#76 Army Football 2017 Preview

Army Black Knights
Overall Rank: #76
#3 FBS Independent
After years and years of disappointment, Army finally had their breakthrough in 2016. The Black Knights were already bowl eligible, but their biggest win was yet to come when they knocked off Navy 21-17. And for good measure, Army knocked off North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in an overtime thriller.
2016 Record: 8-5
2016 Bowl: Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. North Texas (W 38-31)
Coach: Jeff Monken (14-23 at Army, 52-39 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brent Davis
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Bateman
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Andy Davidson, RB, 961 yards
Passing: Ahmad Bradshaw, QB, 703 yards
Receiving: Christian Poe, WR, 133 yards
Tackles: Alex Aukerman, LB, 59
Sacks: Alex Aukerman, LB, 7.5
Interceptions: Elijah Riley, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Darnell Woolfolk, RB Jordan Asberry, OL Rick Kurz, LB Kenneth Brinson, LB James Nachtigal
Key Losses: WR Edgar Poe, LB Jeremy Timpf, LB Andrew King, DB Xavier Moss
Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw returns to run the triple option offense. He rushed for 824 yards and eight scores and threw for 703 yards and four scores. Army’s ground game has always been potent, but last year they were able to sustain drives and come up big when it mattered the most. With Bradshaw leading the way, this will again be one of the most effective rushing offenses in the nation. Andy Davidson and Darnell Woolfolk both had good sophomore seasons and should be even better as juniors. Davidson rushed for 961 yards and a dozen scores, while Woolfolk added 600 yards and nine touchdowns. The offensive line will pick up right where they left off and provide plenty of space for all the rushers. The biggest potential issue is at wide receiver where Edgar Poe was the clear deep threat target for Bradshaw. This year it could be Edgar’s brother, Christian Poe, who picks up the slack.
It was the surprising play of the defense that took Army to the next level. They ranked fourth in the country allowing a mere 291.5 yards per game. It helps when the offense can run out the clock, but the defense was very good too. The depth of the front three is strong and that is very important for a line that is undersized. There are significant losses at linebacker with Jeremy Timpf and Andrew King moving on, but Kenneth Brinson and Alex Aukerman, who tallied 59 tackles and 7.5 sacks last season, are a solid duo to build around. Getting consistent pressure from the front seven will continue to make life easier for the secondary. Outside of safety Xavier Moss, most of the secondary is back and they now have the experience and depth to take the next step. Cornerback Elijah Riley is one to watch after a superb freshman campaign.
The Bottom Line:
Army will be seeking their first back-to-back bowl appearances since 1984 and 1985. And it is very plausible. As long as the linebackers can replace the leadership left by Timpf and King, there is every reason for this Army team to be even better than they were in 2016. There is experience and depth and an easy enough schedule for the Black Knights to have another great season and win another bowl game. And, more importantly, beat Navy.
Projected Bowl: Armed Forces Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 339.5 (2nd in nation, 1st among Independents)
Passing Offense: 74.4 (128, 4)
Total Offense: 413.9 (65, 2)
Scoring Offense: 29.9 (59, 2)
Rushing Defense: 121.2 (18, 2)
Pass Defense: 170.2 (6, 1)
Total Defense: 291.5 (4, 1)
Scoring Defense: 19.8 (16, 2)
Turnover Margin: -0.23 (84, 2)
Sacks: 2.00 (68, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 0.77 (3, 1)