Will Drew Thatcher, Army’s new offensive coordinator who was introduced to the press on Wednesday, change things up for the Black Knights this year?
But from his comments at his presser, it appears that Thatcher is going to take the next several months, including the three-week long spring practices, to get to know the returning and new players on the Army team and figure out what is best for the Black Knights as they get ready for perhaps their most difficult schedule in a decade or more this fall.
“I think it’s very dependent on the school you are at,” said Thatcher when asked about his philosophy going forward. “To me, I don’t think it’s good to pigeon-hole yourself into one specific scheme because I think every school is built differently and has unique challenges. Every school has a different skill set of kids that you get and you try to tailor what you do to the skill set of the kids that you have and what they do best, highlight their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.”
Still, Thatcher, who was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Nebraska-Kearney from 2019 through last season, has already has some ideas on what is in store for the Army offense this upcoming season, where the Black Knights will face the likes of LSU and Syracuse on the road and Boston College at home.
“I think we will be going with a little bit more (shot)gun stuff, hopefully it gives us a little more flexibility,” he said. “One of the biggest things is just trying to get all of our playmakers on the field in good positions. I think sometimes that helps in gun, you can move guys around a little bit more and get different guys the ball. But, again, you have to be physical and you have to be run first. That’s the name of the game no matter where you are at.”
Also, Thatcher definitely has a lot to do in regards to personnel. First, he will have to figure out the quarterback situation. The Black Knights are losing their top three quarterbacks from last year’s squad that finished an inconsistent 6-6 season on a high note with an overtime victory over arch-rival Navy, Only rising junior Bryson Daily is returning with any experience at the quarterback position.
And, Thatcher will have to address last year’s sputtering offensive performance by the Black Knights, who, at times, looked impressive (victories versus UConn, UMass and Louisiana-Monroe, and, at other times, looked weak (losses to Air Force, Troy and even in the victory against Navy.)
Still, it is extremely clear that Thatcher is up for the challenge. “If West Point comes calling, that’s a place you probably want to answer,” he said. “Our head coach at Nebraska-Kearney had just left. There were going to be some changes. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up. It’s just me. I’m not married. I don’t have kids so it’s a pretty easy transition to pick up and move.”
“I was here for two days last week. It was a crash-course tour. The culture is something that is pretty well known. We have a tough, hard-nosed, physical football players that give their all. I think (head) coach (Jeff) Monken has established a phenomenal culture here and that’s something I’m definitely excited to join.”
This past season, Thatcher guided quarterback TJ Davis to repeat as MIAA Offensive Player of the Year in 2022 as he had 2,506 combined yards over 11 games. The Lopers finished with an 8-3 record and averaged 33 points and 402 yards per game. Nebraska-Kearney scored 80% of the time it reached the red zone andconverted 11 of 14 fourth downs.
“(Nebraska-Kearney) was a gun spread type team,” he added. “I think more people have triple (option) schemes in their system than people give them credit for. There’s a read guy and pitch guy, there’s (run, pass options) that take advantage of that. There are several different schemes. I think you got to have a really good running attack. That’s never going to change. That’s what we did there. That’s what they’ve done here. That’s what we have to keep doing.
“One of the biggest things is just trying to get all of our playmakers on the field in good positions. I think sometimes that helps in gun, you can move guys around a little bit more and get different guys the ball. But, again, you have to be physical and you have to be run first. That’s the name of the game no matter where you are at.”
Additionally, Army has promoted three coaches on staff, Matt Drinkall was named co-offensive coordinator/tight ends, Mike Viti was named assistant head coach for offense/offensive line and Cody Worley was named run game coordinator/quarterbacks.
Thatcher said it will take a village to make Army successful in the years ahead. “I think we all have to work together. Some of the stuff that they’ve been doing here has been incredibly successful scheme-wise. Coach Worley has done a really good job with his quarterbacks. He’s going to be key. Coach Drinkall has done some really good stuff.
“As a whole staff, we have to really collaborate. To me the more minds you can get in and the more creativity, the more you can get away from stuff. I’m just really looking forward to working with the whole staff. Coach Monken has a really good offensive mind as well. The more ideas you can bounce off each other the better that will be just coming up with a game plan.”
Thatcher added that he will try to continue what has worked for Army over recent years. “We’re not trying reinvent anything,” he said. “My message to them is we have to be tough. We have to be physical. We have to win up front and run the football. We have to build everything around that.
“I think these kids are going to enjoy the style that I bring personally. A lot of it is on me to get these kids to understand what we are doing and to enjoy it.”