4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ARMY DEFENSE
– There are a whole lot of missing pieces from a defense that finished eighth in the nation – allowing fewer than 300 yards per game – and gave up 18 points an outing. But as long as the offense is controlling the time of possession battle, everything will be just fine.
– The linebackers are the biggest early problem after losing top tackler and pass rusher James Nachtigal and fellow outside pass rushing star Kenneth Brinson. 230-pound sophomore Arik Smith will get the first look on the weakside to try replacing Nachtigal – Smith made four tackles in his limited role – and 240-pound Jeremiah Lowery will get the call at the Rush position.
6-2, 225-pound senior Cole Christiansen is back in the middle after finishing second on the team with 77 tackles, and 255-pound senior Amadeo West is a good-sized option on the strongside.
– The front three isn’t bulky, but there should be a good rotation. 5-11, 280-pound senior Rod Stoddard and 6-4, 275-pound Connor Smith are the size up front on the inside, and the rest of the line is full of linebacker-sized options who can hold up. Again, though, the key is that everyone stays fresh – this is where time of possession matters.
– The secondary gets back three starters including third-leading tackler Elijah Riley at one corner and Jaylon McClinton at safety. There’s good size across the group of defensive backs, and theres’s decent depth – senior Cameron Jones is more than fine in place of James Gibson at one safety job. Now the secondary has to come up with more big plays – picking off just five passes, with two agains Navy – while continuing to be terrific against the run.