Series History: 10-4 (won 24-21 last season; 8 straight)
2014 Record: 4-8 (Independent)
First of all, if you want to learn a lot about Army football other than a precursory glance then I would advise you to stop now and click on the following Bill Connelley 2015 Army preview. I would suggest you do with pretty much every other team if you want to get crazy in-depth analyis and projections about any FBS team.
The Black Knights came into Winston-Salem last year hoping to pull an upset over an ACC foe, and they probably would have done so if not for the late heroics of John Wolford and graduate transfer E.J. Scott. With Army leading 21-17 in the fourth quarter, Wolford engineered an 11 play, 84 yard touchdown drive, culminating in a 12 yard touchdown catch by Scott. The touchdown was enough to give the Deacs a 24-21 victory and an eighth straight victory in the series.
Head coach Jeff Monken is now in his second year at Army after spending the prior four years at Georgia Southern. In his first season he led the Black Knights to a 4-8 record, the most wins since a 7-6 campaign in 2010.
With a schedule that is advantageous this season, including the final two out of three games at home, Monken is hoping he can get Army back to a bowl game for the first time in 6 years.
There will be a bit of turnover, especially on offense, with five out of the top six rushers last year graduating. Obviously in an option style attack, losing that many top rushers can be problematic moving on to a new year.
The Black Knights do return rising senior A.J. Schurr, who successfully underwent surgery on his shoulder at the end of last season. He is the prohibitive favorite, with three other quarterbacks on the roster who have yet to play a down collegiately.
Experience counts even more in the triple option attack, one that was have gone into great detail about in the past here on Blogger So Dear. Schurr competed for the starting job last season, but hamstring issues eventually forced him out of the race, leaving the job to Angel Santiago.
With the three-headed horse of Larry Dixon, Terry Baggett, and Raymond Maples gone, the door is wide open for somebody to come in and be an impact player immediately. That opportunity may be seized by rising junior Aaron Kemper, who ran 25 times for 158 yards and a touchdown last year.
On the defensive side of things the Black Knights return their top five players in terms of tackles, including Jeremy Timpf, who accrued 117 tackles (14.5 tackles for loss, tied for 44th nationally).
The cornerback duo of Josh Jenkins and Chris Carnegie are legitimately good and could wreak havoc against the quarterbacks Army faces on their schedule this season. They will replace all three starting defensive linemen, but it could be a situation of addition by subtraction given the ineffectiveness of the front seven at times the past few seasons.
Overall Jeff Monken has quite the rebuilding job ahead of him. The Black Knights have gone 54-157 since its 10-2 1996 season. It seems to be a job that he is quite up for given that he left the security and safety of Georgia Southern for a service academy position.
There is reason to believe that Army may be evolving its offense a bit, with Matt Kaufman, a converted wide receiver, throwing the ball 17 times in the spring game, and 35 overall pass attempts for the team.
The Black Knights play eight teams this season that finished worse than 80th in the Football Outsider +/- rankings (including our beloved Deacs who came in at 101), so alone is room enough for optimism this season.
As Bill Connelly points out in his Army preview, it would only take slight improvement from a statistical standpoint to see more wins this season, but that may not be likely to happen:
If the Cadets are still viable at home, there are wins on the table. Five of six home opponents ranked worse than 80th in F/+ last year, and for that matter, two road opponents ranked worse than 115th. If Army were to improve from 121st to, say, 105th or so, the Cadets could threaten to improve in the win column once again.
That's probably too much to ask, though. The run game will be fine, and the passing game might improve, but the defensive front is still probably going to be too much of a liability to allow for too much defensive improvement. Army is solid in about four or five defensive positions and is between unproven and awful in the other five or six.
The good news is that Army will be young this season and is setting itself up for a legitimate chance at a bowl game in 2016 barring unforeseen injuries or other circumstances.
While it may be another tough year in Monken's second year at the helm, Army is likely on the upswing, so it will be interesting to see the development as Wake continues to play them moving forward.