakout season, which means that he will team up with my projected MVP, Josh Jackson maintaining the boundary and field corner spots respectively. Hence, these to key members to the secondary receive my vote as the strength of the defense.
Tom Shanahan: Secondary. The unit has the most career starts under its belt. Senior cornerback Josh Jackson (6-0, 185) is a third-year starter and he's backed up by a player with the best combination of NFL size and athleticism among the corners, sophomore Marques Avery (6-1, 186). The defensive staff has moved junior Tyler Dickson (5-11, 195) from free safety to a battle for the other starting corner job with senior Waverly Washington, even though Dickson tied for third on the team in tackles (60) last year as a free safety. That shows confidence in talent at the other safety positions. There is experience at rover, junior Justin Trimble and senior Thomas Holloway; at free safety, senior Ty Shrader and senior Kyler Martin; and Sam (strong safety), sophomore Hayden Pierce and junior Lyle Beloney.
Which position needs to be recruited the most?
Charles Grevious: As much emphasis is placed on the lack of size at defensive tackle, I would suggest that the linebacker position could itself benefit from physicality makeover. Surely, sourcing and recruiting true linebacker talent versus taking a recruit as a safety and converting him into potentially capable linebacker, may be a process worth reconsidering.
A.M. Allan: I will defer to my answer to the aforementioned question, "What is the area of most concern?" The is a must need for this staff to pull in at least 3-4 solid defensive tackles that offers the quality size that fits well in Ellerson's Flex defense.
Tom Shanahan: Linemen. This is a repeat from the previous offense countdown story. The Black Knights need more big bodies and can decide later if they're best suited for the offensive or defensive line. Army already has two commitments from linemen with Rivals three-star offensive lineman Patrick Joseph (6-3, 285) of Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton and unranked defensive end Andrew McLean (6-3, 240). Joseph chose Army over offers from Arizona, Arizona State and Air Force and McLean chose the Black Knights over offers from Air Force and Wyoming.
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