The Black Knights rank No. 93 in Athlon's Top 130 for 2020
After winning 21 games from 2017-18, Army slipped to 5-8 last season. However, coach Jeff Monken's team has a manageable slate and 13 returning starters for 2020, so the path to bowl eligibility is favorable. New starting quarterback Jabari Laws has flashed potential in limited time, and the return of three starters up front provides a good foundation for the Black Knights' option attack. Assuming Laws develops in his first full year as the starter, and the defense continues to hold teams under 25 points a game, Monken's program should find itself back in the postseason.
Previewing Army's Offense for 2020
Jabari Laws is a familiar face at quarterback. The junior made five starts last season and was the Black Knights’ fourth-leading rusher with 484 yards while averaging 6.4 yards per tote. Though the sample size was small, Laws impressed by completing 80 percent of his passes for 311 yards and one touchdown. The hope is that he’ll be ready to go after being sidelined by a late-season knee injury. Christian Anderson (429 yards rushing) is an experienced backup and will get the call if Laws is not ready.
Senior fullback Sandon McCoy is the leading returning rusher (576 yards) and led the team a year ago with 10 touchdowns on the ground. Senior running back Artice Hobbs IV had 493 yards from scrimmage and could play a much larger role. The same could be said of junior running back Cade Barnard and 260-pound sophomore fullback Jakobi Buchanan, both of whom had fewer than 20 rushing attempts last season.
With 41 career starts among them, center/right tackle JB Hunter and right guard Peyton Reeder are easily the most experienced offensive linemen. Luke McCleery made three starts at left tackle last season and could be a full-time starter as a senior.
Senior receiver Cam Harrison led the team with 25 catches. He became only the second Army receiver since 2007 to have a pair of 100-yard receiving games in the same season.
Previewing Army's Defense for 2020
The departure of linebacker Cole Christiansen, who was last season’s leading tackler, and corner Elijah Riley, who led the unit in sacks and interceptions, left huge cleats to fill. Hence, there are jobs to be won and not only in the starting ranks, but also in providing depth.
The linebacking corps should be in pretty good shape with junior Arik Smith, the leading returning tackler, and senior Jeremiah Lowery, who started eight games in 2019.
Javhari Bourdeau emerged as a solid corner last season while starting opposite Riley, and junior safety Cedrick Cunningham Jr. had a nice first season as a starter, placing fifth in tackles.
Up front, senior Edriece Patterson and junior Kwabena Bonsu combined for 11 tackles for a loss and five sacks.
Previewing Army's Specialists for 2020
Cole Talley returns after splitting placekicking duties with the departed David Cooper. Landon Salyers, who has handled kickoffs the past two seasons, and Andrew Bagley, could also get a look. Zach Harding averaged 48.2 yards on 21 punts last season, and eight of his boots traveled at least 50 yards. Brandon Walters and Hobbs handled the majority of the kick returns, and Akyah Miranda virtually all of the punt returns. The trio could fill those respective roles again this season.
Last season, the Black Knights won only twice after September. As a result, a three-season bowl streak, the academy’s longest, came to halt. While anticipation has been building for Oklahoma’s first visit to Michie Stadium since 1946, a schedule that is again sprinkled with a pair of FCS teams is far from daunting. If Laws is healthy and builds on his experience from last season, and a couple of defenders emerge to lift a unit that has seen a number of true playmakers graduate in recent years, then Army should at least be back in the bowl picture.
National Ranking: 93
(Top photo by Danny Wild/USA Today Sports)