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Army offense front and center as spring football begins

It’s going to be an under-center option offense, with some shotgun thrown in – at least that is
the plan.

On the eve of the start of its annual spring practice sessions, Army football coach Jeff Monken said that the Black Knights will be more focused on the tried-and-true under-center option scheme in the upcoming season, the team’s first in the American Athletic Conference, as opposed to the shotgun option that the team utilized in 11 of 12 games last year.

“I anticipate being an under-center team that runs gun, not the other way around,” said Monken, who will be entering his 11th year as the Black Knights head coach when they open with Lehigh on Aug. 30 at Michie Stadium. “We probably moved more to the under-center stuff the last couple of years with (former offensive coordinator Brent Davis) than we had earlier. There has been some time in my tenure here at Army that we ran more gun than we did other years.

“But, I anticipate we will run both, I don’t know how much of each. I think that will be determined by our confidence in what we are doing, the quarterback, and the skill players we have to be able to do the things we want to do.”

Army abandoned the under-center option in favor of a shotgun option last season, with the appointment of gun-option savvy Drew Thatcher as offensive coordinator. But the new scheme failed to generate as much offense and ball control as Monken wanted and Army needed during the 6-6 campaign and the head coach announced a couple of months ago that he decided to switch out Thatcher with then-quarterback coach Cody Worley, who has experience with under-center scheme, this season. It was announced on Wednesday that Thatcher has left the program.

“I never felt all year the confidence that I had all those years running under-center stuff that we were controlling games on offense, controlling the clock and limiting possessions for the other team,” Monken said. “I realized that the under-center system gave us tremendous value that we could be really different and unique.

“I want to control the game on offense by running the football. Whatever we need to do that, than that is what we are going to do. It is how we built our program and the success we have had here and I think that is important for Army to do that. If we are going to have success, we will have to run the football and control the clock.”

Having the right players to run any offense is always a concern, one that is growing with the introduction of the transfer portal. Army lost four players to transfers, including star receiver Isaiah Alston (Iowa State), plus running back Hayden Reed has said he is not returning to the team. Junior running back Markel Johnson, who played a key role in Army’s win at UTSA last season, is also no longer listed on the roster.

Also, Army returns just one quarterback with experience, senior starter Bryson Daily, to the team this year. Monken says he has four other players in camp who will take QB reps during practice and should be ready to step in for Daily if needed. That includes sophomore Zach Mundell, who was recruited to Army as an under-center quarterback, but was instead used as a slot receiver in the shotgun option last year. Sophomore Dewayne Coleman and freshman Cale Hellums and Mitch Bolden are the other quarterbacks on the spring roster.

“Obviously, there are some skills and fundamentals (with the under-center schemes) that will be familiar to our older guys,” Monken noted. “And, there are some things that we will add with under center stuff that will be new to our very young guys. I am very confident that our guys will pick up the under-center stuff again. It is a little bit like riding a bike. We will be able to transition. Our goal is mesh both, what we did in the past and what we did this past season and find the elements that best fit us.”

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