The last of the Independent teams is Army. Last season was as successful a season as the Black Knights have had in a while – they finished with a winning record at 8-5, won a bowl game, and even defeated Navy for the first time in 15 years. Head coach Jeff Monken has this team on the right track, and they’re poised to build off of last season, as they return a lot of starters on both sides of the ball.
Any time you talk about Army offensively, you’re going to talk about running the ball. The Black Knights put up the second most ground yards per game last year, at 335 per game. It obviously allows you to totally control the game when it’s effective, and when you find yourself playing against some of the worst rushing defenses from a year ago (Buffalo, North Texas, Rice, and UTEP all gave up more than 200 yards per game), then it bodes well.
Success in the triple option offense is going to rely on two things; an effective offensive line and deception. Army’s o-line is the most experienced unit on the team, with four of their five starters being seniors. They’ve combined for over 75 starts over their careers. I see this is as the most important factor of repeating last season’s success.
Also returning are Army’s top five rushers from last season, led by junior backs Andrew Davidson (961 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Darnell Woolfolk (600 yards, 9 touchdowns). Their 21 combined touchdowns helped the offense average a tick under 30 points per game.
An interesting dynamic to Army’s offense is their use of several quarterbacks, most notably senior Ahmad Bradshaw (below). When they pass, Army loves to take chances, and Bradshaw is a dynamic talent that can absolutely make things happen with both his arm and his legs.
The Black Knights return several starters to a defensive unit that was top-5 in fewest yards allowed last season. Losing both starting outside linebackers in Jeremy Timpf and Andrew King, two leading tackles from a season ago, certainly isn’t ideal.
They do still have a strong defensive front, lead by John Voit (26 tackles, 6.0 TFL).
The group’s secondary is decent, lead by safety Rhyan England (pictured, during a season with 53 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble). Elijah Riley had an exceptional freshman season, where he played in all 13 games while totaling 47 tackles, 3 interceptions and 6 passes defended. Despite being the youngest starter in the secondary, he is one of the most experienced.
I wouldn’t say the talent on the D has significantly downgraded. I am, however, curious how their passing defense will look. The Black Knights were effective at stuffing the run last year, giving up only around 126 yards per game. That being said, they did not get to the quarterback all that often (68th in the country in sacks), and losing King and Timpf doesn’t help that cause. Against teams like Ohio State and BYU that can sling it, they’re going to have to find a way to disrupt the pocket.
Army has a difficult schedule on paper, but several of the matchups bode their way. They start tomorrow at 6 pm against Fordham, which should get them off on the right foot.
I obviously can see them having problems with Ohio State (for obvious reasons), Temple (due to their aerial attack), and Duke (also due to their arsenal of receivers). That’s not even including Navy, which will be a dogfight because it’s always a dogfight.
Ultimately, I can see them replicating the same success I’ll pencil them in with 7-5 and a bowl appearance.
Cover photo from Shanahan Report.
GIF from Culture Crossfire.