CLEVELAND, Ohio - Junior RB Raymond Maples leads a group of seven Army football players that have been named Preseason All-Independent by Phil Steel's College Football Preview. Maples, who rushed for 1,066 yards last season, is the Black Knights' lone first-team selection.
Maples' 2011 rushing total was the ninth best in Academy history. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry, the most by an Army player with at least 100 attempts in a season. Maples was just the third Army sophomore to rush for 1,000 yards and will try to become the first Black Knight to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Carlton Jones (2004-05).
Steelman enters his fourth season as the Black Knights' starting quarterback. The team's second-leading rusher with 645 yards despite missing three games, Steelman's 2,072 career rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns are the second most by a quarterback in Academy history. He has started 34 games in his first three seasons and ranks fifth on Army's all-time total offense ledger with 4,128 yards. Steelman is the only player in Army history to rush for 2,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards during their career.
Hassin played fullback in his first two seasons at Army, but was moved to running back during spring drills. He has rushed for 1,463 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career, including 1,013 yards as a sophomore in 2010.
Allen has started 24 of the Black Knights' 25 games over the last two seasons. He helped open holes for the nation's top-ranked rushing offense in 2011(346.5 yds/game) that set an Academy record with 4,158 rushing yards. The Black Knights have ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing and allowed less than one sack per game in each of Allen's two seasons as a starter.
Mackey missed most of the 2011 campaign with a knee injury suffered in Army's season-opening game at Northern Illinois. Selected as Army's "legacy" captain for the 2012 season by last year's senior class, Mackey started all 13 games as a sophomore and made 6.5 tackles for loss, including 4.0 quarterback sacks.
Bacon was one of the Black Knights' most productive freshmen in 2011. He started five games at middle linebacker and finished tied for third on the team with 60 tackles. Bacon made 2.5 tackles for loss and returned an interception for a touchdown versus Vanderbilt.
Jackson has started 20 consecutive games at cornerback. Last season, he made 40 tackles, broke up four passes and recorded an interception. He has played in 33 games in his first three seasons and intercepted at least one pass each year. Jackson also serves as the Black Knights' primary punt returner.
Army returns 14 players that started at least six games in 2011 and 34 players that started at least one game a year ago. The Black Knights welcome back their top seven rushers from last season's team that led the country in rushing yards per game, and 2012 will mark the first time in program history the Black Knights have returned two players who have rushed for 1,000 yards in a season (Jared Hassin, 2010; Raymond Maples, 2011). The Army defense returns 13 of its top 16 tacklers from 2011, including a group that combined for 15.0 of Army's 18.0 quarterback sacks.
The Black Knights open the season on Sept. 8 at San Diego State. Army plays the first of its seven games at Michie Stadium on Sept. 15 versus Northern Illinois