The recent buzz around this suddenly fashionable Army football program is apparently getting contagious.
“Bowl Bound,” is what senior defensive end Josh McNary wrote when showing off the Orlando Sentinel‘s recent pre-season national rankings, pegging the Black Knights at No. 44 following a 5-7 season and the loss of two team captains.
If you questioned that, get a load of scout.com’s latest bold statement: Army, the website says, will finish 9-3 and play in a bowl game this winter.
In short, the preview basically says Army’s schedule is a breeze until they run into Rutgers and Notre Dame, and that Trent Steelman “has all the skills to make the offense work.”
Let’s keep that in perspective, though: Army had the worst passing offense in the nation in 2009, and that was with a gigantic 6-foot-10 target on the field for Steelman to find. Army ranked last out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in passing offense with 71 yards per game.
Jared Hassin remains the focus of this year’s perceived improvements — he’s a big, powerful, fast fullback who is already adored by the coaching staff and media. He can block, he can run and he adds another dimension to Army’s running game alongside the speedy Pat Mealy and whoever wins the other slotback job, Malcolm Brown, Brian Austin or Brian Cobbs — both Cobbs and Austin run track.
ESPN predicted at least six wins from Army earlier this month.
West Point began churning out it’s pre-season content in preparation for media day on Monday. I’m not going to re-hash what the Athletics staff put out today (or maybe I will later on) — it is over 3,700 words of West Point info, so I give it a read, they know better than me.
Here’s a clip regarding Hassin, the sophomore from Air Force who “debuted” in the spring scrimmage:
By the end of spring practice, head coach Rich Ellerson felt confident his team had taken major strides toward solving the issue [of an effective triple-option threat], thanks largely to the presence of budding impact player Jared Hassin.
Hassin, a transfer from Air Force who sat out last season, displayed a host of “big play” ability throughout the spring, ripping off large-gainers with regularity. A bruising inside runner, the strapping Hassin also boasts the necessary speed to streak past second level defenders.
“We have been waiting to get Jared into the mix there,” Ellerson expresses. “He certainly didn’t disappoint. We have to remember he’s still doing this for the first time in ‘prime-time,’ but he is good with the football and knows where to go.
“He needs to grow with the assignments. There is just no way to short-circuit experience. He has to go out there and play the game. He is exactly the type of athlete we are looking for at that position.”
This guy is like the Stephen Strasburg of the Hudson. I assume the volume will only get louder as we inch closer to kickoff on Sept. 4 at Eastern Michigan. You can read the full offensive preview here.
The Scout preview says Army has “six very winnable games scheduled” — assumingly we’re looking at Eastern Michigan, North Texas, Duke, Tulane, VMI and Kent State (which went 5-7 last year and was ranked No. 75 in the infamous Sentinel rankings). To that end, Hawai’i is ranked No. 76 and Duke 80th. North Texas, Tulane and EM are all ranked as the top-10 worst teams in the nation.
Temple (homecoming game on Oct. 2) was ranked No. 45, one spot above Army. Granted, the cadets struggled against and lost to some of these very same schools last autumn.
A bowl would obviously be a tremendous achievement for this program. A win over Navy, in my opinion, is bigger.
A bowl bid means Army would have steamrolled past some of these aforementioned weaker teams — and we hope that’s the case, of course — but a good run through a weak schedule is still going to be overshadowed by a loss to Navy.
It’s July, though, so the Navy speculation can wait, like, six months.
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Danny Wild is a reporter and photographer for MLB.com. He volunteers as a photographer at West Point. This blog in no way reflects the views of MLB or USMA.