As fall camp continues and a second full scrimmage comes tomorrow, the Black Knights are looking to solidify themselves before the season opener against Rice on August 30.
“I think guys are really starting to find their place and growing into their role and figuring out what that role is gonna be — we’re a new team,” said coach Jeff Monken during a media day interview.
And those roles have been a driving force of conversation around Army football since coming off their 11-2 season in 2018, losing a number of key seniors yet ranking in the Top 25 in various preseason polls and receiving the 30th most votes in the preseason Coaches Poll.
Army football has definitely landed itself in the larger conversation of the FBS world. It’s been clear both in this week’s scrimmage and fall camp overall that the Black Knights are aware of their 2018 success but they’re going into the 2019 season with an entirely different team, so identifying the next generation of Army football players to continue building on the legacy of those left behind has been a critical focus thus far.
Sophomore quarterback Jabari Laws was one to watch during this week’s first full scrimmage. Many wonder after an impressive performance in 2018 from now senior Kelvin Hopkins Jr., who will emerge as next in line at the QB position for Army.
It would appear that Lewis, who has received praise from Monken throughout camp, has solidified himself as the number two behind Hopkins. And Hopkins believes the ability to get the younger guys up to speed has been a key factor in this year’s camp.
“A lot of things that we’ve done on offense is getting the young guys along as fast as possible,” said senior quarter Kelvin Hopkins Jr. “A lot of people like to focus on the seniors of the group and the guys that have played a lot.”
While it’s true that this will be a senior laden team poised for big things, Coach Monken, like any good coach would do, is continuing to keep his eyes on 2020 and beyond, recently telling Justin Fedich at the Record Online about all of the impressive sophomores on the defensive side of the ball who are poised for a big season.
Arik Smith seems to be one of those sophomores in line for a big year. Primarily a special teams player in 2018 who saw action in 11 of 13 games, it would appear Smith has emerged as a starter in the linebacker corps at the WILL spot heading into 2019.
It’s not just the youngsters, but some of the upperclass such as Joe Stephenson and Jack King that have also emerged as guys with a chance to make an impact along the front seven this year.
By all appearances, this has been a camp with a windshield mentality, not looking in the rearview mirror towards 2018, but focused on what lies ahead with a new team and a new challenge. Army is not going to sneak up on anyone this year. An 11-2 season and top 20 finish last year made sure of that. Now looking for a third straight year holding the CIC trophy, you can bet that they are prepared to be the hunted rather than the hunter.
It would seem that Jeff Monken and company is aware of this, and they are focusing their efforts on not just the 2019 team, but what comes after this record-setting group leaves in 2020 and beyond.