Army football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Black Knights, best players and season prediction.
How frustrating is it for Army?
It has a fantastic head coach in Jeff Monken who knows exactly how to crank up the right rushing offense to do exactly what it’s supposed to. It’s got the same pool of talent to choose from that Navy does – to a certain extent – and it’s been trying for so, so long to come up with a consistent winner. But just when it seems like something positive is about to start happening, nothing does.
The Black Knights came up with a winning season in 2010, but hasn’t come up with more than four in a season since then. That one winning campaign was the only one since going 10-2 in 1996, and there haven’t been back-to-back winning seasons since 1989 and 1990.
Meanwhile, Navy has become a machine.
The Army running game is fine under Monken, and the defense took a massive step forward last season finishing a terrific 47th in the nation. There wasn’t any semblance of a passing attack, but that’s okay if the ground attack is rolling.
So there are positives to build off of. This is a good situation with the potential to be turned around in Monken’s third season. A ridiculous seven losses were by seven points or fewer, and this year’s team needs to be about to pull those out.
At some point, Army needs a more efficient passing game. That’s one of the key differences between the Black Knights and Midshipmen – Navy hits its downfield throws and doesn’t make a ton of mistakes. The quarterback situation is solid, the running backs are fine, and for what they have to do, the receivers can make even more plays.
The defense that was so good and so strong should be even better, starting with its outstanding linebacking corps. There’s a good rotation up front to try keeping everyone fresh, and the secondary will be a positive with plenty of experience returning. Now it’s up to the O to do its job.
The pieces are there for this to be the breakthrough campaign. Veteran teams win close games, and this one has the experience. Make the key plays, take advantage of every opportunity, and above all …
What You Need To Know About The Army Offense
The rushing attack worked last season averaging 244 yards per game, but the passing attack couldn’t always take advantage of the single coverage and the chances to make things happen down the field – that’s the difference between what Army does and how Navy and Georgia Tech operate.
The quarterback situation is fine with Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Carter each able to run the attack, while the backfield returns enough rushing production to keep it all going. Aaron Kemper leads a veteran crew that should crank up the numbers as usual. Now there needs to be help down the field.
Army completed only 49 passes and average 23 yards per catch with ten scores, but the quarterbacks threw nine picks on just 108 attempts. Edgar Poe is a talented enough receiver to start doing more, but he’ll have to make the most of his few chances.
The O line should be solid with three starters back and enough versatility to play around with the lineup. However, it’s a young group – it’s going to take a little while for the timing to be there and there’s not enough power to simply line up and blast away.
Biggest Key To The Army Offense
Always score when there’s a chance to do it. The offense wasn’t explosive enough or good enough to give away shot in the red-zone, but that was too much of a problem considering the Black Knights seven games by seven points or fewer. Army scored just 77% of the time inside the 20 and came up with touchdowns on just 20 of 31 trips.
What You Need To Know About The Army Defense
The defense did a fantastic job of keeping the team in games allowing 22 points or fewer six times – the offense just didn’t provide enough punch to help the cause.
Now the D should be even better starting with a loaded linebacking corps working around the tandem of Andrew King and Jeremy Timpf. The 3-4 alignment has the playmakers to be even more active and more consistent. There won’t be too much of a pass rush, but that’s not really the goal.
The front three is undersized as always, but there’s a decent enough rotation to be active and effective despite the loss of T.J. Atimalala on the nose. The Black Knights use linebacker-sized linemen, and they have to hold up. More importantly, the D needs to get off the field as fast as possible to keep everyone fresh.
The secondary should be a plus with a veteran crew working around young corner Brandon Jackson. If it wasn’t for the linebackers, the defensive backs would be one of the team’s bigger strengths after allowing just 210 yards per game.
Biggest Key To The Army Defense
Force turnovers. There were problems on third downs, and anyone who tried to get physical was able to do it, but overall the defense was able to hold up. With so much experience, now the Black Knights have to force more game-changing moments after coming up with just 11 takeaways. Army forced seven in the first four games and just four over the last eight.
Army Will Be Far Better If …
It does absolutely everything right, especially when it comes to the turnover battle. It’s just not possible for the service academies to make a slew of mistakes and still survive. Navy was a +19 in turnover margin last season with the two losses coming on the two games it was on the negative side. Air Force was a -5 overall and was 1-5 when on the wrong side. Army was a -11 on the season and was only on the plus side twice. Why did the Black Knights lose so many close games? Here you go.
Best Army Offensive Player
RB Aaron Kemper, Sr. – The best Army offensive player could and should end up being whichever quarterback takes over and shines, but Kemper is the most dangerous runner when he gets into a groove. The diminutive 5-6, 210-pounder only ran for 544 yards and did most of his work against Eastern Michigan, but he’s too good not to get the ball more. Even so, expect QB Ahmad Bradshaw to end up being the team’s top offensive performer if all goes according to plan.
Best Army Defensive Player
LB Andrew King, Sr. – Go ahead and put Jeremy Timpf in there, too, since he and King form the linebacking combo that’s the key to the defense and the team. King did a little bit more last year to get behind the line, but he and Timpf play the same role. They both make a slew of tackles for loss, and they’re both tackling machines. There will be times when each one takes over the game.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Ahmad Bradshaw, Jr. – Or Chris Carter. The quarterback play has to be stellar for the offense to finally start to blow up. It’s been fine, but it hasn’t been good enough for a full 60 minutes throughout the last few years to carry the team when needed. Army needs its own Keenan Reynolds to be the dominant factor at times. Bradshaw has the ability to do it on the ground, but Carter can bring the quicks, too.
The Army Season Will Be A Success If …
It’s the first winning campaign since 2010. The Black Knights were just so close in game after game last season. Either the offense starts to work, or it doesn’t. If it does, it can beat Rice, UTEP, Buffalo, Lafayette and Morgan State to get within range of six wins. But to make this a successful season, there has to be a win over …
Dec. 10 vs. Navy – Seriously, when will this nightmare end? It’s been 14 losses in a row going back to 2001 with heartbreaker after heartbreaker to the bitter rival. Four of the last five have been by one score, and sooner or later, the right break on the right day will come.
2015 Army Fun Stats
– Fourth Down Conversions: Opponents 7-of-8 – Army 9-of-22
– Fumbles: Army 38 (lost 13) – Opponents 10 (lost 5)
– Penalties: Opponents 75 for 567 yards – Army 48 for 474