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Beware McNary

June 23, 2010

Army senior DE Josh McNary (44) is Army's career sack leader after three seasons. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Josh McNary is getting love from the college football world, and the season is still three months away. Heck, we’re not even at R-Day yet at West Point.

McNary, who established himself as West Point’s career sack leader in his third season last fall, earned yet another preseason honor when he was named to the preseason watch list for the 2010 Bronko Nagurski Trophy. The award, given by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club, honors the top defensive player in the nation.

Sounds familiar, right? On April 15, he was one of 42 players named to the 2010 Lott Trophy Watch List, which is named after the legendary Ronnie Lott and awarded to the defensive player of the year who exhibits the same characteristics as Lott embodied during his career – integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.

Senior co-captain  Stephen Anderson will return health for 2010. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Senior co-captain Stephen Anderson will return health for 2010. (Danny Wild/USMA)

He received three All-American awards in 2009 and, not surprisingly, was named a preseason All-American in April.

In the numbers

Why? McNary made 22.5 tackles for loss last fall, the third-best season total in U.S. Military Academy history. His 1.88 per game average tied for second in the nation!

He had 12.5 sacks in ’09 and ranked fourth in the nation with 1.04 sacks per game. The Houston native’s 18 career sacks are the most ever by an Army player, and not only that, he set the Academy record for single-game sacks with four quarterback takedowns at Temple on Oct. 17, 2009.

This should be a big year for Army’s defense, with senior linebacker Stephen Anderson, the only player to be voted a captain as a junior in Army history, and DT Mike Gann (who’s father played for Notre Dame) both rejoining McNary on an already solid defensive corps that now features fullback-turned-linebacker Kingsley Ehie, who coach Rich Ellerson deemed the “best athlete” he had on the team. Both Anderson, who missed the end of the ’09 season, and McNary, who missed the spring scrimmage, are coming off surgery.

“Everybody seems to be doing real well,” Ellerson told the Times Herald-Record last week. “Everybody is on or ahead of schedule. Everything looks good.”

McNary was recently ranked among the top-25 top defenders for non-BCS teams by ESPN.

Army football news & notes

The Record’s Sal Interdonato has some good updates on Army’s upcoming scheduling dilemmas, including the apparently canceled Army-Notre Dame game slated for 2013 (Notre Dame opted out).

According to Interdonato, Army AD Kevin Anderson is exploring some other potential opponents, including Stanford, Syracuse (who Army stunned in lacrosse last month) and Wisconsin. In fact, it’s rumored that if Northwestern bails on its date for 2011, Stanford may replace them. Not surprisingly, a lot of schools are eager to face Army and be showcased, assumingly nationally, at Yankee Stadium.

Another interesting bit from the Record blog was Oregon allegedly wanting to avoid playing Army because of the added practice they’d need to do to handle USMA’s triple-option offense.

Army QB Trent Steelman will need to show the passing skills he owned in high school. (Danny Wild/USMA)

Dave Curtis of the Sporting News recently ranked Army at No. 79 in the top 100 college football teams for 2010. He penciled in Army to finish 6-6 (after going 5-7 last year), which would put them in line for a bowl game. In fact, the Sporting News predicts Army will begin 3-0, which would be their first 3-0 start since 1996 I believe.

Curtis praised Ellerson’s option format, noted what he called a “soft” schedule and predicts McNary will again lead a strong defense.

On sophomore quarterback Trent Steelman, though, he wrote, “His 637 passing yards won’t cut it if Army hopes to compete with tougher teams such as Rutgers and Notre Dame.”

Navy was ranked No. 37, Air Force No. 42. (Complete list)

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.

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