Effective running backs are critical to the success of any offense, but certainly play an important role in triple option attacks. Very similar to Navy and Air Force, Army employs primarily slotbacks and fullbacks in its offensive scheme. With the departure of Darnell Woolfork and Andy Davidson, Army’s lineup of fullbacks looks rather slim as the 2019 season approaches; however, the Black Knights have always had younger players step up, and there is still considerable experience in the backfield for Army.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how the depth at running back is shaping up for the Black Knights.
Fittingly, Army football’s social media has been highlighting the fullback position this week. Mike Viti has garnered quite a reputation with his vaunted “stable” of gritty fullbacks. During the 2018 campaign, Army fullbacks accounted for 23 of Army’s 39 rushing touchdowns.
With Woolfork, Davidson, and Calen Holt gone, the mantle of leadership among Army fullbacks passes to Connor Slomka. A rising senior, Slomka amassed just shy of 300 yards along four touchdowns during the 2018 season. Likely filling out Army’s fullback rotation will be rising sernior Rashaad Bolton and sophomore Cade Barnard. Both Bolton and Barnard got touches during Army’s Black and Gold Spring Game, and demonstrated an ability to move the chains consistently.
Hopefully, that translates to similar success once the season rolls around. Slomka, Bolton, and Barnard have some big shoes to fill, but there should be no doubt that Viti’s stable of fullbacks will be up to the task.
The other piece of Army’s option rushing attack are the slotbacks. Slotbacks in the Black Knights’ offensive scheme are typically quick, dynamic players who frequently catch short passes or pitches out of the backfield and burn defenders around the ends.
During the 2018 season, Army relied heavily on slotbacks Jordan Asberry and Kell Walker to make big plays. While Asberry has graduated, Walker return to lead an up-and-coming group of slotbacks, many of whom did see game action during the 2018 season. Artice Hobbs, Malik Hancock, and Sandon McCoy all carried for Army last season, with all three averaging over 4 yards per carry.
Another important observation to make is that while we have yet to preview the wide receiver corps for Army, both Asberry and Walker were at the top of the stats sheet last year for the Black Knights in both receptions and yards. This will be an area where Walker will have to continue to shine, as Asberry was the primary receiving threat out of the backfield, but Kell also pulled in 11 receptions, tied for the team lead.
With arguably more experience at slotback, it’ll be interesting to see how the Black Knights attack their opponents. In 2018, Army saw great success with the Fullback Dive, QB Keepers following the fullback, with an occasional pitch to a slotback for big yardage plays. With a less proven fullback group, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Black Knights utilize their slotbacks more with a higher percentage of speed option plays to the outside as opposed to running straight up the middle, as well as continuing to include the slotbacks in the passing game.