Army has won its first three games for the first time since 2016.
The Black Knights have led comfortably in every game but the physical nature of football has taken its toll on the team.
The health of the Black Knights is a concern for coach Jeff Monken a quarter of the way through the 2021 schedule.
Season-opening starters Tyhier Tyler, Connor Bishop, Julian McDuffie and Tyson Riley missed the UConn win Saturday. And, defensive starters Kwabena Bonsu, Ryan Duran and Marquel Broughton left the game with injuries. Senior wide receiver Sean Eckert and senior cornerback Caleb John will miss the rest of the season due to injury.
“We are not as healthy as we would like our team to be,” Monken said. “Certainly with only three games into the season, we feel a lot better if we didn’t have so many starters and guys that we count on on the sideline. We had some guys sidelined on Saturday. We are hopeful that some of them are going to be back for this week. We have others that got injured on Saturday and we are just not sure what their status will be for this coming week.”
A comfortable lead against UConn allowed the coaching staff to take a look at players, who may be needed to provide depth on Saturday. The difficulty of the schedule increases this Saturday when Army hosts Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks (1-2) played Minnesota to the wire in a 31-26 loss two weeks ago.
“We’re having to prepare a lot of guys, getting younger guys and pulling guys up from the scout team and working them into the depth,” Monken said. “It’s not necessarily having us on our comfort zone right now. We’d like to have a healthy fresh group of starters and backups that we had at the beginning of the year but that’s just kind of the way it goes.
“It’s college football. It’s a collision, high-speed impact sport. It’s inevitable. Guys are going to get hurt and hopefully they won’t just stay there (hurt) and we’ll get a chance to get them going. We are keeping up fingers crossed.”
Monken mentioned a few players for their efforts after Army’s first-teamers were taken out of the UConn game.
Junior guard Sam Barczak had the key block that sprung Tyrell Robinson’s 70-yard touchdown.
“He’s a tough guy, he’s really improved,” Monken said. “He’s a guy who originally we weren’t going to bring back to preseason camp. But the effort that he put in over the summer and how hard he worked and really I think what he means to this team in terms of his energy and leadership, he earned the opportunity to come back to camp and he’s made the most of it.”
Sophomore Jimmy Ciarlo continues to make strides on defense, Monken said.
And, senior cornerback Tavores Pearson is a story of perseverance. Pearson was cut from the team two years ago and earned his spot back as a walk-on this season. He was listed on Army’s sprint football roster for the 2020 season.
“He came back to the walk-on tryout last spring,” Monken said. “We kept him out there in the spring and we said, ‘We are going to evaulate you in the fall and preseason camp.’ With our depth the way it is, we kept him and he got into the game Saturday and made a couple of big hits and played on special teams.
“I was so glad for a guy like that. He’s been around here at West Point for four years and you just don’t know. You didn’t think he was ever going to get a chance to play. He came back to the tryout. Though he’s not a starter or a guy in the mix at the top, he got a chance to get in there and play some on Saturday and he took advantage of the opportunity.”
Saturday’s matchup will feature two college football teammates on the sidelines. Monken and Miami’s Chuck Martin both played at Milliken in the 1980s.
“I just remember Chuck as being one of those guys that you could count on,” said Monken of Martin, who played safety and kicked. “He was one of those guys always in the right place and doing his job. He’s a really smart guy. He had a high IQ in football and understood the sport.”
Watch Monken’s full press conference here: