Preview 2017: Army Black Knights
Previewing and looking ahead at the Army Black Knights season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Army Offense
Of course the offense is going to to run well, it’s not going to be able to pass a lick, and it’s all going to work.
QB Ahmad Bradshaw is back to run the fun, FB Andy Davidson is going to pound away, and the Black Knights are going to control the clock, slow games down to a crawl, and peck, peck, peck away until they’re able to hit the big play on the outside.
How dangerous is the Army ground game going to be? After finishing second in the nation on the ground and cranking up 4,414 yards and 46 touchdowns, the Black Knights get back the top nine rushers behind a line that gets back four starters.
The receiving corps mostly blocks, but there has to be some semblance of a deep threat with top target Edgar Poe gone – even though he only caught 16 passes.
Biggest Key To The Army Offense
As always, the passing game has to be anything other than abysmal. No one’s asking for Texas Tech, but Army could use any sort of production to take advantage of defenses loading up against the run. This is hardly anything new, but at least the woeful 2015 passing game averaged 10.4 yards per try. Last season, Army had the nation’s worst passing game, averaging under eight yards per throw and finishing with just 967 yards and seven touchdowns with 11 picks. Worse yet, the quarterbacks combined to complete 44% of their throws.
What You Need To Know About The Army Defense
Fantastic last season, the Army defense finished fourth in the nation allowing fewer than 300 yards per game led by a pass D that gave up just 170 yards an outing. Why did it all work? The offense helped the cause by hanging on to the ball for almost 35 minutes a game, there weren’t a slew of big-time offenses on the slate, and the D was just that good, especially at linebacker.
The linebackers need work after losing a few mainstays, but there’s still decent size and quickness around Alex Aukerman on the outside. This group needs to hold up in the 3-4 alignment with a smallish – but aggressive – front three that cranks up a decent rotation on the nose. And that’s the key – the depth. Without the size needed to deal with most O lines, Army needs to keep everyone fresh. The depth is still there.
The secondary loses Xavier Moss at one safety spot, but gets back everyone else on last year’s final two deep. As long as the pass rush is as strong as last year’s – a huge improvement from 2015 – the defensive backs should be a big strength after getting a great season from now-sophomore corners Jaylon McClinton and Elijah Riley.
Biggest Key To The Army Defense
The plays have to continue being the line. The incredible run defense was helped by more of an attacking style with play after play in the backfield. The 2015 run defense was okay, finishing with 59 tackles for loss and just 15 sacks. Last season, the pressure kept coming from several spots with 26 sacks and a terrific 72 tackles for loss. There might be some new parts in key spots, but they need to find their way behind the line, too.
Army Will Be Far Better If …
The kicking game improves. For a team that relies on field position, the Black Knights have to average more than 16.9 yards per kickoff return, and they’ve got to come up with a stronger punt return game. But more than that, the kickers have to improve after averaging a mere 35 yards per kick with a few different options giving it a try. Much, much more is needed from the placekickers after they connected on just 6-of-12 attempts.
Best Army Offensive Player
QB Ahmad Bradshaw, Sr. – The passing game will never be there – he completed just 44% of his passes with four touchdown throws and nine picks – but that’s not why you called.
The veteran speedster ran for 826 yards and eight touchdowns as the conductor of the high-powered triple-option attack. Andy Davidson might be the focal point of the offense – he’ll lead the team in rushing – but when Bradshaw is on in the open field, he can take over a game. If he can just hit a few more downfield throws, the O will go to another level.
2. FB Andy Davidson, Jr.
3. RB Darnell Woolfolk, Jr.
4. C Bryce Holland, Sr.
5. OT Brett Toth, Sr.
Best Army Defensive Player
LB Alex Aukerman, Sr. – As the lone returning starting linebacker, it’s Aukerman’s corps now. While he wasn’t as nasty against the run as the other stars, the 6-1, 242-pounder still came up with 59 tackles. His job, though, was to get to the quarterback, leading the team with 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, dominating against Duke and Temple, and making a few big plays behind the line in the bowl win over North Texas.
2. S Jaylon McClinton, Soph.
3. CB Elijah Riley, Soph.
4. DT Andrew McLean, Sr.
5. DE Kenneth Brinson, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
LB Calen Holt, Jr. – Go ahead and throw likely Scott Washle in there, too. Holt has to try replacing Jeremy Timpf on the weakside while Washle – or Cole Christiansen, or any one of a number of other options – has to try replacing Andrew King in the middle.
Timpf and King were the heart-and-soul types for the defense, combining for 209 tackles, 24 of them for loss, and being in on seemingly every big play. Holt made 13 tackles in his limited role, while others filled in where needed. The shoes to fill, though, are enormous.
The Army Season Will Be A Success If …
It’s another bowl season. The last time Army went bowling in back-to-back seasons? The 1984 team went to the Cherry Bowl and the 1985 team went to the Peach. The Knights won both bowls, and they also came up with a win in the game that obviously means so much more. Of course, the season will be a success with a bowl appearance, and getting a win …
Key Game To The Army Season
Dec. 9 vs. Navy (in Philadelphia) – With no conference to win, this is obviously it for the Black Knights. Breaking the long, long streak was one thing, but winning again to make sure it wasn’t a fluke is another. Beyond the obvious rivalry factor, Navy is one of the few good teams on the schedule.
2016 Army Fun Stats
– Fumbles: Army 31 (lost 14) – Opponents 12 (lost 5)
– Field Goals: Opponents 10-of-14 – Army 6-of-12
– Sacks: Army 25 for 156 yards – Opponents 10 for 68 yards