Last year the Black Knights won 10-games, the Commander in Chief’s Trophy for the first time in 21 years and beat San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl. It was clearly their best season since 1996 and a couple of tough losses to Tulane and North Texas prevented it from being their best season in 50 years.
Junior Kelvin Hopkins is atop the depth chart at quarterback to replace Ahmad Bradshaw. Irvine’s Senior Luke Langdon is second and we should see him quite a bit this season. There were rumors of Bradshaw red-shirting, as he is eligible, but he did not play in the Spring. Darnell Woolfolk, Andy Davidson and Connor Slomka return as fullbacks. Kell Walker and Jordan Asberry return as Running Backs.
The offensive line returns Bryce Holland and Jaxson Deaton, both of whom are greater than 300 pounds. It will be paramount to their success to bring on new starters that can reliably dominate the defensive lines. The Black Knights have four underclassman 285 pounds or greater; with a good summer of weights and triple portions in the mess hall, we may get the line that we need.
Army’s defense held opponents to just 22 points a game last fall and should be solid once again. Although for Army, defensive stats are more about the offensive line. The defensive line is a little undersized and young, but they may have enough beef in Seniors Raymond Wright, Cordarrell Davis and Emmanuel Ukhueligbe to stand up the larger teams. Jr. Cole Christiansen and Sr. James Nachtigal return to lead a very athletic team of linebackers.
The greatest loss on defense was Rhyan England who was the leader, calling defenses and filling in holes. When he was injured against Ohio State last year, the defense gave up many more big plays. Can Seniors Max Regan, Mike Reynolds and Jalen Sharp step up this fall?
2018 offers a very interesting schedule. Army plays three teams that played in bowl games, along with matchups against Liberty, Hawaii, San Jose State, and a pair of FCS teams (Lafayette and Colgate). Army will most likely be favored in 9 of the 12 games this season. Army will most likely be underdogs to Duke, Oklahoma and Navy. The trick for Army is to get bigger, faster and deep enough, so that they can beat the teams that they are supposed to beat, even with injuries and mid-terms.
Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Miami Ohio and Air Force would be games that they should win but they have to show up motivated and play well. Games against Liberty, Hawaii, San Jose, Lafayette and Colgate should ensure a number one ranked rushing attack as well as providing a little padding between the tougher games. You never want to over emphasize an opening game, but a win against Duke would be an incredible start, as that would make a 10 or 11 win season conceivable.
I will predict a 10-2 regular season, but Army does not have a bowl tie-in this year, so Army will most likely fill for a conference that did not have enough eligible teams in a pre-Christmas bowl game or the Frisco Bowl (December 19) in Frisco, TX. If Army runs the table and does not get embarrassed by Oklahoma, an 11-1 team could find themselves at the Fiesta Bowl – no I am not high.