NCAA Football

What to Expect From Army Black Knights Football in 2011

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2010 Record: (7-6)

Head Coach: Rich Ellerson (12-13 at Army, 68-48 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2010 Armed Forces Bowl: beat SMU 16-14

Schedule

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9/3: at Northern Illinois

9/10: San Diego State

9/17: Northwestern

9/24: Ball State (2009 result: won 24-17)

10/1: Tulane (2010 result: won 41-23)

10/8: at Miami (OH)

10/22: at Vanderbilt (2009 result: won 16-13 OT)

10/29: Fordham

11/5: at Air Force (2010 result: lost 42-22)

11/12: Rutgers (2010 result: lost 23-20 OT)

11/19: at Temple (2010 result: lost 42-35)

12/10: Navy (2009 result: lost 31-17)

2010 Offensive Statistics:

Scoring: 26.6 ppg (60th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 251.62 yds/game (8th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 78.1 yds/game (last in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 329.7 yds/game (93rd in Nation)

2010 Defensive Statistics:

Scoring: 24.3 ppg (54th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 139.15 yds/game (46th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 199.1 yds/game (31st in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 338.2 yds/game (28th in Nation)

2010 Misc Stats:

Turnover Margin: +1.23 per game (3rd in Nation)

Penalties: 40.9 yds/game (15th in Nation)

Returning Starters:

Offense: 6

Defense: 4

Kicker/Punter: 1

Top Returning Statistical Leaders:

Passing: QB Trent Steelman, Jr (995 pass yds, 721 rush yds, 7 PTD, 11 RTD, 3 INT)

Rushing: RB Jared Hassin, Jr (191 for 1013, 5.3 ypc, 9 TD)

Receiving: WR Davyd Brooks, Sr (15 rec for 238 yds, 1 TD)

Tackles: LB Steven Erzinger, Sr (76)

Sacks: DE Jarrett Mackey, Jr (4)

Interceptions: DB Josh Jackson, Jr (1)

According to Phil Steele, going into 2010 the Army Black Knights returned 18 starters (including punter/kicker). Second year Head Coach Rich Ellerson was able to take this experience and go 7-6 and take Army to their first bowl since the 1996 Independence Bowl. This was a big year for Army because it was their first winning season since that 1996 Bowl team. This year Army returns just 11 starters. Will Rich Ellerson be able to capitalize on the momentum of last year?

One of the big keys could be if Army can dominate the turnover battle like they did last season. Army finished 3rd in the Nation taking the ball away from their opponents 1.23 more times then they gave it away. Army only lost the TO battle four times last year and lost 3 of those games (Notre Dame, Air Force and Rutgers). In the seven games that Army won they won the TO battle by 17 total turnovers. If Army can keep that up then they have a great chance of going to their second straight bowl for the first time since the 1984/1985 seasons. We sought out the Army blog The Unbalanced Line to find out more about the 2011 Army Black Knights.

Last year Army played in their first bowl game since the 1996 season. What do you feel are the biggest reasons for Army's continued improvement under Rich Ellerson?

Firstly, thanks for the forum.

I can point to a number of reasons for last year's improvement; Army had a loaded offensive line and a loaded defense. Seniors at every key position on the defense and 4 seniors across the O-line gave Army an edge from day one.

Army also had a ridiculous amount of turnovers go in their favor. It seemed like in every game opponents were fumbling early kickoffs and losing balls in their own red zone.

Each of these teams had turnovers near or inside their own 30

3 times Duke

2 times E Mich

2 times Hawaii

1 time Kent State plus a pick at their own 38

1 time North Texas

1 time Temple

1 blocked punt Rutgers

Well, those were all of Army's best performances last year. Almost upset Hawaii, led Temple through 3 quarters, played Rutgers to a tie and the Duke, E.Mich, Kent and North Texas wins were as timely and important as any wins on the schedule.

Right now Rich Ellerson's stock is way up. In his first two years his defenses have been out of this world. Army's option attack finally started to make some headway in 2010 and if you ask me Off. Coord. Ian Shields is the MVP of the coaching staff. I'm very pleased with the progress the coaching staff has made, but keep in mind Army was only 7-6 last year, considering all the pieces that the team is losing - I expect it to be difficult for Army to return to a bowl.

What do you think are the most critical things that Army needs to improve this year in order to continue their improvement under Ellerson?

The single most critical element of Army's game.... finishing games. Army gave up a bunch of late leads last year and only a few times was Army able to step on the throat and win games.

I'm tired of squandering 4th quarter leads to Rutgers - I'm tired of losing to Temple - and closing out Hawaii would be nice for a change. The bowl game showed us that Army finally learned to close out a game, but Army is young this year and will likely have to learn that lesson over again.

Two of Army's biggest weapons on the defensive side of the football, DE Josh McNary and LB Stephen Anderson, were seniors last year. Who is going to step up and re-place their production this year?

That's a great question; Josh McNary and Steve Anderson are virtually irreplaceable. From everything I've seen it has been a mix of players getting reps at virtually every position on the field. If Army's young defense can learn their roles early the season the Black Knights fans are in store for an exciting and memorable season, but if Army struggles to win games in the first half of the season it could be a long season.

For those that don't follow Army that closely...who are the players to watch on this team?

The stars on the offense will be the returning rushing leaders. Junior QB Trent Steelman progressed nicely last year and was the team's second leading rusher. He's been dinged up in his first two years and missed spring ball - but when he's 100% he is a winner.  Last year, junior Jared Hassin (1013 rush) delivered on lofty preseason expectations and will be the one to watch on offense `this year. Juniors Malcolm Brown and Brian Cobbs will add experience and variety carrying the football.

Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games for Army this year?

The games Army must win are:

@Northern Illinois

@Ball State

Tulane

Fordham

@Temple

I think those 5 wins are possible, even probable.

Games vs Rutgers and @ Miami could play out to be close as well, so there could be six wins in there. Anything beyond the six built in wins is a bonus.

The next tier of teams will present significantly tougher challenges.

I'd love for Army to steal one of these games:

San Diego State

@Vanderbilt

Northwestern

These games are situated on the schedule so that any one of those win can set the tone and maybe define Army's season.

San Diego State @ Army - game 2

Northwestern @Army     - game 3

Army @ Vanderbilt      - game 7

What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

I have a feeling Army will find the 2011 season difficult. I would be delighted with another bowl season, but without a Navy victory life around Army football will be miserable. A bowl season would be a success and a CIC trophy would be the ultimate goal for the Black Knights. I look forward to an exciting season, and Army will probably be scrambling for their 6th win down the stretch, but I think Army will fall just short of bowl eligibility: 5-7.

With that said, the schedule is really no tougher than it was last year. Army’s due to beat Rutgers, Army’s due to beat Temple and overdue to beat Navy.

Next Preview: Western Kentucky

2011 Team Previews

C-USA- East Carolina, Houston , SMU, Southern Mississippi

MAC- Ball St, Bowling Green, Buffalo , Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Toledo

MWC- New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming

Sun Belt- FAU, FIU, Louisiana, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy , ULM

WAC- Idaho, San Jose St