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A look at Army football in year two under Jeff Monken

The optimism present at the start of the Jeff Monken coaching era has worn off for some fans after a very disappointing yet incomplete 2-9 season. However, there are some very good reasons not go give up on Monken and his staff.

On the Armysports.com Alley board one poster even compared Stan Brock's two year coaching record of 6-18 with Jeff Monken is 6-17 record and asked why aren't fans calling for Monken's job? Thankfully, Army's athletic director Bo Corrigan and most fans have a little more patience. Monken is in year two of a rebuilding job while Stan Brock was at the end of the five year run for the Bobby Ross staff.  In 2008 Army went 3-9 despite a solid defense. They scored only 177 points all year and in six of 12 games scored ten or fewer points despite having a future NFL fullback, Colin Mooney, in the backfield. The 34-0 beat down against Navy in Brock's last game was an example of how the Ross era had failed. Navy clearly was the better coached, prepared and far more athletic team.

Brock's replacement Rich Ellerson's staff did a pretty solid job coaching the team and winning a bowl game in his five years while setting many rushing records. After three straight losing seasons it was clear that Ellerson and his staff wasn’t getting it done on the recruiting front. A change was needed. Ellerson hadn't had an good recruiting class since 2011 R-day at West Point featuring the 2010 USMAPS class. After that season Ellerson’s last three football classes suffered attrition and at some positions, like the defensive line, just lacked talent. This year’s senior cupboard left by Ellerson was rather bare for Monken.  The senior class had its best players on offensive line and just one quality skill position player in cornerback Chris Carnegie due to all the attrition. It explains why Monken's huge freshman class had at least 16 players appear on the depth chart and see varsity time.

While some fans are channeling Bill Parcells' motto that Army is "what its record says it is" the young players on the field I see offer hope for the future.  Army has lost six of its nine games by less than a touchdown. Working for both Armysports.com and GoMids.com covering recruiting, I do have a chance to write reports on both academy plebe classes and do watch games at the prep school. Jeff Monken has done a real nice job in bringing in some players who can play. Retention of the best players, a huge issue under Ellerson, has also greatly improved. Upgrading the talent is the only way Army can win.

Army has more speed and athleticism at quarterback with Chris Carter and one of the quality skill position holdovers from Ellerson's last prep class in Ahmad Bradshaw to compete this spring. At B-back both Aaron Kemper and Drue Harris should be back. Power B-back Matt Giachinta should be replaced by plebe Darnell Woolfolk who has a similar running style but is bigger and quicker. At slotback everyone is expected to return. At wide receiver there are a number of size and or speed candidates to replace the graduating DeAndre Bell. At tight end, with Kelvin White graduating, Quinten Parker is a converted USMAPS lineman who can block and big Eliezer Hernandez is a six- foot, 3 -inch 245 pound legit Division I player with size and hands. The offensive line will need to replace two seniors but former Scout.com three star recruit Bryce Holland, who started as a plebe but missed this season due to shoulder surgery, will return to help at either guard or center.

Army wasn't the exactly the old Steel Curtain on defense this season but played better than expected. This group returns ten starters and should see more competition on the defensive line linebacker and the secondary with the recruiting depth that Monken has assembled. There is a nice collection of size and athleticism. Players like nose tackle Cordarrell Davis and Sheldon Johnson Jr. played well at USMAPS last year and direct admit nose guard  Raymond Wright saw some time this year. At linebacker three star direct admits Kenneth Brinson and Gibby Gibson have assumed starting roles late in the season. Other USMAPS veterans including Calen Holt, Cole Macek, James Nachtigal along with another direct admit who has starred on special teams, Andy Davidson, all provide competition and quality depth. The secondary returns all the starters except Carnegie and may get its best player Josh Jenkins, a First Team FBS All-Independent team in 2014, back at cornerback.

With so few seniors and so many freshmen and first year starters, the truth is Army had little hope for a winning record this season. The good news is behind the scenes Monken is making all the right moves to upgrade the talent level and reduce attrition. His Navy coaching experience has been very beneficial on this front. While Navy's recruiting classes are still superior it was nice to see USMAPS beat NAPS head to head for the first time since 2011. A number of those players who we will discuss on our R-day report could get into the two-deep depth chart mix as well. It was a rough season for Army football fans but Jeff Monken is building a solid foundation for the program. I think it’s a reasonable expectation that Army can be a 6-7 win team next year and return to respectability. In my mind anything less than that would be a disappointment.     

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