Practice No. 15: Situational Awareness

Patrick Laird made a leaping grab to set up an Army field goal during Saturday's workout.

Patrick Laird made a leaping grab to set up an Army field goal during Saturday's workout.

Aug. 25, 2012

WEST POINT, N.Y. – Exactly two weeks away from the season opener at San Diego State, the Army football team held its second scrimmage of the preseason Saturday morning at Michie Stadium. The two-hour session featured some special teams work along with a situational scrimmage.

For the senior football players, Saturday was part of Ring Weekend festivities at West Point. The Class of 2013 received their class rings at ceremony held at Trophy Point on Friday night.

Saturday’s Notables
•    Army started the day with an abbreviated version of its pre-game warm-up routine. Projected offensive starters Ben Jebb, Malcolm Brown and Ryan Powis did not participate in Saturday’s workout. Defensively, Robert Kough was absent from the usual No. 1 defensive unit. Some of the “red jersey” players went through the warm up, but sat out of the scrimmage.
•    The scrimmage started with some special teams work. The punt team was up first with Chris Boldt taking the reps. Starting strong safety Hayden Pierce was the long snapper. The second punter/snapper duo was Alex Tardieu and Frank Ceva
•    Josh Jackson and Jon Crucitti were back deep with the No. 1 and No. 2 punt return teams, respectively.
•    In a bit of a change from previous years, the punt return team featured seven offensive players, including projected starters Raymond Maples, Terry Baggett and Patrick Laird. Army had utilized a mostly defensive-oriented punt return team in previous seasons.
•    Eric Osteen was the only Army kicker to take a rep with the kickoff team. Osteen’s one kick from the 35-yard line was caught five yards deep in the end zone.
•    The first kickoff return tandem back deep was Jon Crucitti and Stephen Fraser. Julian Crockett and Larry Dixon were back deep with the second team.
•    Reggie Nesbit and Nate Combs were the only two defensive players on the first kickoff return team.
•    With Osteen seemingly in place on kickoffs, he and plebe Daniel Grochowski are waging a battle for the field goal and PAT job. Almost every situation throughout the scrimmage ended with a field goal attempt. Both players were successful throughout the day. Osteen was a perfect 8-for-8, including a 50-yarder that would have been good from close to 60 yards. Grochowski was 6-for-7 during the workout.
•    The two kickers worked with distinct sets of holders and snappers. Osteen was accompanied by Chris Boldt as the holder and Pierce as the snapper. Grochowski’s holder was freshman QB A.J. Schurr who received the ball from freshman WR Andrew Ellerson.
•    The first team offense and defense took the field for the first situation. The offense took the ball at its own 36-yard line with 48 seconds left, one time out, and trailing by three points. Nick Bennett was working at left tackle for Jebb, while Jon Crucitti lined up as the third wide receiver. The offense picked up a first down on an 11-yard pass from Steelman to Patrick Laird. The duo connected for a 23-yard gain when Laird made a leaping grab along the sideline despite being interfered with. The next play was a five-yard loss when Steelman had his foot stepped on pulling away from center and fumbled while trying to hand off. The offense called a time out with 15 seconds left, and took one shot into the end zone that fell incomplete. Osteen came on and drilled a 50-yard field goal that hit the retaining wall at the base of the stands with just under five seconds to go.
•    The next situation put the offense on the field in the second possession of the first overtime after its opponent scored a touchdown, but had the PAT blocked. The Black Knights drove to the 7-yard line on runs by Steelman, Maples and Baggett, but a pass breakup by Josh Jackson set up a 4th-and-goal from the 7-yard line. Steelman tried to hit Crucitti on a slant, but Hayden Pierce deflected the ball into the waiting arms of Ty Shrader.
•    The offense then went to the 38-yard line and ran a series of 3rd-and-6 plays against the scout team. The No. 1 and No. 2 offenses wore flags for the remainder of the day. The Army defense went live versus the scout team offense.
•    Army converted three of the first six plays, including what would have been a touchdown pass from Steelman to Laird.
•    The No. 1 defense then took the field with the scout team offense inside the 10-yard line following a “turnover.” The defense held with Geoffery Bacon making three tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage. Mike Ugenyi and Joe Drummond were with the first unit at defensive tackle.
•    The second offense followed with more 3rd-and-6 plays. QB Angel Santiago scored on a running play during the drill. Rookie A.J. Schurr also took reps under center with the second unit.
•    The scout team was able to score from five yards out against the No. 2 defense.
•    Steelman found Terry Baggett for a touchdown during the No. 1 offense’s turn in the “green zone” (inside the 25-yard line).
•    The scout team put another touchdown on the board against the No. 2 defense when Kelechi Odocha took a screen pass and ran 30 yards for the score.
•    The day ended with the third units facing off against each other. Rookie Kelvin White and Gino DeBartolo both took turns running the offense.

Saturday’s Quotables
Junior WR Patrick Laird
(Ref.: the offense’s performance on Saturday)
“In that two-minute drill, we got the ball down the field and completed a couple of nice passes. I thought we were pretty much on point with that. We need to focus on the running game as well. We’re usually pretty concrete with that, but we need to make sure that we’re on point every time.”

(Ref.: the passing game this preseason)
“We’ve been working on it a lot during the offseason up until now, trying to make sure we can work that into the offense this year. All the receivers have definitely been working on running routes, their hands and their feet, making sure we’re in the right position every play.”

(Ref.: playing with the younger quarterback behind starter Trent Steelman)
“The young quarterbacks have been doing a great job all of camp. They have strong arms and they are confident, which is great. Working with Angel last year and being used to his throwing has helped a lot.”

(Ref.: so many starters and key backups playing on special teams)
“I think Coach (Luke) Thompson wants to get some of the guys who go out and hit and make plays out there so that’s what he’s trying to do. I’m on punt, kickoff return and extra point right now so I just have to go out and do my best.”

(Ref.: special teams reps affecting his offensive performance)
“It doesn’t affect it too much. It’s a little tiring, but it’s just like any other play.”

Head Coach Rich Ellerson
(ref.:  his assessment of the scrimmage)
“We’ve got 10,000 things done, but we also have more than a handful of things left to do. This morning’s practice is a real challenge because we throw a lot of things at our guys. We tried to create situations and we changed the tempo up on the guys so it’s not a great looking practice, but you’d be amazed at how many things we forced to come up. We try to get our people in an emotional place and show them where they’re going to see the ups and the downs and the sideways that you experience during the course of a contest so we can decide how we’re going to handle those things.”

(Ref.: evaluating the defensive play)
“I’m encouraged. There are some things happening up front this year physically. We have more guys that we’re asking to do things that are reasonable given their body type and their strengths. We are young. They’ll be experiencing things in this ultra competitive environment for the first time, but we have some guys who can play up there. That makes the equation of the second level, that linebacker level, much more fun. It will be a lot more fun to play linebacker this year than it was last year, let’s put it that way.”

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