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The 2019-20 season will go down in Army football lore as one of the greatest in Black Knights history. Jeff Monken’s troops pillaged their way to an 11-2 overall record that was capped off with a 70-14 trouncing of the Houston Cougars in the Armed Forces Bowl. On top of all that, they secured the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy a second straight season after running roughshod upon the Navy Midshipmen in the City of Brotherly Love. Along with acquiring one of its best seasons in program history, the Black Knights also took care of their wagering supporters at online sportsbooks by logging a 7-4-2 record against the linemakers. The bread and butter of the team has been its ability to run the ball down its opponent’s throats, and that won’t change in 2019-20. However, there are some concerns on the other side of the ball with a number of pertinent pieces to last year’s outstanding defense having since moved on.
Kelvin Hopkins Jr. is back under center to lead the offensive attack. Fresh off a sterling bowl game performance that saw him rush for 170 yards and 5 TD, he will once again be the focal point of the offense. Army ranked only behind Georgia Tech with an average of 312.6 rushing yards per game a season ago, and it will once again be what all its opposition hones in on this season with a number of key cogs from last year’s unit back in place. The loss of stud fullback Darnell Woolfork and his near 1,000 yards and 14 TD will sting, but Connor Slomka will no doubt be ready and eager to step in after accruing 324 yards and five scores in his limited opportunities. The wide receiver corps returns completely intact, and the offensive line returns three starters up front anchored by behemoth guards Jaxson Deaton and Peyton Reeder. Though there are some bothersome departures, Army’s offense will once again be tough for opposing defenses to contend with every passing week.
Though not much slip-up is expected on the offensive side of the ball, the same can’t and won’t be said on the other side of it. Army ranked No. 8 overall and No. 10 in scoring defense and showed an astute ability to lock down both the pass ( No. 21 ) and run ( No. 10 ). The unit’s biggest strength resides in the secondary where Elijah Riley - one of the leading tacklers from a year ago - returns along with Jaylon McClinton. That’s where all the fun ends. The defensive line is littered with undersized players and the depth is a major question mark. Most concerning are the losses in the linebacker corps where leading tackler James Nachtigal and Kenneth Brinson reside no longer. The offense’s ability to move the chains and control the clock will be even more important for overall success now that the defense won’t be nearly as dominant as it once was.
No longer the pushover it had been for so long, the stakes have been raised in West Point. All the credit in the world goes to Monken and his staff for rebuilding the program from the ashes. With that, Army will attempt to take another step forward by showing the last couple seasons weren’t a fluke. The fact that the Black Knights enter the season with a 10-game season win total at offshore sportsbooks only lends more credence to the fact that Army is currently one of the best Independents in quite some time. While there are some speed bumps on the schedule, the Black Knights could win each and every one of their games. If they do that, you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll see Hopkins and company on New Year’s Day playing in the program’s biggest bowl game ever!