Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Army Cadets (Black Knights)

Army Cadets (Black Knights)
Army turned a major corner under head coach Jeff Monken last season, and won eight games, including a Heart of Dallas Bowl victory over North Texas, which was revenge for a loss to UNT earlier in the year. Army also beat Navy last year, snapping a massive drought. Will Army have enough talent returning to make another solid run in 2017?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Ahmad Bradshaw is back at QB for his senior season after passing for 703 yards and rushing for 826 yards and eight scores. He averaged 4.46 yards per carry in the triple option attack. He is hardly what I would call an accomplished passer, but in this offense, that is all back burner stuff.

FB Andy Davidson returns after leading the Black Knights with 961 yards and 12 scores. He is the power back that makes everything run in this offense. Jordan Asberry also returns after rushing for 421 yards, and averaged 7.31 yards per carry last season at Slotback. Darnell Woolfolk also returns after rushing for 600 yards, and Kell Walker returns after averaging 6.52 yards per carry. Army will have the deepest stable of backs of anyone in the nation, with many of the backs returning having massive game breaking ability.

Christian Poe returns at WR for when Army does go on the pass, and averaged 13.3 yards per reception last season. Jeff Ejekem averaged 12.22 yards per catch, and also returns.

Four starters return on the line, which is a solid foundation for any running game. Rick Kurz is back at LT, Bryce Holland is at Center, Mike Houghton starts at RG, while Brett Toth is back at RT. Senior Josh Boylan is expected to start at LG.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Blake Wilson is back at PK, but he had a rough go in 2016, as he hit just 4/8 FG attempts all season. He also missed three PAT attempts.

Depth at receiver will not be god this fall, as there is literally limited to zero experience or production among the reserves. The top two reserves had two receptions combined last fall.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
On shocking thing about Army last fall was how good their defense was. They allowed just 19.8 points per game on the season, which was a full eight point per game improvement over 2015.

Alex Aukerman is the star of the defense, and returns at LB after leading the team with 15 TFLs in 2016. He added 7.5 sacks, 59 tackles, and a pair of QB hurries. Kenneth Brinson also returns to the fold, and finished with 45 tackles last fall, with a solid 7.5 TFLs to go with his stat line. The Black Knights do have to find two new starters, but they were deep last season. Scott Washle will likely start at MIKE, and James Nachtigal, a junior, will likely start at WILL.

Three starters return in the secondary in CBs Elijah Riley and Marcus Hyatt, and Safety Rhyan England. Riley and Hyatt combined for seven PBUs last season, while England finished with 53 tackles. This unit allowed just 170 yards passing per game last fall. James Gibson will likely be the starter at the open Safety spot as a junior.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
There will be some work to do in fall camp on the line, where only NT Andrew McLean returns as a starter from last season. He finished with just one TFL last fall. John Volt returns at DE, but finihsed with just 6.5 TFLs. Ray Wright, a junior, is expected to claim the open DT spot.

The Punter position was anything but good last season. JD Mote returns, but averaged just 36.27 yards per try, which was onle of the worst numbers in the nation.

2017 Schedule
9/1 Fordham, 9/9 Buffalo, 9/16 at Ohio State, 9/23 at Tulane, 9/30 UTEP, 10/7 at Rice, 10/14 Eastern Michigan, 10/21 Temple, 11/4 at Air Force, 11/11 Duke, 11/18 at North Texas, 12/9 Navy at Philadelphia

Final Overview
Monken turned a major corner in year three with Army, which is exactly on time according to my curve for any new coach in just about any program. The good news is that it looks sustainable at this point, with more than enough talent on hand to make another run at the eight win mark this season. There a re a few tough dates (Ohio State in unwinnable), but this team has a real chance to be one of the great teams in Army football history. A return to a bowl game is more than possible, and it should be a better landing spot than the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Look for another big season for Army football.

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