The past two seasons for Brent Davis -- Jeff Monken's offensive coordinator from the Georgia Southern days -- have not been easy.
Army football has sometimes been able to play the kind of offense Monken and Davis expect, but sustained quality has proved to be elusive. Many reasons exist for this up-and-down adventure in Davis's tenure with the Black Knights. The caliber of opponent is one. The simple reality of a coaching transition is another. However, the foremost reason for the stop-and-start nature of Army's offense under Davis has been the steady stream of injuries at the quarterback spot. Ahmad Bradshaw and A.J. Schurr never encountered the ideal set of circumstances in which a quarterback can truly flourish. The ability of an offensive coordinator to develop a strong weekly rapport with his main signal caller is something Davis hasn't been able to enjoy in West Point. This doesn't make him or Monken blameless in their shared attempt to renew Army football, but it does represent an undeniable limitation, a celing on what they could realistically achieve.
Ironically, though, the lack of an always-healthy, always-playing stud under center is precisely what gave Monken the idea that he needed to take a chance with a freshman quarterback late in the 2015 season. Handing the offense to Chris Carter -- giving the first-year player an opportunity to get some game reps and show the coaching staff what he could do -- might have been the most important decision of Monken's Army career.
Against Rutgers and then against Navy, Carter displayed a level of skill which previous West Point quarterbacks have lacked. Carter stretches the field and provides a much more substantial passing presence compared to his immediate predecessors. Army displayed levels of potency and versatility which electrified the fan base and offered the hope of a brighter tomorrow. Carter's offseason would have been colored by optimism regardless of whether he played or not in the final weeks of the 2015 season. The difference between playing and not playing in 2015 is that Carter knows he's good, whereas if he hadn't played, Carter wouldn't be as certain of his future in the present moment. He'd be confident, but he wouldn't yet have owned the certainty that, yes, he could make magical plays on gamedays.
This is why Army has reason to be confident for 2016: The Black Knights' quarterback has already demonstrated what he can do on the field. Opposing defensive coordinators did get a chance to acquire and study film on Carter, but his emergence should enable him to thwart the maneuvers other coaches will send his way. It's a great situation for Brent Davis to face.
We might not have gathered that much insight into Brent Davis over the past two seasons, but in season three, we'll learn a lot. We'll see how well Carter responds at the start of games and halves. We'll see him respond to difficult moments and quarters. We'll see how well Carter balances his running and passing skills. We'll see what kind of judgment Carter uses on the field as he tries to use his skill to great effect, all while trying to be a leader of the offense and a good caretaker of the ball.
Almost everything Chris Carter attempts to be in 2016 will reflect -- one way or another -- how well he is coached by Brent Davis.
An offensive coordinator wants a transformational quarterback to call his own. Davis might have gained that last season with Chris Carter. If Army takes a big step forward this year, Carter will relish the achievement.
Brent Davis will savor the fact that his career will have found an upward trajectory.