Army leads the nation in fumbles and the quarterbacks have combined for 13 of those fumbles. Senior quarterback A.J. Schurr has started three games and appeared in six under center. He has run for 384 yards, a 3.9 average and seven scores. Schurr has been a disappointment in his Army career. He plays hard but lacks durability, makes mental mistakes and is not talented enough to make plays in the crunch. As a passer he has completed 11-of-29 passes (37.9%) with three touchdowns and four interceptions. He is inconsistent, makes some poor decisions running the option and his ball security issues hold the team back. He has a lot of trouble handling the ball in bad weather.
Sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw won the job this summer and started the year playing well. Bradshaw had 272 of his 354 rushing yards and three of his four touchdown runs in the first two games. Bradshaw ran for 61 yards and a touchdown against Wake Forest but the blocking of the offensive line wasn't there as the Demon Deacons outplayed the Black Knights up front. After that game the wheels came off on Bradshaw's season. He struggled and was hurt in the win over Eastern Michigan then missed two of the next four games. Ahmad came off the bench against Duke and was knocked out of the game on the first drive by Bucknell. Bradshaw has completed 15-of-30 (50%) for 263 passing yards with three touchdowns against two picks. He threw the ball well in four of his six games. Bradshaw is a good athlete, a physically strong runner with good quickness but lacks blazing speed. Ahmad has improved his ball handling since I first saw him at USMAPS in 2013 while retaining the ability run through arm tackles at the FBS level. He has pretty good arm strength for an option quarterback but needs to improve his accuracy throwing the ball. He has the ability to be a quality starter if he can stay healthy. Former quarterback Kelvin White has been used late in the fourth quarter against Fordham and Rice because of his arm strength. White has completed 1-of-4 passes (25%) for 26 yards.
While Army misses Larry Dixon year at fullback the play of the B-backs have been solid. Army's fullbacks have run for 806 rushing yards, a 5.5 average per carry and five touchdowns. Junior B-back Aaron Kemper (384 yards, 6.9 avg., 2 TDs ) has missed one game and had two huge games against Eastern Michigan and Rice. Kemper is a very short, stocky runner who, due to his diminutive stature, can get lost behind Army's offensive line making it hard for opposing defenses to see him. Aaron is a good cut back runner with solid speed and he has two runs over 56-yards. He has looked faster this year. Senior Matt Giachinta has run 52 times for 253 yards, a 4.9 average and a touchdown. Giachinta lacks runs skills and speed with his longest run being on a special team fake punt against Eastern Michigan. Still he has played a lot better this year and has moved the pile and picked up some tough yards. Giachinta has only one negative carry all season.
Direct admit plebe Drue Harris (169 yards, 4.4 avg., 2 TDs) has obvious talent and the potential to develop into an impact player. Monken's staff landed Drue Harris, a talented 6-foot, 220 pound direct admit fullback, after his Colorado State offer was pulled at the last minute by new head coach Mike Bobo who took over for Jim McElwain who departed to become the coach at Florida. He is a legit Division I athlete with good speed, power and quickness. Freshman fullback Darnell Woolfolk has caught one pass for 18-yards. Woolfolk was the starting fullback at USMAPS last year and is a big power back who should assume a larger role next year.
The Black Knights spread option attack has had solid if not spectacular production from its slotbacks. The best all round player has clearly been sophomore John Trainor. He leads all slotbacks with 236 rushing yards, a 9.4 average per carry and two touchdowns. Trainor has caught four balls and averaged 18.0 yards per catch. Trainor is a good athlete, smooth, athletic with excellent hands. He reminds me a lot of Navy's ex-slotback John Howell. John is a good blocker and his hard work in the weight room has paid off as he is bigger and has been more durable. Junior Joe Walker was the only returning slotback who was in the rotation last year. Walker has started the first six games before coming off the bench last week. He's carried the ball 23 times for 190 yards, a 8.3 average and has a 63-yard touchdown run. Joe has made three receptions for 85 yards and two scores including a 72-yard touchdown catch against UConn. Walker has made two big plays but he is a more of a solid slotback with good speed and hands who can block. The staff gave direct admit freshman Jordan Asberry the starting job against Rice. Asberry (178 yds., 8.9 avg.) has improved as the season has progressed and he understands the system better. He has good speed and has run a personal best of 10.93 in the 100-meters dash. Jordan's showed the ability to make defenders miss when made a nice move and cut on a 31-yard run during the final drive to close out the Bucknell victory. His blocking needs to get better.
