Mid-Season Report Card: Offense and Coaching

Army has struggled to a 2-5 record in Jeff Monken's first season as head coach. ArmySports.com's Jim Lawler grades the Black Knight offense and coaching at the halfway point.

Quarterback: C
Angel Santiago is a limited quarterback but he has played the best football of his career this season. Santiago's game will not excite anyone with his athletic ability. He's not a pure playmaker, lacks blazing speed and his arm strength is below average. Still he has established himself as Army's best choice so far this year at quarterback with his solid decision making, his ability to read the defense and manage the game. Santiago has been called on more as a runner in the new double slotback spread option system. Angel leads the team with six rushing touchdowns and has run for 543 yards and a 5.1 yards per carry average. Santiago has improved as a passer completing 26-of- 44 passes (59.1%) for 342 yards with a touchdown and interception. His weakness as a passer is when he is forced to throw deep. Angel is fairly accurate but his ball hangs when he throws downfield. Santiago's strength has been his ability to run the offense while avoiding a lot of turnovers. He has no turnovers in three of the seven games. The new offense asks a lot more in the running game from the quarterback which doesn't play to Angel's strengths since he is not a dynamic runner. Santiago is tough, accountable; understands the scheme but his limitations are obvious. Still this grade is based on his play and the offense averaging 26 points per game and the team rushing for 319 yards is an average grade.

Backup quarterback A.J. Schurr has showed burst of promise but is inconsistent, has trouble staying healthy and has made poor decisions running the option. Schurr has started one game and appeared at quarterback in five games. He has run the ball well. He's carried the ball 30 times for 226 yards, a 7.5 average with three scores. Schurr still has some of the same issues he had since running the option at the prep school. He tends to force the pitch to covered slotbacks and will make poor decisions when pressured. Schurr has completed 10-of-23 passes (43.5%) for 195 yards with a touchdown pass and interception. AJ's ball security issues hold him back and he seems to have a lot of trouble handling a slick ball in bad weather. This year he was benched when the ball hit the ground twice in the first half against Ball State. Schurr had the same struggles against Navy last year and at USMAPS on a snow covered field at Columbia against their JV when he was benched and replaced by Kelvin White after two turnovers. The Monken staff has tried to hand him the keys to the offense because he's more physically talented than Angel but he hasn't responded with reliable play. He's been knocked out of two games this year despite his limited playing time. Right now he is better as a back- up option than a starter.

Fullbacks: A
Senior "B" back Larry Dixon is the team captain and leader and has been a workhorse. Dixon has run 119 times for 683 yards, averaged 5.7 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns. He is the perfect fullback for offensive coordinator Brent Davis's spread option with its focus on the fullback dive. He's on pace for a career year. Dixon set a single game rushing high against Buffalo in the opener with 174 yards then broke it with 188 rushing yards against Ball State in both of the Black Knights victories. Dixon received first team Midseason All Independent honors by Phil Steele.

Junior Matt Giachinta ran with a lot more authority and confidence this spring but it hasn't translated to the field this fall. Giachinta has carried the ball 28 time for 58 yards, a paltry 2.1 average with a touchdown. Giachinta is a strong player but seems to lack run skills and the ability to break tackles. His longest run this year is just seven yards. He's used mostly on short yardage lately. Matt looked like a different player last spring but that may have been the result of him squaring up against the mediocre Army defense. Aaron Kemper was moved back to fullback after playing running back last fall. The short bowling bowl sized Kemper (108 yards, 7.7 avg., TD) is a lot better fit at fullback where he played since high school. Kemper is a very short, stocky muscular runner who is solid as a rock. He was the 2012 USMAPS MVP as a fullback. Kemper has quick feet and due to his lack of height, just 5-6, can often get lost behind Army's offensive line making it hard for opposing defenses to see him at times. Kemper lacks breakaway speed which was seen against Yale when he was run down from behind on a season long 74-yard scamper. He may be a more effective runner than Giachinta and could take some carries away from him as the season progresses.

Slotbacks: C+
The Black Knights offense changed this year from a wishbone backfield to a spread option double slot slotback scheme. New offensive coordinator Brent Davis runs the George Southern/Navy spread option which utilizes the slotbacks a lot less than Army fans had grew accustomed to seeing. In the Ian Shields offense both Terry Baggett and Maples were fed the ball usually inside off quick counters and misdirection. It was very effective and Army twice ran for a school record of over 4,000 rushing yards in 2011 and 2012. The Black Knights slotbacks carried the ball on 42 percent of the running plays last year and only 25 percent of the time this year. The days of Terry Baggett running for over 304 yards against Eastern Michigan or Raymond Maples pounding Boston College 34 times for 184 rushing yards in an upset win are over.

