Army ready for 1st game under new coach Monken
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) Jeff Monken has been on the job at Army for what must seem like an eternity and still hasn't coached his first game.
Hired last December to replace the fired Rich Ellerson, Monken is finally ready to see what he has - the Black Knights host Buffalo on Saturday at Michie Stadium. The Bulls opened the season last week with a comeback 38-28 win over Duquesne.
''We had seven weeks of training rather than six, and I hope it will make a difference over the long haul,'' said Monken, who started his coaching career in 1990 as a graduate assistant to Ellerson, the defensive coordinator at Hawaii. ''We are going to spin it as Buffalo hasn't seen us, so they don't have an opportunity to prepare for the things that we may do.''
The Black Knights displayed glimmers of success in five years under Ellerson, whose ground-chewing option attack helped win a bowl game in 2010. Army led the nation in rushing in 2011 and 2012 and was third last season with 311.8 yards per game, but the Black Knights are coming off a 3-9 campaign, including a season-ending loss to archrival Navy.
Army will continue to run the triple option under Monken, who also served as an assistant coach at Navy and Georgia Tech, and offensive coordinator Brent Davis.
The Black Knights return 58 letter-winners from last season, 27 with starting experience.
''I want a team that's tough, that plays for each other, guys that will embrace their role and do it the best they can, play as hard as they can possibly play the game,'' Monken said. ''If we'll do that, we'll have a chance to win every game. If we don't do that, then we're probably not going to win very many.''
Defensive coordinator Jay Bateman, in his first year at Army after a successful stint at Ball State, will run a 3-4 base defense, a switch from the 4-3 utilized by Army in the past.
Monken came to West Point following four successful seasons at Georgia Southern. He has a 38-16 record as a head coach, including a 4-0 mark in season-openers.
''It was absolutely one of the most trying decisions I've made in my life. I thought I'd be there forever,'' Monken said of his move north. ''I felt called to come here. This was something that I was supposed to do and this was the time. I have a great admiration for our service academies, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to be successful.''
Here are some things to know about Army football:
RUN WITH IT: Army returns its top five rushers from last season and another looking to pick up where he left off. Terry Baggett paced the team with 1,113 yards in 2013, while Larry Dixon ran for 705 and Angel Santiago, Trenton Turrentine and Tony Giovannelli also contributed. Raymond Maples, who gained 123 yards before being injured in the third game of last season, also is back thanks to a medical redshirt. Maples, who has 2,489 career yards rushing, is aiming to become just the second tailback in school history to notch three 1,000-yard seasons. ''He's been a very productive player for this team and I have no reason to believe he won't be again,'' Monken said.
CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: Dixon and safety Geoffery Bacon are team captains for the season. Dixon, of Bremerton, Washington, and Bacon, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were selected by their teammates.
NO SLEEPWALKING: Monken greeted 60 newcomers from 21 states, including 44 on offense, 11 on defense and five special-teams players. Ellerson had held practice in the early morning, but Monken has moved the sessions back to the afternoon. ''We've got to find the biggest window to deal with the 50 hours that we're permitted with those guys to get the most out of them,'' he said.
HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE: Army's roster features players from 36 states. That leads the nation and is 10 more states than Navy.
GO ARMY, BEAT NAVY: Since the day he accepted the job at West Point, beating Navy has been on Monken's mind, and why not. Army hasn't beaten the Middies in 12 years.
''Walk around the building and you'll see that's the No. 1 objective,'' he said.
Does he think about it every day?
''Absolutely,'' he said.