College Football Countdown: No. 103 Army

The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.


Today at No. 103: Army

Coach: Rich Ellerson (15-22, third season; 75-63 overall)

2011 record: 3-9 (3-9 at Independent)

Look back: To say that 2011 was disappointing for Army would be an understatement considering the Black Knights were coming off a seven-win season and their first bowl appearance in 14 years. With 11 starters returning, optimism was high but the team opened with back-to-back losses to Northern Illinois and San Diego State before cracking the win column in Week 3 against Northwestern. The team followed that up with a loss to Ball State followed by a win over Tulane. The Cadets then went on to lose six of their past seven games to finish with its worst season under Ellerson.

Offensive starters lost/returning: 5/6

Defensive starters lost/returning: 3/8

Key losses: WR Austin Barr, Davyd Brooks, LB Steven Erzinger, DL A.J. Mackey, LB Andrew Rodriguez

Top returnees: FB Larry Dixon, QB Trent Steelman, LB Geoffery Bacon, LB Nate Combs, DB Josh Jackson

Strengths: Offense shouldn’t be a problem for Army this season. Led by quarterback Trent Steelman, the Black Knights will continue the trend of being one of the most prolific rushing teams in college football. Steelman has been the key to the program’s triple-option offense, rushing for 645 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He is the only player in school history to rush for 2,000 yards and pass for another 2,000 during his career. The offensive line returns three starters including center Ryan Powis, to anchor the group. Running back Raymond Maples led the team with 1,066 yards and four touchdowns and was one of several options the Black Knights have to rely on.

Weaknesses: With five returning starters from 2010, the defense had its struggles, giving up close to 30 points per game. Experience and size will be a factor for Army this season. The defensive line is vastly inexperienced with the five starters having only four games of total experience between them. Junior Robert Kough will be back to anchor the group despite missing all of last season with injury. Pressure will fall on the linebackers and secondary to step up and slow down a myriad of different offenses that the team will face this season. Geoffery Bacon returns for his sophomore season at linebacker and will be called upon to be wherever the football is. Senior Josh Jackson will lead the secondary defense.

Outlook: There’s plenty of interpretation following last season’s disappointing 3-9 season. With 17 returning starters, Army appears poised to get back to a postseason bowl game however a lot will depend on the success of the defense. The schedule features several key road games including the season opener in San Diego. With seven games against teams that were bowl eligible last season, the Black Knights need to open strong and capture winnable games when they can.

2012 Schedule
Sept. 8 at San Diego State
Sept. 15 Northern Illinois
Sept. 22 at Wake Forest
Sept. 29 Stony Brook
Oct. 6 Boston College
Oct. 13 Kent State
Oct. 20 at Eastern Michigan
Oct. 27 Ball State
Nov. 3 Air Force
Nov. 10 at Rutgers
Nov. 17 Temple
Dec. 8 vs. Navy

The rest of the countdown:
No. 104 Maryland
No. 105 Colorado State
No. 106 Miami of Ohio
No. 107 UTEP
No. 108 Troy
No. 109 Fresno State
No. 110 Central Michigan
No. 111 Indiana
No. 112 Memphis
No. 113 Middle Tennessee
No. 114 UAB
No. 115 Buffalo
No. 116 Tulane
No. 117: FAU
No. 118: UNLV
No. 119: Akron
No. 120: New Mexico

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