Senior Terry Baggett has done the best job transitioning to slotback. He's run for 276 yards, a 7.7 average and a touchdown. Baggett is a talented slashing, cutback runner with good vision who is often able to make the first man miss. He is a strong runner who can break arm tackles. Terry isn't super-fast but can burst into the open field. He has a second gear to take it the distance like he did on a 41-yard touchdown run against Buffalo. Baggett has excellent hands and has lost only one fumble in his last 175 carries over the past two years. Tony Giovannelli has been the starting T-slot back and does a solid job running, catching and blocking. He is more of quick than really fast runner but he can turn the corner. He has run for 126 yards, a 7.3 average and two touchdowns. Tony is tied for the team lead with seven receptions for 104 receiving yards. He will make the tough catch in traffic.

Raymond Maples has battled to get back on the field after missing most of last season, spring ball and then summer practice. Brent Davis has grouped him behind Baggett as the A-slotback which has limited the time Army's two best running back play together. Maples has carried 28 times for 142 yards, a 5.1 average and two scores. He has six receptions for 98 yards. Maples missed the Rice game with an injury. The injury has seemed to limit his burst. Maples had only two carries over ten yards this season. In 2012 he had runs over eleven yards or better in 11-of-12 games. Senior Trenton Turrentine (26 yards, 8.7 avg.) has appeared in six games. Trenton only carried the ball against Wake Forest. He blocks well but lacks a second gear in the open field and isn't a favorite of the current staff. Back-up T-slot back Joe Walker looks like he finally getting over the varsity jitters against Kent State. Walker has carried the six times for five yards as a result of his costly lost fumble against Wake Forest when he dropped a pitch and lost the fumble with a clear alley in front of him to the end zone. Joe lost fumbles on two of his first three carries. It was out of character for the player who was a team captain at USMAPS. Walker is a solid runner who offers decent quickness and can catch the ball. He had a 27-yard reception against Yale.

Wide Receivers: C
The focus for Army's wide receivers playing in a triple option offense is blocking on the perimeter. They've done a solid job. Edgar Poe leads the team with seven receptions for 168 yards, 24.0 average and a touchdown. Poe has caught passes for five games. Poe is a 6-4, 222 pound wide receiver from Vail, Arizona. Poe impressed me when I first saw him at USMAPS in 2012 as a physical blocker with the ability to get open. Poe is a big target with deceptive speed and a long stride. He can adjust to the ball and will make the tough catch in traffic.

Sophomore wide receiver Xavier Moss leads the team with two touchdown receptions. Moss has six receptions for 52 receiving yards and a 8.7 average. Moss trails his plebe numbers when he led the team in 2013 with 35 receptions for 463 yards and a touchdown. Moss has good speed and can run past an unsuspecting cornerback cheating against the option. He's had too many drops but has done a nice job blocking on the perimeter and plays a lot bigger than his listed size.

Junior Kelvin White moved from quarterback, to wide receiver and finally to tight end in the new offense. White has caught five passes for 29 yards. White made a great catch in traffic for a successful two point conversion against Yale. White has struggled with his blocking assignments both in space and failing to make his blocks in line. It’s understandable since he never played the position. He's worked hard in the weight room and added 25 pounds to play tight end. White can get open and has ability to catch the ball. He has a long stride and decent straight line speed.

Plebe John Trainor has the only catch, for eight yards, among the backup receivers. Trainor played in four games and started one before spraining his ankle against Yale. He has good quickness and is faster than one would think. Senior Chevaughn Lawrence lost his job as X-receiver to Poe and has seen only a few balls thrown in his direction. Lawrence entered the season with 32 career catches but new staff moved the more talented and better blocking Poe ahead of him. Senior Deandre Bell (6-1, 219) was recruited as a quarterback but converted to wide receiver in 2011 at the prep school. He has below average speed with good hands. He has played in five games but missed the Kent State game with an injury. Senior Justin Newman (6-3, 208) is a big target who has struggled staying on the field due to injuries. He's played in the last two games and may see more time.

Offensive Line: C+
The Black Knights offensive line has suffered attrition, injuries and their performance has declined as the season has progressed. Junior Mike Hugenberg (6-5, 309) has been the only constant at center. He's been the most consistent of the linemen even though he was outplayed against Stanford and Rice. Some of his snaps out of the shotgun have been erratic at times. Hugenberg is probably one of the slowest lineman but he has surprisingly good feet and can move and slide. Matt had his best game in the victory over Ball State with 17 knockdown blocks. He was named first team Mid-season All Independent by Phil Steele.

