Among the service academy trio highlighted, Army arguably has the taller task of attempting a 180 degree change from last year’s 5-8 season.
With the losses of Kelvin Hopkins, Kell Walker, Cole Christiansen and Connor Slomka, among others, that leaves a breadth of options to examine on the field. While the Black Knights managed with a challenging season, a number of younger players did have the chance to show their skills giving the coaching staff room to observe.
At quarterback, Kelvin Hopkins Jr. finished his career with 1,679 passing yards and 24 touchdowns but a mid-season injury meant career starts for Jabari Laws and Christian Anderson.
Laws, who first appeared against UTSA in week three, closed the game with 137 rushing yards on 23 carries. He finished the season with an 80 percent completion rate, 311 passing yards, and 484 rushing yards, one of them being the longest rushing play for Army since 2013.
Jabari Laws 83-yard TD run puts #ArmyFootball over 300 rushing yards— Black Knight Nation (@BKKnightNation) November 9, 2019
Laws, however, appeared in nine games last season and experienced an injury of his own in week four against VMI, leaving Christian Anderson next in line to take the reins.
The 6’ 1’’ junior got his career start during the Army-Navy game of all matchups but had a stellar performance early in the season with an 80-yard touchdown pass against Morgan State.
Christian Anderson keeps it for the TD! 7-0 Army! pic.twitter.com/srSbhC3Yzf— Against All Enemies (@AAE_SBN) December 14, 2019
80-YARD TD PASS FROM ARMY⁉️— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) September 21, 2019
YEP: Christian Anderson finds a streaking Artice Hobbs IV for the long TD!pic.twitter.com/ONfFkLzR1o
Anderson appeared in six games during last year’s campaign and finished the season with 429 rushing yards on 67 attempts, but it wasn’t without incident as Anderson also suffered an injury in Army’s loss to Hawaii.
“They [athletic trainers] have arranged for those guys that were post-op or have had injuries that needed rehabilitation to be able to get that care at facilities in their hometowns,” said Head Coach Jeff Monken in a teleconference last week.
Monken also mentioned Laws is “seeing improvements” and is “moving along as good as it could be,” considering the current global health situation.
Both players show signs of a consistent long-range passing ability, something relatively new in the Black Knights arsenal, but with spring practice at a standstill, the health of Army’s quarterbacks remains a large priority for making those position battle decisions.
Continuing with offense, Artice Hobbs IV and Sandon McCoy will return while Peyton Reeder, who suffered a torn shoulder, and JB Hunter, who played through a meniscus injury, completed off season surgery. Both will hopefully return to bolster a much-needed offensive line.
Last week, Coach Brent Davis mentioned Hunter as a strong choice for center after noting he appeared in 11 games last year.
While there isn’t expansive tape on the likes of Luke McCleery, Noah Knapps and Dean Powell, these cadets did perform well in their start against Air Force.
On defense, Army lost its national leader in solo tackles in Cole Christiansen but with the addition of Nate Woody as the defensive coordinator and Tank Wright as the defensive line coach, the players are going into next season with a new set of eyes.
Wright came from Michigan as the director of football strength and conditioning and previously served at his alma mater, Arkansas, as the assistant strength and conditioning coach.
In many ways, 2020 is a reset for the Black Knights — Nursing players back to health and a wealth of coaching hires could be the recipe for a winning season Army fans are longing to see following a down year.