Monken names John Loose interim defensive coordinator, DC interviews start after Armed Forces Bowl

Safeties coach John Loose will be Army’s defensive coordinator in the Armed Forces Bowl, Jeff Monken said after the team’s first practice for the postseason Saturday morning.

Loose, a veteran assistant who was Lafayette’s defensive coordinator for 14 seasons before rejoining Army’s staff in 2014, will call plays against Houston, which has scored 41 or more points in 10 of its 12 games this season.

“John will do a great job,” Monken said. “We have a bunch of good coaches.”

Monken refuted an ESPN report that he was hiring former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Nate Woody to succeed Jay Bateman as the Black Knights’ defensive signal caller.

Woody was the first candidate that Monken interviewed for Army’s defensive coordinator when he was named head coach in December 2013.

“Somebody sent me congratulations (on hiring Woody) and I said, ‘For what,’” Monken said. “I haven’t talked to anybody about the job. I saw Nate Woody’s name pop up. I interviewed Nate for the job 5 years ago.”

Monken said he will not talk to any defensive coordinator candidates until after the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 22.

“It would just be a distraction for everybody else,” Monken said. “It would be a distraction for me. I have a team to prepare. That’s the most important thing.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. It might be John or it might be somebody from outside.”

Loose helped Rhyan England make a smooth mid-season transition from slotback to safety in 2014. England started for the next three and half years. Loose assisted in the transition of Xavier Moss from wide receiver to safety in 2015 and 2016. He has recently tutored James Gibson, Jaylon McClinton and Max Regan as playmakers in Army’s defense, which is ranked ninth in total defense.

Bateman was announced as North Carolina’s co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Sunday. Earlier in the week, Monken said he wasn’t sure if Bateman would coach in the bowl game. Bateman has started recruiting for North Carolina and has moved on.

“I think coach (Mack) Brown and North Carolina is very fortunate to get him,” Monken said of Bateman. “It’s a great opportunity for him. It’s a lot closer to home for he and his wife and just an opportunity professionally. It’s an outstanding program with a Hall of Fame coach and a chance to start anew and build something.

“That’s really fun in this profession and I suppose in a lot of professions. To take something that maybe is a little bit broken or not as good you think it can be and turn it into something special. That’s what has been so special about this experience here and Jay has been a huge part of that. He was a huge, huge part of this team’s success over the last three years and building this program both as a defensive coordinator and as a recruiter.”

Senior linebacker James Nachtigal said the bowl game will feel, “a little different,” without Bateman on the sidelines but the Black Knights have enough leadership and coaching to overcome the loss.

“He left us with a foundation,” Nachtigal said. “He built a lot of this defense. Now, he put us to a point where we can carry on by ourselves. The other coaches got it handled. They just tell us what to do and we’ll do our jobs.”

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Notebook: Reynolds, Black Knights on mend, bowl practice schedule

Mike Reynolds left it all out on the field in Army’s 17-10 win over Navy.

Coach Jeff Monken said the senior cornerback was in the training room after the game, getting treatment after his interception and three pass breakups in the victory.

“He had about three different things that were bothering him after the game,” Monken said earlier this week. “This week will be good. We are only going to lift and those guys come over on their own in between studying.

“They are preparing right now for finals and really cramming for those exams. We are going to let them have the week to rest and get ready, get in the training room. The lifting will help work out some of the soreness and kinks. That was a physical game on Saturday.”

Army will hold its first practice since the Army-Navy game on Saturday morning. The Black Knights will practice Sunday night and Tuesday morning before departing for Fort Worth, Texas and the Armed Forces Bowl. Monken said Army will likely practice Wednesday (special teams heavy) and possibly Thursday. While, Houston, Army’s Armed Forces Bowl opponent, hasn’t played since Nov. 23.

