CT: In Part 2 of our Army-Navy breakdown, my colleague and I will examine the offensive skills players for each of our teams. This includes the fullbacks, running backs, up backs, and yes, even the receivers. In a game of this magnitude and importance, even the seldom-used receivers will play a huge role.
For Army, their primary runner after quarterback Angel Santiago is fellow senior Larry Dixon. Dixon leads the team with 1,012 yards rushing and trails Santiago by only one rushing score (10 and 9 rushing TD's, respectively). Dixon primarily lines up as the fullback directly behind Santiago, which in the triple option means he is the first read for the quarterback. If the defense does not converge on Dixon, he keeps the ball. If a linemen or linebacker closes in on him, Dixon doesn't take the ball and Santiago keeps it for the second option. This means that there needs to be a high level of trust and vision from both Dixon and Santiago for this aspect of the offense to work.
If the defense converges on Dixon, Santiago keeps the ball and then has to read the outside of the defense. If they crash on Dixon or are properly blocked, he keeps the ball, as we have seen him do 182 times this season. However, if a defender sheds his block, Santiago will usually abandon the second option in the offense and pitch the ball, usually to Terry Baggett. Baggett has only had 50 touches this season for 380 yards, but is third only behind A.J. Schurr (8.1) and Trenton Turrentine (8.2) in yards per carry with 7.6 yards a carry. Seeing as how Schurr and Turrentine rarely run the ball, Baggett is the true home run threat on this offense.
A wild-card back for Army is Tony Giovannelli, who lines up all over the field and averages 7.2 yards a carry. His versatility offers a break for Baggett and Dixon as well as some crucial blocks on the perimeter. He is a selfless contributor to this team and falls forward more times than not, always fighting for extra yards. Another crucial blocker who has come on recently as a runner and receiver is sophomore Joe Walker. With the rest of the players mentioned being seniors, Walker and Schurr have shown great promise this season. Expect Coach Jeff Monken to use both in this game, as a preview for next season.
MN: Obviously quarterback Keenan Reynolds will be Navy's primary runner and scoring option on Saturday, but the big fullbacks and speedy slot backs should be an integral part of their game plan as well against Army.
Senior fullback Noah Copeland has been a guy that - if Reynolds is contained on a given day - the Navy offense can lean on him carry after carry to wear down the defense while also gaining big yards. Copeland is second on the team in rushing yards (trailing just Reynolds by a little more than 200 yards) and will look to end his career at Navy with his third win over Army. In 2012, Copeland paced Navy with 22 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown in the win.
When Copeland graduates, replacing him will be Chris Swain; also known as the Swain Train. Like Copeland, Swain is a power runner and a good blocker at the fullback position, but often breaks more tackles and picks up more speed when he gets into open space. In other words, Army defenders will want to get out of the way if Swain gets a head full of steam. The junior is third on the team in rushing yards this year and also has four touchdowns.
Navy doesn't pass much, but one guy that has potential to shine if they choose to do so is Jamir Tillman. The sophomore wide receiver leads the Midshipmen in receptions and receiving yards this season with 18 catches for over 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns. As I said, Navy doesn't pass much, but if the opportunity presents itself Reynolds has proven that he can hit the 6'4" Tillman for big gains through the air.
In addition to those three, Geoffery Whiteside, Ryan Williams-Jenkins and DeBrandon Sanders all have the potential to make an impact in the rushing game as slot-backs in the option. Demond Brown could make an appearance as well, but is more likely to impact field positioning with his kick returns as he is averaging over 19 yards-per-return.
EDGE: I think Navy has the edge with skill players. They have a nice balance of speed and size that Army lacks. Also, the size of Tillman will test the Army secondary.
Up next, we will compare defenses for each team.