One of the better college football preseason previews in the digital age comes from the guys at SB Nation. Their previews take an in-depth look at the roster comings and goings, projected performance and those unseen factors that will be a key to the Black Knights 2016 season.
The first thing the article does is point out that Army was nowhere near as bad last year as the record indicated. The writer (Bill Connelly) even goes as far as suggesting that with just one extra break per game last year the Black Knights would have started the season at 5-0 and been just one win away from Bowl eligibility before the weather turned. This seems like a little bit of a reach until you look at the list of facts provided from those five games in question and you start to wonder exactly how Army was unable to find a way to win at least four (if not all five) of those contests.
The narrative then gets interesting, and exciting, for Army fans. The number of returners with starting experience listed has to be one of the highest in the country. This was a young team last year that rarely fell apart in games. Army was never beaten down in 2015 like it was so often the years prior, instead, as Connelly points out, this was a team that would “lose by 1,000 cuts”. Trying to fix a team that gives up big plays is difficult; fixing a team that loses in the little ways is much more manageable.
Anyone previewing Army this summer is going to start in the same place. That would be the need for the Black Knights to find a quarterback they are comfortable with and that can run the kind of offense Jeff Monken wants with accuracy and efficiency. Perhaps the most encouraging line of the whole preview for Army fans is that (regardless of who starts and who is the backup) “the QB position’s ceiling is awfully high”. For a fan base that has watched Keenan Reynolds of Navy set a new standard for a modern day Service Academy quarterback, this is an encouraging development.
The Army defense may have been bad last year, but Connelly sees light at the end of the tunnel. The defense returns 10 starters (if you include returning cornerback Josh Jenkins) from a D that was good at the front end and bad at the back end last fall. Connelly proposes that if Jenkins can return at anything like full strength then the secondary jumps from awful to actually pretty good.
Overall this SB Nation preview is a must read for any fan of the Black Knights and it is encouraging that Connelly can “see both sides of the ball improving this year.”