November 16, 2012

Army's offense gearing up for Temple

If the Black Knights can carry the offensive momentum as demonstrated in their lopsided win over Air Force two weeks ago and even in their loss against No. 22 Rutgers last weekend ... minus the turnovers, the "O" could present a load for Temple's defense to handle.

And if you ask offensive coordinator Ian Shields, the performance against Rutgers is an efficient barometer of what the nation's leading rushing offense can do when operating on all cylinders.

"We were playing against one of the better defenses in the country and that Rutgers' defense is probably one of the best defenses that we played against in our four years here ... that's a talented group," declared Shields, who admits that Army's arsenal has some late season bumps and bruises, but does not offer that as an excuse going into Saturday's contest versus Temple.

The Running Backs

"We're as healthy as you can hope to be at this stage of the season," he adds. "Maples (Raymond) is fine, Malcolm (Brown) is back up and healthy ... healthy as he can be. Him (Brown) and Turrentine (Trenton) will play. And Fraser will back-up Maples as he has all year."

Against Rutgers last week fullback Larry Dixon was off to a great start, only to suffer an leg injury on a 22 yard burst as confirmed by Shields.

"He got a helmet on the shin and was pretty nasty," said the OC. "I'm not sure that he will be quite at full speed. As you know he practiced yesterday, but I don't know if he's going to be right by game time tomorrow."

So does that leave Hayden Tippett, who has filled in admirably this season when Dixon has been unable to perform? "Tippett got a hip pointer as well, but I think he's going to be 100%," said Shields, who says the staff would turn to a newbie if Dixon and Tippet can't operate effectively.

Shields pointed to frosh Matt Giachinta, who is still on the light side with a listed weight of 210 pounds and he would be next in line on depth chart at fullback. "He's doing well," adds Shields when discussing the progression of the native of New Jersey. "We'll see how this thing unfold. But hopefully Tippett and even Dixon can be there, but if not, Giachinta be ready to go. He's been practicing well and he got in a little bit ... I think he'll be ready to play."

Wide Receivers

One aspect of the offense that has really please Shields is the progression of sophomore b>Chevaughn Lawrence. When Lawrence went down in the Rutgers' game, it wasn't as a result of a hit put on the 6-foot-3, 195 pound receiver, but the vicious block he laid on the safety. Although the block itself also took something out of the Black Knights receiver, albeit for a play or two.

"He's really come on," Shields said of his budding receiver. "He has some ability, he has blocked well and he did the same thing in the Air Force game as well on a block ... early to set the tone and knock their safety on the back of his head. So, he's really come on as a complete player out there and he's going to continue to get better. Yes, we have been please with his progress this season. He just needs to keep working hard, we need to finish this season out right and he's established himself as a starter."

"I've also been please with Anthony Stephens and E.J. Tucker. And we have to give Patricky (Patrick Laird) some rest, because he's a little worn down towards the end of this season. He's not a real speedster anyway," chuckles Shields, as he turns the conversation back to Stephens.

"He's been playing playing about 10-15 snaps per game and he may be more in the 20-25 range. Coach Guayder (Andy) does a great job of controlling those guys on game day and managing their reps. But Anthony has practiced well, but Anthony's problem over time has been consistency. And when I say consistency, I'm not just talking as a route running or receiver, but as a blocker."

Offensive Line

Although the O-line is relatively intact, there have been a few M.I.A. up front, but the plus side with almost all the positions on the offense, there is sufficient depth to step in as noted by Shields.

"When I say intact, Ben Jebb has been out for a couple of weeks and we won't have him back probably until Navy," adds Shields. " Bisgard's (Derek) been playing well in his (Jebb) absence at left tackle and he probably played the best game of anyone in the front in the game against Rutgers I thought. So he's a veteran guy, with Frankie (Frank Allen) ... two seniors over there playing together on the left side."

"Ryan (Powis) well, MoMo (Kime) is playing well at right tackle and Shu's (Shumaker) playing well. That group has been pretty consistent and there are things that certainly we can do better, but by and large they have played very well."

Game Plan

"We thought against Rutgers that we were going to have to get on the edge and spread ourselves a little thin," says Shields, as looks back to last week in preparation for this weekend's toe to toe with Temple. "You're talking about 6-7 NFL prospects on that defense (Rutgers). We knew that was going to be a challenge, but we thought they were susceptible to some play action, some misdirection and reverse and what not. We were right in some of those cases and going into Saturday we are still going to stay on the edge. We are going to play our attack offense."

"Temple's a good defense and they've played us well over the years," offers Shields. "We had a great day offensively two years ago here at Michie Stadium and then last year they kind of had their way across the board against us in all phases."

"They're talented, they have a freshmen who's made a ton of tackles inside," says Shields, referring to linebacker Tyler Matakevich.

Of course, the Owls' front line lead by senior John Youboty and a host of other seniors, along with with juniors who have experience playing against the Black Knights' triple option. Needless to say, they will offer a challenge for Army's offensive line.

"As I said, it will be a challenge, because they are a talented group and we are going to need to play well," said Shields. "But I think we've been playing well consistently all season. You know last week we turned it over in the green zone and that's the difference in the game."

And it's that offense prowess that Shields is hoping to get out of his offense on Saturday ... minus the miscues.

Notable:

Although it's often said that Army's defense is young and rightly so. However, there is plenty of young talent represented on the offensive side of the ball. You have sophomores like Dixon, Powis, Shumaker, Turrentine, Lawrence, along with Terry Baggett and Stephen Fraser.

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