Army's 2011 season is just days away and the transformation from practice to "Game Day" is on the horizon as the Black Knights will be departing from the comforts of West Point and making their way to the Northern Illinois.
Army has three year starter Trent Steelman leading the way from his quarterback position and the junior signal caller took a few moment with GoBlackKnights.com to discuss the season opener, the freshmen class, the offensive line and the weapons that the offense has this year.
However, one thing that are crystal clear is that this team is ready to play ball.
"We're doing good ... we are anxious - it's been a long time," says Steelman, who also indicated that he is rehabbed shoulder is in the rear view mirror. "I think we are tired of hitting each other and we are ready to hit someone else."
"Yeah, I think I'm 100% ... I believe so. As I had said before, this is by far the best I have felt since I have been here. Like everybody else we are just ready to get back out there and get this season underway."
Depth & Talent
Steelman, like most Army observers realize that the 2011 Black Knights' offense has an upgraded supply of offensive arsenal. Both the depth and quality that can be felt down to the three deep level with little or no drop off.
For example, fullback Jared Hassin and slotback Raymond Maples are locks at their positions. And yes, there is solid depth behind both of them, but Steelman was quick to point out that the other slot position offers a variation that did not exist last season.
"Well it really just depends on what type of formation we want to run or what we want to start the game off in," he shares. "I don't think there is any sound starter right now at the other slot position just because we can go whatever formation we want and just adjust from there."
"But in some formation, Malcolm (Brown) is the starter and then other formations if we go a little bit bigger formation it will be Trenton Turrentine the freshman."
Speaking of Turrentine ... Steelman expounded on his thought of the "newbie", along with two other plebes that have caught his attention.
"I can't speak for the defense but offensively there have been about three that have really impressed me," he adds.
"There's ... well we like to call him the second Trent (Turrentine) ... Trent Jr. He's a smart kid, the coaches trust him and that's why they have him in there. He's a great blocker, he has great vision and I think he has a good understanding of his position."
Another USMAPS to catch Steelman's attention comes as no surprise to the Army faithful. "Then of course, Larry Dixon out of "B" back ... he has great potential," Steelman shares. "He's a big kid who can run and he's going to be a great counter to Jared at "B" back."
Rounding out Steelman's trio is talented wide receiver, Chevaughn Lawrence.
"Chevaughn Lawrence out there at wide receiver of course. You know he has great athletic ability, great speed and the biggest thing I have seen out of him is his ability to adjust to the ball ... That's a big skill for a freshman. But his biggest thing in our offense is blocking. He just has to be up to speed on that and he can do that, he will be an all around very good receiver."
The Offensive Line
With just a little less than five days away from kickoff, Steelman is probably tired of hearing about the concerns surrounding the offensive line's inexperience.
The Bowling Green (KY) product brought home the fact that this unit has the potential to turn some heads this season.
"I think the size and the explosiveness that they bring will just bring another dimension to our offense," Steelman declares. "Don't get me wrong, they still have a lot of work to do, but right now we are very pleased with where they are at."
"They have the potential to be one of the better offensive lines we've had around here in a long time. Not necessarily because of the experience, but like I said that size and explosiveness they bring ... which is something that we really haven't had in awhile."
"We just have to keep working, they have to keep working and if they don't stay satisfied with where they are at, they are going to be one heck of an offensive line."
The Offensive Potential
As the offensive line goes, so goes the offensive and the 6-foot-0, 204 pound quarterback is fully aware what he has to work with ... potentially that is.
"I am very excited about what can bring as an offense and just all around," he adds.
"You look everywhere from the offensive line to the running backs to the wide receivers there's a playmaker. There's somebody that can take this offense to the next level and I think that's what we are so excited. But at the same time we can't buy into this whole thing of we're going to be a great offense because we have to prove it first."
"We have to take our business and our mentality and take it to the field and execute. You know I think the biggest thing with this offense is having the experience that we do and I don't think that will become an issue in letting all the outside distractions get us off task. We have plenty of guys who have been around the program, been able to get through times like this and they're the guys that we are going to have to lean on."
The Wide Receivers
One position where there has been an upgrade in both depth and talent is at the receiver position and it can probably be best defined by the progress of one player in particular.
"We have Jared McFarlin who's literally come out of the blue," declares Steelman of the sophomore receiver . "He kind of took a season off to focus on getting a little bit bigger and maturing a little bit. I mean it showed .... it has great ball skills, runs good routes and is deceivingly fast. He going to bring another dimension to the offense where we can just hopefully give him a little toss up in the air and he can just go up and get it."
"I'm absolutely excited about these guys (receiving corp). They are a group of receivers that have skill, that have speed and they have size. They have made a ton of progress since last season and I think a couple of them might have gained a step."
Away From Home
It may sound corny, but if you ask most ball players, there's not place like home. However, each weekend, someone has to be the visiting ball club and this weekend it will Northern Illinois hosting Army.
For such a very young ball club, it is incumbent of the upperclassmen to take on the task of calming the nerves of the younger players, to have them game time ready ... especially the freshmen.
"A couple of the young guys have ask how they should adjust to their first college game - first game on the road," says Steelman.
"We just tell that all you can do is just go play your game. You just have to be relaxed and take it as another football game, because that's all it really is. You can let the outside distractions, the fans, the opponents get you away from what you love to do and do best .... and that's play football."
"We just have to go in with a cool head, staying focused, knowing what our task is and our task is coming away with a win."
For the Army fans, that's what they are looking forward to ... an Army win and 1-0 record as the Black Knights will play host to San Diego State on September 10th.
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