“We have all of our sights set on Houston,” Monken said. “They are a great team. Very talented. It will be a great challenge. They’ve had essentially four weeks to get ready for the bowl game and we would have had 4 days of practice before we play the game. Four days and four weeks is a big difference. …We essentially could get five practices in.”
Players begins final exams Friday night. Exams continue Saturday at noon, Saturday night, Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon and Monday night, Monken said.

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Bateman’s status for Armed Forces Bowl unclear

Army coach Jeff Monken said he is not sure whether departing defensive coordinator Jay Bateman will coach the Black Knights in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 22 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.

Bateman, who was announced as North Carolina’s co-defensive coordinator Sunday, is out on the road recruiting for the Tar Heels and head coach Mack Brown.

“We’ll have to see how this plays out,” Monken said Tuesday night. “Right now, I don’t anticipate him being a part of it. We certainly would welcome him coming back and being a part of the last game for this season.”

Monken said he’s decided on an interim defensive coordinator if Bateman, one of five finalists for the Broyles Award as the assistant coach of the year, does not coach in the bowl game.

“But, I’m not going to say until I know Jay is not coming back,” Monken said, whose team will return to practice Saturday.

Bateman’s Army defense held Navy to its lowest point total in an Army-Navy game since 1987 with a 17-10 victory Saturday. Army forced four turnovers in the win.

Bateman played an integral role in Army’s rise over the last three winning seasons. Army allowed 14 points or less in 17 of its 28 wins over the three-period stretch. The Black Knights have won five straight service-academy games over Navy and Air Force, allowing an average of 10.8 points per game.

“He (Bateman) made such a difference in our success, the culture of our program, the attitude and the culture of the defense with the way they played and the intensity and the belief,” Monken said. “He’s a great problem solver on game day. He’s really imaginative. He has just really done a great job.

“I think the two coordinators Brent (Davis, offense) and Jay really complimented each other well. I think Jay got better at defending the option because of the different things that Brent was doing. I think the offense got better because of all of the wrinkles that Jay put in to defend it. It really was a great balance there with those two guys. They are both very competitive and they work really hard at their jobs.”

Monken said Army’s next defensive coordinator could come from someone on staff or the outside. He said he like to hire a coach that has the same aggressive philosophy and personality as Bateman.

“We have played so effectively on defense that I think it’s important for us not to have a wholesale change and take on a completely different philosophy on defense,” Monken said. “It’s got to be something that’s similar and somebody that can problem solve and fix the issues when they come up because inevitably they are going to and really inspire and motivate our players to play really, really hard and execute on Saturdays.

“To be really, really good, you got to have this everywhere, but at the academies, you got to be very fundamentally sound. I think we have good teachers on our staff. It’s important that the defensive coordinator to me is somebody that can give input at every position whether it be a drill or a technique and be able to teach and also be able to handle the scheme part of it when you put it all together is going to stop people from moving the football.”


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KnightCap: Army-Navy

Quick recap of Army’s 10th win of the season and third consecutive victory over Navy.

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Jay Bateman hired as North Carolina co-defensive coordinator

Jay Bateman was officially announced as North Carolina co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Sunday.

The hiring of Bateman, Army’s defensive coordinator for the past five seasons, was originally reported by Inside Carolina Friday and confirmed by Bruce Feldman of The Athletic Saturday following Army’s 17-10 win over Navy. Bateman, one of five finalists for the Broyles Award as college football’s top assistant coach,  joins Mack Brown’s staff, which includes co-defensive coordinator Tommy Thigpen.

“Jay Bateman is an outstanding football coach and I’m thrilled he is joining our staff,” Brown said in a North Carolina release. “He is a great teacher of the game, a brilliant defensive play caller, and an excellent recruiter with many ties to North Carolina and this region, including strong relationships with North Carolina high school coaches.”

