They were among only eight freshmen to earn a varsity letter last year, and now they're ready to earn some headlines.
Brian Cobbs and Malcolm Brown are enjoying fresh starts as they compete for time as slotbacks. Cobbs is coming off a season in which he played in the secondary, while Brown started out missing one-third of the season with an ankle injury.
Aside from senior Patrick Mealy, the slotback positions, like the tossing of a wedding bouquet, are up for grabs. "Nobody has a spot, so I'm looking forward to this opportunity,'' Brown said. "I hope to return kickoffs, too, so we'll see what happens.''
Brown was given his first start last year in Game 6 against Vanderbilt. He wound up playing six games, carrying the ball only 26 times. His best outing was against Rutgers, when he averaged more than seven yards on four carries and caught a pass for 21 yards.
Nobody has a spot, so I'm looking forward to this opportunity.
- RB, Malcolm Brown
Cobbs, a running back/d-back in high school, is one of the fastest backs on the team. He was switched back to offense in the spring. "I really didn't ask why. I think it was to better utilize players you have on the team to make the team better. It's all about making the team better for the common goal of going to a bowl and winning that bowl,'' Cobbs said. "Being back on offense is a bitter-sweet type thing. I'm a defensive player at heart but I love offense.''
It's not as if he arrived at West Point without any credentials. At Francis Howell High School in St. Charles, Mo., he set school records for longest touchdown run (98 yards), longest kickoff return (98 yards), and longest punt return (74 yards).
He is quick, shifty and reads defenses well.
"I'm developing more,'' said Cobbs, who also played on special teams last season. "I'm listening to the upperclassmen and milking as much as I can from my coaches. I'm just trying to be the best player I can be and maximize my potential. I just follow the leaders, like Patrick. He's been around the block a few times.''
So has Brown, who came out of Bay Shore High on Long Island, where he set a single-season record by scoring 21 touchdowns as a senior. A year at USMAPS further enhanced in his development. "I like to get down hill as fast as I can,'' said the 20-year-old, who isn't exactly a turtle with a 4.5 clocking. "I catch the ball, and look the ball in before I start running. Ball security is the big thing this year.''
The bigger thing this year is attaining a winning season, something Army hasn't done since Brown was attending New York Mets games at age seven. "I'm feeling good about this season,'' said Brown, who also experienced a position change when he was tried at wide receiver in the spring. "We definitely should be going to a bowl game. That is one of our priorities''
Brown is already looking forward to playing in the Bronx, when the Black Knights take on Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium Nov. 20th. A Yankees fan since childhood, he will get to roam where his favorites do - Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. "That will be good,'' Brown said beaming.
Winning would be even better, and Cobbs feels the atmosphere and commitment to that end has already begun in earnest. "We can be good, especially the brotherhood we're building right now, from the upperclassmen down to the freshmen. From us, the sophomores, we experienced what the freshmen went though (in July's boot camp), and we're like taking them under our wing.
"We're like the middle classmen,'' he said. "We're asking the upperclassmen what to do to be the best Cadets we can be and the best football players we can be.''
The backfield has the potential to be one of the deepest units on the team, despite losing Jameson Carter
and Brown is fired up. And happy he's not a newcomer anymore.
"I feel good. I'm above where I was last year,'' he said. "It's hard coming in your first year. You have to prove yourself and you're last on the depth chart. So it's a good feeling going in this year, that's for sure.
"There are a lot of changes you have to deal with as a freshman. You have a lot of duties. You have to do what people tell you to do; you can't really say no. It's hard to overcome with school work and all,'' he added, "but it pretty much makes you who you are.''
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