When Army opens the season on August 30 against Rice there are big time expectations. The Black Knights are finding the media attention around the team to be at a higher level than anything in recent memory, with the school regularly being featured in, or close to, the Top 25 in the major preseason previews.
There is even talk of Army possibly crashing the CFP party, looking to go one better than when Navy almost managed that feat a few years ago.
While quarterback might not be quite as glamorous a position in this Army triple-option system as it is at other schools, the quarterback is arguably more important here. A good triple-option quarterback can turn a game around with his decision making, while a bad one can give a game away by making costly mistakes. This is how Army looks at the quarterback position heading into 2019. (continued below)
It is all about Kelvin Hopkins Jr. at the quarterback position.
Hopkins is the single most important player on the Army roster. If the Black Knights want to spend 2019 in the same form as the squad that took Oklahoma to overtime and put 70 points on Houston last season, then Hopkins has to fire all year long.
He is the player that took a good team last year and turned Army into an 11 win team. He is simply that important for everything the Black Knights want to do.
Hopkins has two huge assets to bring to this Army team. The first is his ability to pass the ball, something that has long been a problem for Army quarterbacks. While no one would call the passing game a consistent threat, Hopkins completed 55 percent of his throws in 2018, 22 percent more than Ahmad Bradshaw was able to produce the year before. Those passes bailed Army out of some situations and created scores in others.
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Hopkins also has an innate ability not to lose yards in the run game. Army was stopped behind the line on just 11-percent of non-sack carries, the best rate in the entire FBS. This meant that it never felt like Army was moving backwards and the down and distance game never became a factor. This ability to make yards also contributed to the Black Knights insane 91-percent conversion rate on fourth-and-1. The general rule is that 70-percent of those tries will be converted, so for army to succeed on 21 or 23 attempts is almost unbelievable.
Those traits allowed Hopkins to become the first player in Army history to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards each in a single season. Hopkins also rushed for a career-high 170 yards in the Armed Forces Bowl against Houston, perhaps previewing what is to come this fall.
Hopkins is immensely versatile and has proven to be durable, but there is a worry behind him. The backups are junior Christian Anderson and sophomores Jabari Lewis and Tyhier Tyler. Not one of these players saw a single down of action last season, so if Hopkins were to go down then there is a giant unknown as to how things would play out.