Bateman’s attacking defenses were instrumental in Army’s rise over the past three seasons. Army finished fourth in total defense in 2016. The Black Knights are currently ranked ninth in total defense heading the bowl season after forcing four turnovers and holding Navy to its lowest point total since 1987 in the Army-Navy game Saturday. Army is third in third-down defense (26.7 percent), 12th in rushing defense (108 yards/game) and tied for 13th in scoring defense (18 points/game).

“Congrats and good luck to Coach Bateman on a great opportunity at Tar Heel Football with Hall of Fame coach and legend Mack Brown,” said Army coach Jeff Monken in a statement posted on social media Sunday night. “He did an amazing job building one of college football’s best defenses at Army. Thanks for all you’ve done for us.”

Bateman’s attacking style fitted the skill set and personality of his players. Monken devised multiple looks including six defensive backs, four linebackers and a defensive lineman. Dialing up pressure from the edge and delayed blitzes from inside linebackers were among Bateman’s strong suits.

“I love Coach Bateman,” Army senior linebacker Cole Christiansen said at Army-Navy Media Day. “He was the first one that I ever interacted with from the Army program. He’s the one that recruited me. I just love being around him on the field and in the meeting room. He’s just a brilliant defensive coordinator.”

It’s unclear whether Bateman will coach the Black Knights in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 22.

Who will be Army’s next defensive coordinator? My sense is Army might stay within the program for Bateman’s successor.

Safeties coach John Loose and linebackers coach Kevin Corless have experience as a defensive coordinator. Loose spent 14 years as Lafayette’s defensive coordinator before returning for his second tour on Army’s coaching staff for the 2014 season. Corless was co-defensive coordinator under Monken at Georgia Southern in 2012 and defensive coordinator/co-defensive coordinator at Arkansas State for nine seasons.

Army could also promote defensive line coach Chad Wilt, who worked for the past three years under at Army and three years at Ball State under Bateman.

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Prediction blog: Navy

Army is a 7-point favorite over Navy in the 119th Army-Navy game Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The service-academy rivalry is getting respect from oddsmakers. Don’t see many games pitting a 9-win team (Army) against a 3-win team (Navy) with a touchdown spread.

The last four Army-Navy games have been decided by 16 total points.

Army has pulled out the last two games in the fourth quarter.

The Black Knights are ranked (22 in AP, 25 in Coaches) entering the Army-Navy game for the first time since 1996.

Sal Interdonato (Times Herald-Record Army football beat writer): Army 27, Navy 20. Expect another tight game into the fourth quarter.  Navy slotback Malcolm Perry will be the most electric player on the field but Army has more ways to beat the Midshipmen on offense. Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman has limited Navy to two touchdowns in each of the last two games.
Josh Conklin (Times Herald-Record photographer): Army 21, Navy 14

Predictions from around the college football universe
Pete Fiutak (College Football News): Army 31, Navy 14. Fiutak writes on College Football News, “As always, the records and the X and O stuff takes a backseat to everyone else. With the backdrop of the passing of George H.W. Bush certain to be a part of the narrative – and with Donald Trump attending – this game should take on a different feel outside of the normal pomp and pageantry. Football-wise, Army wins in a walk. Navy has lost eight of its last nine games because the defense just can’t slow anyone down in key moments. It was rolled by Air Force in the first match this year against a fellow option team, and lost to Tulane to close out the regular season. Army does everything Navy can do, only better.”
Kevin McGuire (Athlon Sports): Army 20, Navy 13. McGuire writes on Athlon Sports, “As is usually the case when Army and Navy play, expect a game that is heavy on the running games with both teams relying on the option to keep the ball moving and the clock ticking. Statistically, Army and Navy have an even playing field running the ball on offense. Defensively is another story. Army is much better against the run, allowing 4.15 yards per rushing attempt this season while Navy is giving up 5.15 yards per attempt. That could spell disaster for Navy once again this season. This game will fly by, and Army will once again have the edge with Darnell Woolfolk and Kelvin Hopkins leading the ground attack.”
Aaron Taylor (CBS Sports): Army
Brian Jones (CBS Sports): Army
Rick Neuheisel (CBS Sports): Navy
Randy Cross (CBS Sports): Navy


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Eddie Robinson Coach of Year Finalist: Jeff Monken

On that day that Jeff Monken was named an Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year finalist for the second straight season, he was asked about the pressures of his position.

