This Saturday, Army is expecting its largest home crowd of the 2012 season, with a projected attendance of 37,000 as they host Boston College of the ACC.
And with the autumn scenery paint brushed against the backdrop of Michie Stadium, which is so unique to being at West Point ... the matchup between Army and Boston College has the makings of a fall classic, despite the records of both squads.
The biggest match-up of the day will pit Army triple option offense against the Eagles' defense, that has already gone head to head with Clemson, Miami and Northwestern's offenses.
However, over the past two seasons, the Black Knights have displayed an awesome rushing attack, which the Eagles will be challenged to slow down this weekend. In 2011, Army lead the nation in rushing, and for the majority of the first quarter of the 2012 season, they carried the number ranking. But last week's lapse offensively saw the Black Knights drop to No. 2 in the country, yet still holding onto an impressive average of 367.50 yards per game.
Army's running back coach and recruiting coordinator Tucker Waugh took some time out to talk with GoBlackKnights.com about what many observers feel is the Black Knights best rushing attack in the modern football era of this historic institution.
However, Waugh was quick to point out that fans should not look beyond the fact that the straw that stirs the drink when it comes to those impressive ground game numbers begins up front in the trenches.
"When you talk about our running game it doesn't start with the backs, it starts with our offensive line," says Waugh. "It really starts and ends with the offensive line. Gene McKeehan and Bill Tripp do an awesome coaching these guys. Ben Jebb is doing a great job, Frank Allen is rock solid, obviously Powis (Ryan) is a good player, 'Shu' ( Steve Shumaker) is coming on and 'MoMo' (Michael Kime) is dynamite. And one of the best things is Will Wilson stepping for Powis. He has great leadership for that unit and really brings them altogether. And really had one of his best games at West Point last week against Stony Brook ... he did some great things."
"So really, that's the foundation of the running game."
But one can not overlook the depth of talent that the aforementioned linemen have the privilege of opening holes for and this the combination of the guys up front and variety of talent carrying the ball makes for a lethal arsenal.
Raymond Maples - I think Ray's doing a great job and I think that he's our best ball carrier and our best blocker ... and that's a pretty good thing to be," Waugh says of Maples, who is 10th in the nation in rushing with 487 to his credit. "Now he's got to do it every single time and have a level of consistency catching the pitches when they become extended and get down field and all that kind of thing ... we are working hard on that and he's working hard on that. But he is absolutely what we are looking for in that position and the skies the limit with Maples. He's doing a great job."
"I think he's a really powerful explosive back. Weather that's blocking the inside linebacker on mid-line or running through the first tackle. I think he does a great job of that, by exploding through the hole and he can only get better."
Larry Dixon (6-foot-0, 238) - Although I don't coach Larry, but he is a lot of the same (e.g., Maples). When you look across the board there on how we started the season, you know Maples, Larry, Steelman (Trent) and Terry Baggett .... those guys are darn tough to tackle. All of them are real powerful guys and run well. Larry fits right in with that. He's still a young player and we talk about Larry like he's a grizzled old veteran, but he's still a young player and he's going to get a lot better.
Malcolm Brown - As you know, Malcolm was a wide receiver all through training camp and the first couple games of the season, until we lost Terry (Baggett). Terry I thought was doing a great job and he will be back hopefully back within the framework of this season and pick up where he left off.
But we felt that Malcolm was one of our better football players and he had a strong background, a strong foundation playing running back, although it is a little bit different position then when he left it a year ago. But we put him in there the Wake Forest week and you know, it wasn't perfect but he picked everything up very quickly and I thought he really played well against Wake.
He is a productive football player at the running back position. When he has his hands on the football, good things are happening and we are making yards. There's a lot of work to do to get him where we want him to be because of all the practice time that he missed when he was at receiver. But he's well on his way to getting there.
Terry Baggett - As Waugh noted, there is feeling with the staff that the sophomore slotback back will return to the lineup as he recovers from the injury to his kneecap.
Stephen Fraser & Trenton Turrentine
- Absolutely," says Tucker, when asked to chime in on Fraser's talents. "I love where Fraser's at. He has worked himself into position to be able... well, he's playing behind Ray (Maples) right now and that's kind of a tough guy to play behind because I don't take Ray out very much. But if we needed to, I don't think there would be much of a drop-off if any at all because 'Fras' is ready to go.
In fact, yesterday before I flew out to recruit, I talked to 'Fras' and Trenton Turrentine and I felt like both of those guys yesterday had their best practice of the year. They were very very physical, they took great care of the ball, they ran hard and they had a really high level of energy in practice. Those guys are absolutely ready to play. Trent, who's behind Malcolm and Stephen's behind Raymond.
The proverbial question when looking at what this group has accomplished and continue to unleash as a unit ... How good is this group?
"Well, every group is a little bit different and largely this is the group we had last year. You know, they're just a great group," professes Waugh, who points out that there is an eagerness amongst his regime of running backs. "Regardless of what is happening on the field. Coach Ellerson is always talking to us about playing the next snap, play the next snap, play the next snap and I think these guys do a wonderful job with that."
"We can't wait to get the football, however it happens. They punt to us, the defense gets a turnover and we're ready to go back onto the field and ready to take it and play the next snap as hard as we can and they do a great job of it."
Boston College's Defense
"Well obviously we have tremendous respect for Boston College on defense," Waugh adds. "They're unbelievably well coached on defense and especially historically against the triple option. And they have great personnel, so we have great respect for them. But it's less in my mind about who we're playing and more about how well we execute our offense and take care of the football. And those are the things that make a difference. We look forward to a good game on Saturday."
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