Army should be better in 2016. The Black Knights lost an astonishing eight games by less than one score, a stat that almost seems implausible. On Wednesday we will take the positive side of this issue and look at five reasons why Army will be better in 2016. Today though it is time to go at things from a more depressing angle and examine five reasons why Army may struggle just as badly in 2016 as they did last fall.
The young players have learned little
One of the reasons Army struggled so mightily in 2015 was because of all the youth on the field. Army was young, the team graduated just a half dozen or so senior starters, so plenty of underclassmen saw playing time as the season went on. The problem is that although these players saw plenty of time on the field, it was mainly time where the Black Knights were losing and making mistakes. If these players have not learned from their 2015 season then there is no reason to think 2016 would be any different.
The Black Knights cannot find a quarterback
Jeff Monken played three different quarterbacks in 2015, never really settling on THE guy due to a combination of injury and less than ideal play. A.J. Schurr has graduated and is now out of the picture, so the likely battle for the signal caller spot will be between junior Ahmad Bradshaw and sophomore Chris Carter. This year Monken needs to pick his guy and stick with him unless the standard of play just falls apart. Carter seemed to be the lean at the tail end of the 2016 season and his ability to pass the ball did give Army an added dimension. His game will have to have grown in this offseason though to make the Black Knights a threat.
The luck doesn’t change
Army could not get out of its own way in 2015. Of those eight losses by seven points or less, at least half involved the Black Knights falling in games they should have won. There were ridiculous fumbles, bad calls and a pair of game winning field goals that made the Army record look worse than the level of play. Most would say that the luck has to even out, but if it doesn’t, and by that point we would have to assume Monken had walked under a whole bunch of ladders, then Army will struggle again.
The Black Knights still can’t close out close games
While some of the Black Knights bad record can be attributed to good, old fashioned luck, there is another school of thought that says the team just doesn’t know how to win in close games. This again is the mark of a young team that was never quite able to figure out how to run the four minute offense effectively or come up with a defensive stop at a key time. If youth was to blame then this should be fixed in the fall. If it more of an endemic problem within the culture of the program then be ready for more annoyingly close losses in 2016.
While most of the Black Knights depth chart returns reasonable unscathed, the special teams are decimated by graduation. Army loses a four year place kicker in Daniel Grochowski, along with its punter, long snapper and even its holder. Special teams units are all about cohesion and cohesiveness, generally with limited practice time, so it will be important for Army to quickly identify its new specialists or the units could be in for hard times this fall.