Monken has led Army to a 9-2 record, seven straight wins and the academy’s highest ranking (23) in the Associated Press poll since 1958.

“People are probably surprised that we feel as coaches that there isn’t a lot of external pressure,” Monken said. “The pressure all comes from within. I don’t think there is anybody that could put more pressure on me than me. The pressure that I put on myself to do my job is far greater than anybody else is going to put on me. I have high expectations for myself more than anybody else. People want me to win every single game or our offense, defense and special teams to be absolutely perfect. Well, not as perfect as I want them to be.”

“I’m sure coach (Urban) Meyer (at Ohio State) and everybody else that is getting talked about at this time of the year is feeling the same way. It’s not pressure.  It’s a tremendous sense of responsibility that we feel to our teams to the young men that we lead, to the programs and schools that we represent. That’s the drive and sometimes not the pressure by exhaustion of that responsibility and all that we put into mentally, emotionally and physically.”

Monken is one of eight Eddie Robinson finalists. The list is a who’s who in college football including the four coaches in the College Football Playoff: Alabama’s Nick Saban, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Kelly.

“If you think about it in the grand scheme of things, I’m compensated very well for my job,” Monken continued. “I’m very grateful. I have a job that I love. I’ve never wanted to do anything else but coach college football. I’m living my dream.

“There’s a lot of dads that can’t put food of the table for their children. That’s pressure. There’s people getting laid off that don’t have job, who don’t know how they are going to make their last house payment or get to their next job interview because they can’t put gas in the car, that’s pressure. People who have children that are sick or loved ones or spouses who are sick and they just hope they make it one more day alive so they can enjoy one more moment with their loved one, that’s pressure.”

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Quick thoughts: Army returns to Armed Forces Bowl

Can’t say it’s shocking news that Army is headed back to the Armed Forces Bowl.

For all the discussion about the Black Knights possibly not being invited to the postseason with a 9-2 record and No. 22 ranking in the Associated Press poll, the Armed Forces seemed like a logical landing spot for Army, considering the relationship that the academy and athletic director Boo Corrigan have fostered with Brant Ringler, the bowl’s executive director.

Corrigan said during Sunday’s conference call that he had been speaking Ringler and Armed Forces Bowl officials, “for the better part of a year,” about Army’s possible return.

“We were very fortunate to work behind the scenes in an effort to make sure that once we had a slot available that they (Army) were able to come to the Armed Forces Bowl,” Ringler said. “It’s a perfect home we believe for Army to play in. It’s part of what we do here. Now, we’ve had 10 of the last 12 years an academy in our game. We couldn’t be more happy with having Army in our game.”

The Armed Forces Bowl couldn’t pull another marquee matchup for the second straight season. Last year, the bowl delivered Army’s triple option and Ahmad Bradshaw vs. San Diego State and the nation’s leading rusher Rashaad Penny.

Houston (8-4), Army’s opponent on Dec. 22 at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas, will be without all-American defensive lineman Ed Oliver, a projected No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft, and starting quarterback D’Eriq King. Certainly, more attention would be drawn to the bowl if Oliver and King were playing.

Yahoo Sports ranked the Armed Forces Bowl matchup No. 16 among the 39 bowls.

Was hoping for the first meeting between Army-Boise State in a clash of ranked teams. Boise State will play Boston College in the First Responder Bowl, formerly the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

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Michie Stadium renovation, Oklahoma 2020 update

Army may play Oklahoma at Michie Stadium in 2020 after all.

