Mumford's the Word

Aside of Bobby Ross, there's no more important man on Army football's 2004 coaching staff than John Mumford. The ways in which he'll prove valuable to the Black Knights this upcoming season are profound, numerous, and varied, a reality easily hidden by the understandable and merited publicity surrounding the big-time hire of a name head coach in Ross.

First of all, Mumford is the link between Todd Berry's players and Bobby Ross' new way of doing things. Having served as interim head coach for seven games last season, Mumford knows the current crop of players and will be able to provide the smoothness in what would otherwise have been a much rougher transition for Boss Ross. Continuity on coaching staffs--or the lack thereof--looms incredibly large as a factor in the rise and fall of college football teams. Just witness the growing pains Mike Shula had to experience after having just a few precious months to fill in for Mike Price at Alabama. When staffs lose continuity, players lose familiar voices and often take time to adjust to new ways of doing things. Florida is still trying to fully fortify and find itself in the post-Steve Spurrier era. In 2004, Bill Callahan can expect things to get worse before they get better at Nebraska. Safe to say, Bobby Ross and everyone associated with Army Football will thank their lucky stars that John Mumford will be part of the Cadet coaching staff this season.

Mumford--easily and understandably placed in the shadows by the appropriately giddy response to the hire of a big-name head coach in Ross--will also be the most important member of this coaching staff in that he's not just a link to the Berry era, but a high-ranking one. Mumford will coach the defensive line, of course, but he's not merely a position coach. The fact that Mumford will be Army's defensive coordinator gives him, tactically, the most important position on Army's staff.

Exactly who will the Black Knights face to begin the 2004 slate? Try Louisville and Houston, two pass-happy offenses with the capability to blow opponents out of the water... but with an occasional penchant for self-destruction, as most pass-first offenses are.

Mumford, given his experience in Conference USA and the high level of familiarity he has with his defensive unit, is by far the man on this planet best situated to spend training camp and the lead-up to September developing game plans that will short circuit the Cardinals and Cougars. In quarterbacks Stefan Lefors (a college reincarnation of Steve Young if there ever was one) and Kevin Kolb, Louisville and Houston will have two savvy and sensational signal callers, but players who will--as a virtue of their very success last year--find themselves under considerable pressure to perform in 2004. And as we all know--we see it every September in college football, especially when teams from the Mid-American Conference jump up and stun teams from power conferences--upsets happen early in the year, when teams with big expectations fold under the heat. Army is in position to pull off a shocker, and Mumford--as the man responsible for flummoxing two star quarterbacks--holds the power to do that.

Continuing with respect to the presence of Louisville and Houston as the first two opponents in 2004, Mumford will loom large in those games because he, more than anyone else, knows what it means to be patient. Mumford saw, up close and personal, the parade of losses that made 2003 such a wrenching experience. Entering this new season, Mumford will be able to teach, correct flaws, and scheme on game days with an eye for patience, the very kind of patience that will be needed to stop a Stefan Lefors or Kevin Kolb.

Indeed, it stands to reason: how do you frustrate a quality quarterback without possessing star power or premium talent? You mix the heck out of your coverages and defensive packages, not taking chances so much as disguising looks. Mumford--who certainly did his homework against Navy's explosive triple option ground game last December--is the type of individual who will take an approach geared toward confusing opposing offenses, instead of trying to overwhelm them. Mumford, you see, is a compatible fit for this team and this defense not just because of his familiarity with his own players and the rest of Conference USA; no, Coach Mumford is also valuable to Army Football right now because he has the emotional temperament and overall wisdom to find a winning gameday formula and maximize the talent at his disposal.

In one sentence, John Mumford is a man--by virtue of his position as defensive coordinator, his familiarity with Army and C-USA, and his eye-opening experience as head coach last season--who will be able to help Bobby Ross manage both the X's and O's and also the Jimmies and Joes.

He'll be a huge part of this coaching staff and this team in 2004.


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