When we look at the Army defense unit by unit, it is the secondary that stands out as being an area of strength for the Black Knights.
The philosophy of this defense requires a secondary that is aggressive. The Black Knights want to bend but not break, meaning that the defense will allow yards, especially on the ground, but they will then work hard when a mistake is made that finds a team behind the chains.
Creating third-and-long is the very basis of this system. That means that the Army secondary cannot allow chunk plays that move the opponent down the field quickly. Those plays will hurt Army at times, but those times have to be few and far between if Army wants to be as successful in 2019 as the school was in 2019.
In cornerback Elijah Riley the Black Knights have a player made for this system. Last season he was one of only seven defenders in the entire FBS to pick up at least 7.5 tackles for a loss and knock away at least 10 passes to prevent completions. Riley’s strength is his play recognition, with the corner able to either pinch in on the run or drop back for the pass as if he were in the opponent’s huddle. This is the sort of risk/reward defender that is needed for a defense like this to work as Riley is able to put an offense into a chasing position from his spot in the secondary.
The safety play should also be as impressive as it was last year with seniors Jaylon McClinton and Cameron Jones locking up the back halves of the field. It is a unit that hasn’t seen a lot of turnover, a vital fact because a secondary is only effective if the players and pieces on the field are able to mesh together and put a blanket over the opposition receivers. Even so, look to see some of the talent that Army has recruited in the secondary over the last couple of seasons make their mark here. There are positions in this unit – most notably at the second cornerback spot – that are filled adequately right now, but that could easily be improved upon by a breakout player as the season moves into its second and third months.
This is a defense that was in the top 10 nationally in a host of categories last season. Key metrics like a total defense of 295.5 yards per game (eighth), points per game allowed 17.7 (10th) and forced fumbles with 13 (fifth) will be goals for the team to improve on this fall. The secondary will be a huge part of that as the experienced Army last line of defense looks to make its mark in 2019.