One of the main – and unheralded – reasons why Army was able to put together an 11-2 season in 2018 was the high level at which the offensive line played all year long. The offensive line that Army runs with is different from that of most colleges. This is not a school that looks for bulk in its linemen, and especially the interior linemen, with Jeff Moken and his offensive staff looking for a very different type of blocker upfront.
What Army prioritizes on the offensive line is speed, toughness, and decision making. Army is always going to be smaller than the FBS opponents that it plays. The military regulations and the ability of the players to pass their military fitness tests require this. That is why Monken has established an offense that rarely sees the linemen blocking one on one at the point of attack.
Army likes to get the ball outside with the quarterback. To do that you need offensive linemen that can move at a speed quick enough to lead the ball carrier around the corner. That lineman has to reach the point of attack and then, in a split-second – decide which of the threats to the ball carrier he has to pick off in order to spring a big gain. Look for the Army O-line to again be cut blocking, chipping, and generally annoying defensive linemen with their dedication to task and their highly refined blocking technique throughout the 2019 campaign.
In throwing systems the left tackle – the player protecting the blindside of the quarterback – is the most important cog in the machine. That is why those players get paid the most at the NFL level. For Army, the manta is “5 to 1”, a phrase showing that all five positions on the line are equal in terms of worth and that the cohesiveness needs to be there on every play for Army to succeed.
The main issue for the Army offensive line this season will be replacing center Bryce Holland. Holland started at the position for over three seasons, calling line checks and blocking schemes for his unit mates to follow. The center’s job is a tough one – they are often the smallest lineman on the field and they match up against monster nose tackles who can outweigh them by 60 or 70 pounds – but the system of the Army O-line should lessen the impact of his departure. Look for Jack Sides, a backup guard last season, to be one of the players to have a big chance of filling this void.
The line will be led by the guard pairing of Jaxson Deaton and Peyton Reeder. Deaton and Reeder are 310 and 290 pounds respectively, giving great bulk to a line that needs their power for fullback dive plays to work. The interior duo, along with tackle JB Hunter and utility player Mike Johnson, gives Army a quartet of experienced linemen to build around who have seen and done it all at the college level. This means that there is no reason to expect any drop off in the play of the O-line and that Army’s ability to move the chains and convert on fourth down shouldn’t be down too much from a year ago.