Nick Black has carried the ball five times for 3.8 average. Black isn't that fast but has the ability to string moves together and he will block. He had a real rough game as punt returner against Bucknell but should improve with experience. Freshman slotback Christian Drake 31 yds., 6.2 avg., TD) has legit 4.4 speed but two fumbles and an injury caused him to be dropped from the rotation. He has the ability to develop into a big play threat at slotback with more experience. Tyler Campbell is another direct admit plebe who missed some time with a injury. Campbell offer good hands and solid speed but he is still raw and needs to improve his blocking. This is a solid group of slotbacks who all are underclassmen and should only get better with reps and experience.
WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT END: 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 there. Edgar Poe leads the team with six receptions for 169 yards, 28.2 average and three touchdown. Poe is the typical 6-4”, 222 pound option wide receiver. Poe is a big target with deceptive speed and a long stride. His 68-yard leaping game winning touchdown reception was one of the year’s highlights. Senior DeAndre Bell has been a pleasant surprise this year. Bell hadn't been a productive pass receiver at USMAPS on the JV team or for the varsity team. He has one career catch during his limited varsity career entering this season. Bell, while he is not the second coming of Jerry Rice, has five receptions for 121 yards, a 24.2 average and a score. Bell has below average speed but is tough and overpowered a Rice cornerback to score his touchdown. Tight end Kelvin White (3 rec., 48 yds., 16.0 avg.) has blocked well but is as a receiver has dropped a few catchable balls. Xavier Moss was used at wide receiver in the opener late against Fordham and caught a 26-yard pass in the final minutes but has been strictly on defense since.
OFFENSIVE LINE: D
The Black Knights offensive line for the second straight year suffered injuries and their performance has suffered. Army is currently ranked seventh in the nation in rushing averaging 274 yards per game. However, they ran for less than 186 yards in three games and if you back out the huge 556 monster effort against Eastern Michigan then the Black Knights have averaged just over 233 rushing yards per game. It’s easy to see why an option team like Army is 2-6 at this point. The offensive line has battled injuries with senior Mike Hugenberg (6-5”, 309) the only constant at center. Hugenberg is probably one of the slowest lineman but he has surprisingly good feet and can move and slide. Matt had his best game when he dominated in the victory over Eastern Michigan as Army posted the third best rushing performance in school history. Army’s best lineman Justin Gilbert has struggled to stay on the field after missing last year. Gilbert has started at both guard spots and after missing three games returned to the line-up against Rice. Justin has good feet, balance, agility, long arms and is very athletic for his size. Army is a lot better when he's in the lineup. Ryan Alexander started at left tackle the first two games and moved to right tackle for the rest. He is physical and has improved a lot from last year when he was switched from defensive line.
With injuries to guard Jaryn Villegas and tackles Brett Toth and Drew Hennessy causing them to miss most or all of the season the depth of the offensive line has been stretched forcing two plebes into the starting lineup. Big Victor Nieves has impressed me with how hard he's worked to improve since USMAPS. He has lost a ton of weight getting down to 318 pounds and moved from being a development prospect to a starter as a plebe. He has started five games and while still very raw he is a natural wide-body with movement skills. Another freshman Rick Kurz has started the last six games at left tackle. He attended the United States Military Prep School last year but was injured in preseason camp and missed the entire season. He is still learning the system but is comes off the ball well with power and looks to finish his blocks. Rick has struggled in pass protection but he has a nice upside. Sophomore Mike Houghton (6-4", 284) has started five games including the last four at right guard. Houghton is athletic, has good leg drive and ability to come off the ball to get to the second level. Houghton is a big effort player but he needs to become more consistent. The only good news with the injuries is that all these game reps by underclassmen should pay dividends in the coming years as they improve and gain more experience.
The record (2-6) has been a disappointment but not unexpected considering how young and inexperienced is this team. Give Jeff Monken credit for his attention to detail, intensity, focus and his efforts on the recruiting trail which has impacted the depth chart with so many freshmen. Still, that youth and inexperience is a curse as Army's offense leads the nation in fumbles. Monken's team still exhibits many of the same flaws as Rich Ellerson's with the additional issue of committing more penalties. Still Army has been competitive in every game except against Duke. They have lost five games by just a combined 23 points.
Offensive coordinator Brent Davis group is averaging 24.1 per game but just 19 points per game in the six losses. Army has been held to 17 points or less in half their games which explains their record. The offensive line struggles due to injuries has hurt the offense's production. Hopefully the improved rushing performance in the last game against Rice is a harbinger of good things to come. The offensive line gets back Justin Gilbert and has finally had some stability the last few games.
Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman's bend but don't break defense has been a lot better than expected. They are allowing 28.5 points per game but kept the team in games against Penn State, UConn and Wake Forest when the offense struggled. The defensive line and linebacker have improved against the run and have allowed just eight passing touchdowns in eight games which is a big improvement considering the preseason loss of his best cornerback Josh Jenkins to injury. The overall lack of team speed on defense that handcuffs Bateman can only be overcome on the recruiting trail.