It’s no secret Army’s triple-option attack is run-heavy. Last season, the team led the nation in time of possession, averaging 38 minutes per game and came in second in the nation for rushing offense behind only Georgia Tech at 312.5 yds/game.
Simply put—Army isn’t letting go of the ball, and they are going to run it ALOT. They also converted on 3rd and 4th down last year at an absurd rate. They were number one in the nation last year in both categories. Where does this kind of production start? With as Army calls it, the MOB, their terrific offensive line.
As noted by the the 312.5 average yards-per-game, we know the o-line does a great job. This leaves Kelvin Hopkins Jr. time to throw, for the fullback to run up the middle, or for the slots to take the pitch to the outside, much like we saw consistently during the Oklahoma game and all the games really in that 11-2 campaign last year.
Army will have to replace a couple starters from last year in left tackle Austin Schuffert and most notably center Bryce Holland. Alex Herndon moves over to left tackle after backing up Holland at center, while Jack Sides who worked a lot at left guard last year will slide over and get the first shot at snapping the ball in the middle of the line this season.
“You gotta be able to get that exchange with the quarterback down...and then immediate contact with that nose guard and being able to drive him 18 inches off the ball and get that play started,” said Sides in a post-spring game interview about the keys to making the switch to center this season.
Here’s where the Black Knights stand on the post-spring depth chart: Alex Herndon and Luke McCleery are the first two at left tackle. McCleery moves over from backing up the right tackle position to the left as Army will try and solidify that side of the line with two guys with previous game experience.
Jaxson Deaton and Noah Utley are 1-2 at left guard where Deaton will in many ways be the anchor of the offensive line and a leader of the group, having played in each of the last three seasons and started every game in the 11-2 campaign last year. He was named to Phil Steele’s 2019 Preseason All-Independent First team along with Connor Slomka and Kelvin Hopkins Jr., who are all returning seniors this year.
Jack Sides looks to get the first shot at center with sophomore Noah Knapp his backup. Sides has played extensively the last two seasons, so even though he is moving to center, he still has a ton of game experience in this offense.
Peyton Reeder, Mike Johnson and Dean Powell line up at right guard. Reeder started at RG most of last year and has considerable playing time there the last two seasons. Finally, JB Hunter, Zack Ward and Kamaron Holloway will lock down the right side of the line at tackle.
Projected as a top-ten offensive line for 2019, the Black Knights, converted 91 percent of their tries on fourth-and-1 opportunities last year. Of the twelve guys listed on the depth chart, only three: Noah Knapp, Zack Ward, and Kamaron Holloway saw no playing time last year. Even though they will have to replace two starters, with such an experienced team coming back, you can bet there is a good chance they can continue to replicate that success.
The entire offensive line was even named part of Sports Illustrated’s 2018 All-Bowl team for their 70-14 rout of Houston, so it’s hard to believe Army will stray too far from what they know, and will more than likely pick right back up where they left off when they face Rice on August 30th!