The Army football team played a two-hour-plus, full-contact scrimmage at Michie Stadium on Saturday August 26.
The Black Knights worked on their kicking game and special teams with senior placekicker Eric Osteen landing a 50-yard field goal and looking accurate on shorter kicks.
The offense, led by senior quarterback Trent Steelman, worked on their passing game early on, with junior wideout Patrick Laird a frequent target on crossing patterns.
Steelman took the ball himself downfield several times, breaking free for one touchdown run. Sophomore backup Angel Santiago received considerable playing time as well.
In the back field, the Black Knights have depth with junior Ray Maples and sophomore Larry Dixon starting in the backfield. Seniors Jarid Hassin and Malcolm Brown were held out.
In comparison with prior years when Coach Ellerson had to force-feed freshman into key roles, the Black Knights show depth on offense and a rebuilt defense that should have more size than on the front line, a key weakness in 2011.
The seniors at West Point received their famed class rings on Friday night, wearing their dress white uniforms to the formal ceremony at Trophy Point overlooking the Hudson.
Trent Steelman leads this offensive team starting for the four straight year as the Army quarterback. The Bowling Green, Kentucky, native excels at running the Army option offense, which in early years called for him to run the ball himself. This led to a series of injuries that resulted in missed games last year.
Army coach Rich Ellerson and offensive coordinator Ian Shields like to call for Steelman to carry the ball himself in short-yardage situations. Steelman ran for 12 touchdowns last year leading the team. Look for Steelman to better use his strong group of running backs to try and stay healthy through the 2012 season.
As with the Army seniors before them, their season's landmark is the Navy game, but they have 11 games to play before the season-ending matchup of storied rivals in Philadelphia.
Last year, the Army offense averaged 296 yards per game with Trent Steelman the second leading yardage gainer for West Point with 645 yards.
Ray Maples led the team with 1,066 yards, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Malcolm Brown had 572 yards and also averaged over seven yards per rush.
At fullback, Larry Dixon came in as a freshman and ran for 542 yards and added five touchdowns.
Junior Ray Maples should again be one of the Army offense's key running threats in 2012. The Philadelphia native ran for over one thousands yards and averaged 7.3 yards per attempt.
The key for the Black Knights is to keep the defense guessing on directions of the play and who will end up with the ball coming out of the backfield.
Coach Rich Ellerson, in his fourth season at Army, looks to be fine-tuning this team rather than gearing up freshman to fill gaps in the lineup.
The Army coach likes to keep teaching through a scrimmage, with an emphasis on managing the ball and the pitch-outs that the Black Knights frequently use to speed plays to the outside.
Army spent nearly its entire first offensive set Saturday working on their passing game. Here junior wide receiver Anthony Stephens lines up against junior Jordan Crockett.
Trent Steelman set the record for starting the most games as the Army quarterback. Last year he was injured in the Vanderbilt and Temple games, limiting his playing time in the second half of the season. Against Navy, he had a remarkable performance running for a touchdown and throwing for another.
A key for 2012 is for Steelman to share the ball as much as possible with the other backs, led by Ray Maples, Malcolm Brown, Jared Hassin and Larry Dixon, in order to limit the hits he takes.
Sophomore Angel Santiago is a well-thought-of Army quarterback of the future. As a plebe, he was called into service when Trent Steelman was hurt and started the Rutgers and Temple games. Against Rutgers, especially, he was effective running the option offense, often taking the ball himself. Coaches last year were working on his decision making and passing.
We could see Coach Ellerson bring in Santiago during the season to give Steelman a breather, and he is ready to lead the offense if there is an injury to the starter.
Senior placekicker Eric Osteen from Augusta, Georgia, looked solid kicking field goals, landing one from fifty years out. His shorter kicks looked powerful and accurate.
Osteen looks like he can give the Black Knights a strong option if drives stall inside the opponents' 30-35 yard lines.
Senior Will Wilson (No. 66) started at center several games early in the season, then backed up at tackle and guard when freshman Ryan Powis was moved in at center.
Wilson started at center in the scrimmage with Powis injured and could start the season at the position. At 6'2" and 285 pounds, he is the biggest player on the Army team and can be a fierce blocker.
Another senior, Derek Bisgard (No. 65), gives Army depth on the offensive line.
West Point will have a bye week over Labor Day, with one more "mock" game set for next Friday. Traveling across the country to San Diego State playing at the Chargers Qualcomm Stadium should be a challenging start.
The Black Knights, with an experienced team in 2012, want to approach the record of the 2010 team, which won all its road games at campus sites. Last year Army was winless away from Michie Stadium.
What is different about this Black Knight team is that for the first time they have depth and experience especially on offense. The key to the season will be the defense that will feature a number of first-year players.