September 7, 2010

GBK Notebook: Laboring on Labor Day

Although the Black Knights did not take the practice field on Monday, there was no rest for the Army coaching staff on Labor Day. Preparation for their home opener against Hawaii superseded any family BBQ or gathering.

There is still much work to be done and with little time to do it. While the veteran defense never settled down or showed the anticipated confidence during the contest against Eastern Michigan, the Army offense played very well offensively.

Overall it was an exceptional performance offensively, especially in the manner in which they finished the game. When they had to, they came through and it is not very often that you can be part of a drive (final offensive series) like that.

Even with that in mind, the coaching staff was laboring on Labor Day to prepare to host Hawaii and to ensure that whatever needs to be tweaked is tweaked.

"There were some first game mistakes where we had the ball on the ground more than we should have," says offensive coordinator Ian Shields, who was proud of the poise demonstrated by his offense. "Most were timing issues … the pitches were out of pitch relationships on two occasions and Hassin fumbled early in the game. There are some things that have to be cleaned up."


For the second year OC, who has always made it clear that as the offensive line goes, so goes the offense. "We played very hard and the line played exceptionally well, we were very physical and fast," says Shields, who also pleased with blocking from his wide receivers, but like everywhere, there is room for improvement. "We blocked pretty well on the perimeter which is important and sprung a few big plays. We can still be more physical on the perimeter."
"Most impressive thing on the game tape is the play of our offensive line," said Shields as he once again speaks about the guys up front. "We played very well up front and you have to in order to rush for 300 yards. They played very physical performance and the tape was exciting to watch.

Army's five starters up front played the entire game, which is typical in such a tight game.


What Shields was quick to point out and that many Army fans probably noticed was that the majority of players who were handling the ball in that memorable drive were sophomores.

You had Trent Steelman (soph.) at quarterback, touches from Malcolm Brown (soph.) and Brian Cobbs (soph.) from their slot positions, along wide receiver George Jordan (soph.) being on the end of a 42 yard pass from Steelman on the first play of the drive. Of course, the final six yards were registered by fullback Jared Hassin (soph.) who hit paydirt and put Army for good, as they prevailed 31-27.

"This is a really young group and that experience they went through … it will pay dividends now and down the road," declares Shields.

Another player who is part of the Black Knights' youth movement is freshman running back Raymond Maples, who many Army fans were anxiously awaiting his 2010 debut. Well, young Mr. Maples number wasn't called on Saturday, but Shields made it clear that fans need to be patient and that the product of Philadelphia, Pa. will be called upon, sooner than later. "That was more about Mealy playing well," Shields shares. "It was a highly contested game and hinged on every play and Pat was playing very well."

"We are very high on Raymond and he's going to play a lot this season … he will be more involved. It was the fact that Pat is kind of like the rock will be depend on, he was playing well and did not want to disrupt the continuity that was going on out there.

Raymond has a great attitude and he understands … and I know that he is happy that we won the game."


"We can function and play better," says Shields. "The good thing is that a lot of the mistakes that we made are on our side of the ball are easily fixed. There's the first game … mechanical mistakes … just procedurally that are fundamental to our system that I attribute to it being the first game."

"And typically you make some significant improvements from the first game to the second and that is what we are hoping for."

It was clear from Eastern Michigan's first series that this was not the same team that Army had beaten the year before. This was much improved Division I opponent who will surprise a few teams this season. But with 2:55 on the clock, the Army offense refused to the first victim of any Labor Day weekend surprises. "We needed and went down and did it," echoes Shields.

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