2017 Army Black Knights Football Preview

2016 Record: 8-5

Notable Wins: at Temple, at Wake Forest, Navy

Bowl Game:  Army beat North Texas 38-31 in overtime in the Heart of Dallas Bowl

Keys to last year

Defense, Defense, Defense:

Army’s defense was lockdown last season, ranking 4th in total defense, 6th in pass defense, and 11th in interceptions. When the Black Knights needed it the most the defense stepped up and shut the opponent down.

Jeff Monken Found a Leader in Ahmad Bradshaw:

After an uncertain 2015 season, Monken held a QB battle during offseason camp, with Bradshaw beating out Carter. He was impressive right off the bat, making all the right reads and leading the team to it’s first 3-0 start since 1998.

Bradshaw showed his leadership potential during the fourth quarter of the Army/Navy game. Army got the ball down by three with 12 minutes left, Bradshaw threw a dime to Edgar Poe for 29 yards on the very first play of the drive. After that, Bradshaw and his offense went to work, never once showing nerves, slowly marching down the field and capping it off with an eight-yard touchdown run six minutes later.

The Black Knights defense got a stop and gave the ball back to Bradshaw with four minutes left, up by four, one more drive and the streak was over. Bradshaw killed the clock and kneeled the ball to end the game and the streak.

Departures/Injuries:

Army had two projected starters (RB Tyler Campbell/WR Christian Poe) on the offensive side of the ball leave the Academy due to unknown circumstances. Campbell’s last game in an Army uniform was one of his best, running for a 70-yard touchdown to help the Black Knights top North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Christian Poe was supposed to continue what his older brother Edgar started and lead the wide receiver core along side Jeff Ejekam.

This offseason we received the heart breaking news that Army DB Marcus Hyatt was in a coma due to an unknown neurologic disorder. Marcus has since woken up and is on the road to recovery, getting better each day, and fighting like a true warrior. He is starting to walk again and is in good spirits. Keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers. We hope he can make a full recovery and get back to the football field, as Marcus said it’s “#ComebackSzn”.

Offense Outlook

Projected Starters:

  • QB Ahmad Bradshaw
  • FB Andy Davidson
  • RB Jordan Asberry
  • RB Kell Walker
  • WR Jeff Ejekam
  • WR Kjetil Cline
  • C Bryce Holland
  • RG Mike Houghton
  • LG Joshua Boylan
  • RT Brett Toth
  • LT Rick Kurz

The Black Knights offense is returning eight starters and not much will change as the three new starters all have game experience.

Last year we saw Ahmad Bradshaw grow into a leader who is more than capable of leading the triple option offense, I fully expect him to grow even more, he’s only going to get better with more experience.

The running backs/fullbacks will still dominate – the combination of Andy Davidson and Darnell Woolfolk and the threat to bounce the ball outside with the speedy Jordan Asberry and Kell Walker will keep opposing defenses at bay.

Wide receiver is where it gets interesting, Firstie (senior) Jeff Ejekam is a stud and will perform at a high level, but it’s the guys after him that makes this hard to predict. After Ejekam there are a lot of young inexperienced guys, if those guys can step up and take some of the pressure off of Ejekam, the few times Army does pass, they will be highly successful.

The line is extremely important to the triple option offense and all of these guys have played before and as we saw last season are pretty good, no worries here.

Overall Army’s offense should be the same, if not better than it was last year. With that being said though, we’ve learned from past seasons that just because the team has the talent does not mean they execute the triple option well. I don’t expect that from this year’s Black Knights squad though.

Defense Outlook

Projected Starters:

  • DE John Voit
  • NG Andrew McLean
  • DE Amadeo West
  • LB Alex Aukerman
  • LB Kenneth Brinson
  • LB Scott Washle
  • LB Bayle Wolf
  • DB Elijah Riely
  • DB Jaylon McClinton
  • S Rhyan England
  • Gibby Gibson

Army’s defense returns 7 starters but is losing its two captains, Andrew King and Jeremy Timpf. Star linebackers Alex Aukerman and Kenneth Brinson are coming back and will lead the Black Knights this season.

The D-line is obviously undersized compared to any other “normal” school, due to military weight requirements. Stud defensive end John Voit will be the key to the D-line functioning at a high level.

Army’s linebacking core took a hit with the departure of Andrew King and Jeremy Timpf, but they kept Aukerman and Brinson. Scott Washle was very impressive in spring, as well as Bayle Wolf, it will be interesting to see how they handle the game action. I expect a huge season from Alex Aukerman, that guy can ball and is the key to Army’s defense.

The secondary is the most skilled part of the Black Knights defense; a combination of experienced young guys in McClinton and Riely and experienced veterans in England and Gibson look to dominate opposing QBs and WRs. Gibby Gibson is a huge name yet but after this season, everyone will know who he is, I expect a big season from him.

Special Teams Outlook

Projected Starters:

  • PR Jordan Asberry
  • KR Jordan Asberry
  • Blake Wilson/Sean McNulty
  • JD Mote/Nick Schrage

If you followed Army at all last year you know the struggles the Black Knights had in the kicking game, it wasn’t pretty, missed extra points and field goals, terrible punts, you name it. It was so bad that in the bowl game head coach Jeff Monken just went for two every time they scored.

Monken realized his problems in the kicking game and recruited some great high school kickers, Sean McNulty being one of them. McNulty has crazy videos of him nailing 60+ yard field goals, assuming he makes it out of BEAST, expect him to challenge and possibly beat out Blake Wilson for the kicking job.

 

How Will Army Do This Season?

The Black Knights have a relatively easy schedule and should make a bowl game just based off of their six home games alone. The Black Knights have three road games that should be wins, so 9-10 wins shouldn’t be out of reach for Army this year.

Last season was the first step to bring Army back to relevance, you can’t become relevant off one good season, a big year with 9-10 wins would do a lot to bring them back.

Some Army fans gave Monken a hard time for his first two seasons at West Point, going a combined 6-18, but most Army fans, as Sixers fans say, “trust the process” and truly back Monken and what he’s trying to do. Jeff Monken is building something special on the Hudson and it’s about time, Army fans haven’t had much to celebrate in the last 20 years.

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