What a year it was for Army West Point Football in 2017. Head coach Jeff Monken guided the Black Knights to just their second ten-win season, the other such campaign coming in 1996.
For the first time since 1996, Army also won the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy after narrowly defeating Navy during a howling blizzard.
Heard enough? Didn’t think so. Army also posted consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1988-1990. The point is, Monken, as promised when he was first hired in 2013, has led West Point football back to the national landscape and into the spotlight, where it should be.
Monken has passed every test given to him with remarkable mettle. He proved he could recruit players willing to commit themselves to his ideals, players talented enough to finally defeat Navy, and, above all, bring the CIC Trophy back home.
The only questions that remain are whether Army can now have sustained success under Monken, and if he can potentially guide his troops into a Top 25 ranking, the latter of which has not happened since (you guessed it) 1996.
Army was given a few votes for a final spot for the preseason polls, but fell short. The team is 18-8 over the past two seasons, and now they enter 2018 with more optimism than ever.
Though the team lost its quarterback and single-season service academy rushing record holder Ahmad Bradshaw to graduation, Luke Langdon and Kelvin Hopkins figure to be under center for the team this year. Returning for their senior years are very productive running backs Andy Davidson and Darnell Woolfolk, who rushed for 627 and 812 yards last year, respectively. Both also averaged over five years per carry.
Army’s vaunted flexbone triple option attack will continue to produce results regardless of the talent, but this team may have more depth than ever.
Also benefiting Army will be its pedestrian schedule, as it ranks just 113th in strength of schedule, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. Only five of twelve opponents finished with winning records last season.
Army’s schedule is this: Duke, Liberty, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Buffalo, San Jose State, Miami of Ohio, Eastern Michigan, Air Force, Lafayette, Colgate, and Navy. Of its twelve 2018 foes, only Oklahoma has a Top 25 ranking.
The bottom line is that Army is returning with its most proven and experienced roster in a very long time. Jeff Monken has led the team to the promised land, and the next step is an arcane spot among the Top 25. Naturally, the primary objective will always be bringing the CIC Trophy to West Point, but getting into the echelon of the truly elite in college football will solidify Army’s standing as a dominant force in the college football world, something that has not happened since the days of World War II, back when Hall of Fame coach Earl Blaik presided over three consecutive National Championships, along with a 27-0-1 record from 1944-1946.