Junior left guard Stephen Shumaker started the season with a nagging hamstring injury and has played through some pain. He's played in all seven games but the injury did impede his trademark explosiveness off the ball at times. Shumaker, has a short, fire hydrant type build, but is strong and tenacious. Shumaker is a good technician who is aggressive off the ball. He also earned first team Mid-season All Independent honors from Phil Steele.

The rest of the offensive line has been a bit of musical chairs. The season opened with sophomore Stefan Moreau as the new starter at right guard. He fell out of favor and lost his job and was moved to back up left guard after a poor game against Wake Forest. He was replaced by plebe Jaryn Villegas who started

against Yale. Sophomore Colby Enegren.(6-2, 279) was the starter the last two games but a number of players have been substituted in and out. He is a strong player who likes to maul and get after opponents. The offensive line misses right tackle Justin Gilbert who was injured this summer and will miss the entire season. Senior Todd McDonald moved over from backup center to right tackle to replace Gilbert. The former USMAPS walk on isn't very big and he has been beat up a bit as the season has progressed. McDonald gives it all he has but will probably really benefit from the bye week. Plebe right tackle Mike Houghton (6-4, 257) has worked himself into the rotation the last four games after sitting out the first three. I felt he was the best player last year on the United States Military Academy Prep School offensive line as I discussed in the R-day report. Houghton impressed me with his athleticism, strength, leg drive and ability to come off the ball to get to the second level but he is still raw.

Corey Hobbs has started at left tackle the last four games after not playing in the first three games. Junior Corey Hobbs (6-0, 240) won the starting job after Drew Hennessey struggled. Hobbs had been a center in the 2011 at prep played on the JV team the last two years. He was considered initially as a blocking tight end this spring. Hobbs is technically proficient but not the biggest or strongest of players. Drew Hennessy (6-7, 283) open the season as starting left tackle but ineffectiveness and injuries cost him his job. Hennessy has been a late bloomer. In 2011 he was just a backup offensive tackle at the prep school. Drew is a big effort player but his lack of athleticism and some nagging injuries have limited him. With his height at times he's lost leverage and lacks great feet to block consistently on the move. He played well at the start of the year but injuries may have taken a toll. This group was on its way to a "B" grade but the poor performance of the last two weeks and being out played at Yale drops this grade to a "C+". They are averaging 319 rushing yard per game despite some flaws.

Coaching: D
The record (2-5) has been a disappointment for those who hoped for a turnaround season. Give Jeff Monken credit for his attention to detail, intensity and focus. Monken said in his inaugural press conference that “ I'm anxious to get to work and get Army football back to national prominence where we belong.” The off-season conditioning program was night and day improvement over the previous regime. The season started with promise but the Black Knights have struggled on defense, special teams and been inconsistent on offense. They have failed to make the big play time and again. Monken's team exhibits many of the same flaws as Rich Ellerson's with the additional issue of committing both untimely and an excessive amount of penalties early in the year. I had issues with some of Monken's tactical decisions against Wake Forest, Yale and Kent State that probably cost at least one victory. They didn't inherit a team with a lot of talent but I believe Army should have at least one more victory if it wasn't for some game coaching decisions.

Offensive coordinator Brent Davis did a nice job early in the season but his offense has struggled the last two games as the offensive line which lacks depth has been beat up a bit. Davis has done a nice job maximizing Santiago's passing accuracy by having him throw shorter dig, drag and wheel routes. The problem with the Georgia Southern/Navy spread option attack that Davis employs is that it has the fullback/quarterback run the ball 75 percent of the time. It's left his best talent, the Army slotbacks of Baggett, Maples and Giovannelli- who used to carry the ball 42 percent of the time in the old scheme- underutilized.

Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman's bend but don't break defense has been breaking more than bending. It played three good first half’s of football at the start of the season but the floodgates opened in three of the last four games. Army is allowing more points than last season, 35.9 per game, despite the fact they played three teams that were averaging less than twenty points per game. The Black Knights lack athleticism and speed on defense except for a few positions. The Black Knights defense is allowing 5.2 rushing yards per carry, a 67.6 percent completion percentage and 19 passing touchdowns with the defense recording only six sacks. The defense's only saving grace has been that it's forced ten turnovers but other than that they have a hard time getting off the field.

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