Army’s group of linebackers were instrumental in the Black Knights’ defensive success in 2018. While losing James Nachtigal and Kenneth Brinson, Army’s linebackers still have plenty of experience especially with respect to second-year captain and rising senior, Cole Christiansen. In Army’s basic 3-4 defensive scheme, the linebackers are critical in anticipating the opponent’s offense and reacting accordingly.
Army’s linebacker positions are referred to as “Sam,” “Rush,” “Will,” and “Mike.” Here’s how things are shaping up for the Black Knights as we hit one month until opening kickoff against Rice at Michie Stadium.
Looking at Army’s post-spring depth chart, senior Amadeo West gets the nod over slightly more experienced junior, Joe Stephenson. West appeared in five games last season compared to Stephenson’s 13. However, West was arguably more productive in his five appearances. West totaled 14 tackles with six solo and eight assisted.
Meanwhile, Stephenson recorded just eight tackles but also added .5 sacks. Typically an outside linebacker designation, Army will be looking for their Sam linebackers to get consistent pressure on the edges of the opposing quarterback’s pocket.
Once again, Army fields decent experience at the Rush linebacker spot. Both players listed on the depth chart, junior Jeremiah Lowery and senior Donavan Lynch, have considerable game experience to draw upon. In 2018, Lowery played in seven games, whereas Lynch appeared in all 13 games for the Black Knights.
Lynch posted six tackles while Lowery came in with four, including one tackle for loss. Along with the Mike position, Army’s Rush linebackers are typically lined up inside and are instrumental in stuffing inside runs or sniffing out runs to the outside.
Senior captain Cole Christiansen is the undisputed starter at Mike linebacker. As a junior, Christiansen was second only to senior James Nachtigal. Christiansen amassed 77 tackles, 1.0 sack in addition to two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Nachtigal left some big shoes to fill; however, the two-year captain seems more than capable of filling them and leading the Black Knights’ defense to another formidable year.
Our inside BACKERS combined for some ridiculous stats this year!#GoArmy pic.twitter.com/HGTsQgIzPb— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) January 11, 2019
Listed behind Christiansen on the depth chart is sophomore Kemonte Yow. Yow is an unproven entity, being the only linebacker among the eight listed without any game experience. However, with Christiansen ahead of him, Yow couldn’t ask for a better player to be an understudy for.
The Will linebacker spot features two more experienced players for Army. Listed at #1 is sophomore Arik Smith. Smith played in 11 games in 2018 and recorded four tackles. Senior Ryan Parker is listed behind Smith, and played in all 13 games last season. In those 13 appearances, Parker posted 14 tackles.
Army can’t complain about even more experience at an outside linebacker slot. They’ll be relying on Smith and Parker to get effective pressure on the edge and keep opposing offenses bottled up. Smith also received some recognition during the offseason by being named to Phil Steele’s 2019 Preseason All-Independent Second Team. There’s no surprise that Cole Christiansen was named to the First Team.
Only 29 and a butt days until Army beats the HELL out of Rice! #beatrice
Don't worry... @philsteele042 didn't forget our defense going into 2019.#GoArmy pic.twitter.com/F2GhK5K22k— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) June 13, 2019