WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) Army coach Jeff Monken had his work cut out in preseason, evaluating more than 70 freshmen and other raw talents awaiting a chance.
When the Black Knights open the season on Friday night at Michie Stadium against the Fordham Rams, their option attack will have a new leader in sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw, who did not play last year. He’s the choice to start over often-injured senior A.J. Schurr.
”I don’t know if there was any one particular skill,” Monken said. ”We just felt like he was moving the offense better, performing better. We want to have a player there that is capable of running the ball, throwing the ball and making plays for us, both with their feet and their arm, and I think he’s capable of doing that.
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”The other thing is that I think he’s got a lot of potential to grow. He’s gotten better the more he’s played.”
Army is coming off a 4-8 season in Monken’s first year at the helm. The last Army win of 2014 was 42-31 on Senior Day at Michie Stadium over the powerful Rams, who won their first Patriot League title since 2007 and are picked to repeat this year.
Some things to know when Fordham visits Army on Friday night in the season opener for both teams:
Schurr played in 10 games last season, averaged 7.1 yards per carry, and is healthy for his final season after sitting through spring ball with a bad (right) throwing shoulder. Expect to see him play. ”He’s been in the program and he was with us all last year and got a lot of snaps in practice and in games,” Monken said. ”Though he was hurt, just the veteran experience should help him. Nothing that we’ve put in our playbook or that we run as an offense is something that we feel we can’t run with Ahmad or A.J. in the game.”
Fordham enters 2015 off a championship run last fall when the Rams went 6-0 in Patriot League play, becoming the first team in the league to do so since 2003. For the second straight year the Rams, who were ranked as high as seventh in the NCAA FCS poll, advanced to the second round of the FCS Championships after defeating Sacred Heart at home.
HERE TODAY, THERE TOMORROW
Last season, Army’s Ryan Alexander was a defensive tackle. This year he’s on the offensive line. Whatever works. ”He is the smallest guy starting on the offensive line (250 pounds),” Monken said. ”He wanted to contribute, and certainly, playing 60 or 70 snaps on offense is different than playing only six or seven on defense.”
KEEP IT SIMPLE
The triple option looks complicated on paper and on the field. When Monken does the explaining, at least it starts simple. ”We have a base play. We like to run that play and be good at that play,” he said. ”But we’ve got a lot of complimentary plays that go along with it that help us either execute that play, get the defense playing to where we can execute that play, or take advantage of a numbers opportunity or a particular scheme.” Got that?
TOUGH AS NAILS
Monken is nothing if not frank and blunt about his Black Knights. ”We have a tough football team. That doesn’t mean we’re going to win any games,” he said. ”But I think our guys are tough. I value that more than I value any attribute a player has, whether it’s speed, size, strength or athleticism. I’ll take toughness first.”