Army had a very good season last year. They went 7-6 and beat SMU in the Armed Forces bowl, despite getting outgained 413-229 yds against the Pony Express. Of course, in the only game that really mattered Army faltered 17-31 against a very strong Navy squad who ended up with a 9-4 record themselves. The reason they won so many games is the amazing 14 starters that they had back for the consecutive season.
This season they only have 11 starters back. This is normal for a service academy, except a program like Army hasn't shown they can win consistently yet with that much turnover yet since Rich Ellerson has been there (3rd year). Ellerson comes a successful run at Cal Poly, but back in the day he learned his triple option coaching from the great Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech) at Hawaii from '87-'91.
The vaunted triple option returns a whole mess of skill players, but will have to replace 4 out of five offensive linemen. This is where Northern Illinois should take advantage. This OL is made up of upperclassmen, but boy are they tiny. Their projected starters at tackles each weigh 250 and 253 lbs respectively!
Players to watch:
RB Jared Hassin - This man is a punishing 6'3" 235 fullback who ran for 9 TDs and 1,027 yds last season.
QB Trent Steelman - Ran for 721 yds and 11 TDs, passed for (ahaha passing) 995 yds and 7 TDs w/ a 53.4 completion %.
K Alex Carlton has a beast of a leg (L/51) and hit 18 of 24 FGs last season. Let's hope this game doesn't get close enough for this to matter.
Army's defense is the Double-Eagle-Flex which is a pretty badass name for a defense. Essentially it's a 3-4 so they've got positions like Quick (DE/LB) Bandit (LB/DE) and Rover (LB/S). Army lost a LOT of guys that were productive on defense last season. And I mean a lot, there's only 4 starters back. It was 5, but then this very strange thing happened in the offseason the other starting CB.
Players to watch
ROVER Steven Erzinger - The big returner on defense with 76 tackles and 4.5 TFL/sacks.
QUICK Jarrett Mackey had 47 tackles, 6.5 TFL/sacks and 2 FF last season.
CB/PR/KR Josh Jackson is the only returning starter in the secondary this season. He had 29.5 tackles and 1 INT LY but will need the front seven to get enough pressure for him to succeed this time around. He's also their top kick returner.
Army is going to have a very weak defense, so the offense absolutely has to drive the field a significant amount every time they have the ball and put points up on the board. I'm not sure how NIU's defensive front is going to react to Army's offense. You've got a lot of new faces in there, but you do have the leaders back in Sean Progar and Pat Schiller in there. The newbies at all the other positions are going to have to be extremely disciplined or they are in for a long day against the Black Knights.
Prediction: NIU 30, Army 14. What's your prediction?