That clip is for all you fellow 90’s kids out there. If you were born between 1985 and 1995 and you never watched Major Payne, you missed out. At any event, that clip is not only relevant to 90’s kid culture; it’s also relevant to the upcoming Army football season. Army, along with the rest of the service academies, always faces a size struggle. They consistently fail to match the bulk that the remainder of the FBS programs put on the field, particularly on the line. That crushed the Cadets (or Black Knights if you prefer) last year, and it threatens to do the same this year.
Troops on the Ground
Army finished 6th in rushing yards per game last year. Good thing too, because they finished dead last in passing. They lose Angel Santiago, the team’s starting quarterback in 2014. A.J. Schurr was the team’s backup last season, but he did attempt 28 passes and is the team’s leading returning rusher. Twenty-eight pass attempts may sound scarce, however when considering that Army only threw the ball 98 total times last season it doesn’t sound that scarce at all. Schurr is currently in a position battle with Sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw, mostly because Schurr missed most of the spring after shoulder surgery allowing Bradshaw to play with the starters.
There will be a fair amount of new faces in skill positions this season for the Cadets, or at least old faces will get significantly more touches. Matt Giachinta and Aaron Kemper will fill the all-important fullback void left by Larry Dixon. Giachinta and Kemper each had 25 or more carries, over 100 yards, and one touchdown last season. As for the splitbacks, Joe Walker is the only one with any in-game experience. John Trainor will fill the other splitback role, with Elijah St. Hilaire likely backing up both spots. The receiving cupboard is pretty bare, but that’s to be expected from a team who only averaged a hair over 8 pass attempts a game last season. Leading receiver Edgar “The Raven” Poe returns. More often than not, Army will run with one receiver and one tight end, meaning Kelvin White should see the majority of the offensive snaps. However, when Army decides to modernize and put two receivers on the field expect DeAndre Bell to fill the Z-receiver spot opposite Poe, despite having one catch for negative four yards all of last season.
An experienced offensive line is probably the biggest cause for optimism for the offense heading into the 2015 season. Matt Hugenberg returns at center after starting every game there last season, and Justin Gilbert should return at left tackle after spending all of last season trying to play cornerback for the Cleveland Browns (just kidding Army’s Justin Gilbert missed the 2014 season after having knee surgery). Gilbert started every game in 2013, however. The remainder of the line consists of RT Drew Hennessy, LG Stefan Moreau, and RG Jaryn Villegas; all of whom have at least 4 starts on their resume. There are also five players with starting experience on the two-deep.
Sons of Slum and Gravy
Army’s 2014 defense was arguably the worst in FBS football last season. They finished dead last in success rate last season. Now, they have to replace their entire defensive line. One of the biggest issues is the aforementioned lack of size up front. Their projected average starting defensive line weight is 251.7 pounds. That’s pretty slight.
Jeremy Timpf and Andrew King are legitimately good linebackers though, which could mean improvement, at least in the middle of the defense. Timpf and King combined for 22.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, and three picks (all by Timpf) last season.
Cornerbacks Josh Jenkins and Chris Carnegie should ensure that the Cadet defense is at least competent at defending the pass. Jenkins and Carnegie produced 15 pass break-ups and 7 interceptions between the two last season. They will hopefully get adequate safety help as well from Steven Johnson, Luke Prouix and Rhyan England. Xavier Moss also converted to safety from wide receiver in the offseason.
Army ought to have two wins built-in with FCS schools Fordham and Bucknell on the schedule. The Cadets beat Fordham last season 42-31. Then, there are a few manageable games on the schedule where a win should be feasible. The most likely candidate is the last weekend in September when Army travels to Eastern Michigan. Army was not good on the road last season, but Eastern Michigan may be one of the only FBS teams on the schedule whom the Black Knights are actually better than straight up. If they can’t pull out the win in Ypsilanti, then home dates against Wake Forest and Tulane provide the most likely sources for a potential upset win.