Army was monstrous on defense last season, but 2019 brings about a changing of the guard for the Black Knights. Starting at the top, new defensive coordinator John Loose will be looking to build on his impressive debut during Army’s 70-14 Armed Forces Bowl blowout win against Houston. And with big name players like James Nachtigal, Kenneth Brinson, Max Regan, Mike Reynolds, and James Gibson graduated, there are definitely some big shoes to fill.
The defensive line is no different. Wunmi Oyetuga and Raymond Wright have departed as well; however, the three men standing in the gap for 2019 bring a decent amount of experience to the table. Army runs a basic 3-4 scheme on defense featuring a nose guard, nose tackle, and defensive end.
Of the three positions, the Black Knights are least experienced at the nose guard position. Senior Rod Stoddard appears to have the starting job. Army has a handful of rising juniors such as Nick Stokes and Jack Hough who seem likely second-string candidates. Expected backup Connor Smith is no longer listed on Army’s spring roster, so it’ll be interesting to see who rotates in for Stoddard.
Stoddard appeared in four games last year, recording one tackle on the season. He is listed at 5’11” - 280lbs.
Senior Jacob Covington gets the starting nod at nose tackle for Army this season, with sophomore Kwabena Bonsu listed behind him. Covington had a productive season in 2018, playing in all 13 games and recording 14 tackles including 2.5 tackles for loss (18 yards). The Black Knights will certainly be leaning on Covington to maintain his presence known at nose tackle.
Bonsu played in four games last season, registering three tackles on the year. He comes in at 6’4” - 260lbs. It’s worth noting that Army (much like the other service academies) doesn’t rely on size from their d-linemen. Rather, their speed, smarts, and discipline are what makes the Black Knights effective at harassing opposing offenses.
Things are shaping up nicely for the Black Knights at defensive end. Junior Edriece Patterson appears to be the front runner for the starting job after an excellent sophomore performance in 2018. The 6’3” - 245lbs Rahway, NJ native played in 12 games and posted 21 tackles including 2.5 tackles for loss (18 yards) and 2.0 sacks. He was limited this spring due to injury and therefore didn’t come out of spring ball on the depth chart, but we can expect him to pick right back up where he left off if healthy.
Listed at the top of the post-spring depth chart at defensive end is senior Jake Ellington, who will battle it out with Patterson for the starting job! Ellington had a quietly productive junior season, appearing in all 13 games for the Black Knights. In those 13 appearances, Ellington had three tackles and registered 0.5 sacks. All in all, Army has plenty of game experience at defensive end heading into 2019.
There are only 32 days until the Black Knights take on Rice at home, looking to extend their home win streak at Michie Stadium. Despite some personnel changes on defense, Army fans should have nothing to worry about heading into 2019. It’ll be interesting to see how John Loose utilizes his front three to open up blitz opportunities for the linebackers and corners. We’ll get around to those positions soon!