Army head coach Rich Ellerson said Tuesday that the team’s reigning tackling leader, linebacker Andrew Rodriguez, will miss the season opener this Saturday at Eastern Michigan, and perhaps more.
“Andrew is not going to be available for a while,” Ellerson said, “which is a heartbreak for us and for him, obviously.”
Rodriguez has been dealing with a back injury this preseason and has been limited lately in practices and scrimmages.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed as the season progresses, see if we can get him back out there,” Ellerson said. “The thing that’s remarkable about Andrew, he was playing a position that typically is not as productive as he made it and some of that was his instincts, his football I.Q. and cleaning up other folks’ messes. That position was not going to be, regardless of who was playing it, won’t be as productive as it was a year ago. The other guys are going to be that much more efficient, we won’t see a need for some of those heroics.”
Nate Combs will probably fill in for Rodriguez for now, although it opens up the possibility of senior captain Stephen Anderson shifting over and Kingsley Ehie stepping up into more of a starting role in his first year on defense.
Combs sounds like he’s anxious to step into a starting role.
“This will be my first game — I really haven’t played a full game. Right now, I’m excited. There is no nervousness,” Combs said. “I know what I’m doing and I know my assignments. Steve [Anderson], Steve [Erzinger] and Andrew [Rodriguez] have all helped me.”
Ellerson cited his play on special teams last year and said the coaches are excited with the progress he’s made. “We have high expectations for him.”
“‘A-Rod’ has been my right-hand man,” Combs said. “He is a technician and strives for perfection. Then you have Steve ]Anderson] who wants everyone to be perfect and brings that enthusiasm to practice every day, so it’s been fun. I want to be part of this defense that was ranked 16th last year and help make it better.”
Combs and Army take on an EMU team that went 0-12 last year, including a season-opening home loss to Army last September.
“I like my football team, I love this football team. They get it,” Ellerson said. “They know where they are, they know who they represent. They know they have chosen a steeper path from dawn till dark and they like it. They don’t like it all day every day, but they like it.”
Apparently BYU will be “joining” Army among college football’s independents next year, according to Sports Illustrated; Army, Notre Dame and Navy are currently independents… Ellerson said senior SB Pat Mealy is “significantly better” this fall as compared to last year… ESPN cited Army’s new uniforms as the best new design of 2010… senior DE Josh McNary was named to the Lombardi Trophy watch list last week, no surprise… Ellerson spoke about spreading the ball around to his various new threats, including SB’s Malcolm Brown, Raymond Maples and FB Jared Hassin. He said QB Trent Steelman ran the ball too much last season. “We have to pry that thing out of his hands sometimes,” Ellerson said of his sophomore QB’s running game… Ellerson said his kicking game will be a strong-point heading into Eastern Michigan, and he expects few, if any, turnovers going forward. “We need to start fast,” he said…. some of my photos of Miami’s Seantrel Henderson will be featured during ESPN‘s live national broadcast of Miami-Ohio State on Sept. 11 at 3:30 pm… I will be teaming up with Sports Illustrated this season in hopes of providing some Army football coverage in the magazine… I’m told some of my images will be hung up inside Army’s indoor training facility, Foley Athletic Center, as West Point aims to decorate… several of my Army lacrosse images will be framed and displayed at Michie Stadium.
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