Athletic director Boo Corrigan said he thinks there’s a, “good chance” that the Black Knights host Oklahoma on Sept. 26, 2020 as opposed to the game being played at a neutral site.

“I would say that’s accurate,” said Corrigan when asked if there’s a better chance that the game would be played at West Point. “That would be great. Think about that year. We have Oklahoma and Air Force at home. That’s a pretty good home schedule. …When was the last time we played a top team at Michie Stadium? (Stanford in 2013) was good but I don’t know if they were top 10 much less with the following that Oklahoma has.

“The only way it won’t be played in Michie Stadium is if we are under construction. Otherwise, I think we owe it to our fans. We owe it to our cadets to play that game at Michie Stadium. They could talk about that for the rest of their lives.”

Michie Stadium’s renovation is still in the fund-raising phase, Corrigan said. West Point has called the potential construction, “The Michie Stadium Preservation Project.” The project includes the rebuilding of the east stands near Lusk Reservoir. Stadium construction would not start during the 2019 season, Corrigan said.

“We’ve been able to raise a good amount of money,” Corrigan said. “We still need to raise a better amount of money to get there. It’s very much the superintendent’s priority and it’s very much my priority to look at what that is. We need to do something.

“I think looking out a couple of years we are going to need to be smart not only with the stadium and the construction but with what we can phase in. Is there opportunities to phase in? The cadets will still be seated over there on that side.”

When asked if the start of stadium construction would be delayed so Army could host Oklahoma, Corrigan said, “If we have the funds and go through all the different wickets, I think the sooner we (start) the building, the better.”

Luxury seats are included in the stadium’s renovation and could be a sign that Army is looking to bring in brand teams like Oklahoma in the distant future.

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Bowl update: Will Oklahoma’s Big 12 championship help Black Knights

Army’s bowl chances considerably increased with Oklahoma’s win over Texas in the Big 12 championship game Saturday.

Associated Press writer Ralph Russo’s piece earlier in the week stated that if Oklahoma, which defeated Army 28-21 in overtime earlier this season, were Big 12 champions and one of the four teams selected to the College Football Playoff, Texas would receive an invite to the Sugar Bowl, leaving the Armed Forces Bowl open.

Pending Saturday night’s conference championship results, the final spot in the CFP could come down to Oklahoma and Ohio State.

Been hearing that the Armed Forces Bowl is one of the top landing spots for Army, which is 9-2 and ranked 23rd in the AP poll. The Black Knights defeated San Diego State 42-35 in the 2017 Armed Forces Bowl. Army has a good relationship with the bowl and executive director Brant Ringler.

Army athletic director Boo Corrigan said earlier in the week that he had talked with 15 bowls Tuesday. Thirteen of those bowls were owned by ESPN, including the Armed Forces Bowl.

“We’ve been working on this for 10 months,” Corrigan said at Army-Navy Media Day Wednesday. “This isn’t something that popped up. We’ve been talking to people. We put together a nice little booklet on ratings and attendance and everything about who we are and what we are able to deliver.”

Corrigan added, “We’ve been to bowls two years in a row. Our ratings are good for pre-Christmas bowl game. They are the highest ratings. Attendance-wise, it’s better than all but one bowl last year. Not only do we have a really good football team and really good kids and a really good story, we also have ratings and attendance.”

Army does not have a bowl tie for 2019. Bowl ties are negotiated in six-year windows, Corrigan said. Corrigan has been in touch with bowl officials to secure ties from 2020-25.

“The current bowl cycle we are in was negotiated in 2012,” Corrigan said. “We look a lot different than we did then. We have more of a bowl history in the last few years. We’ve been through this the last couple of years. It’s just a lot more challenging this year.

“We haven’t had tie-ins for a while. It goes back to there was a long period of time where even if we were bowl tied in, we were not bowl eligible. It’s hard to have leverage to talk about it when you are not able to deliver.”

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    Sal Interdonato

    Award-winning writer Sal Interdonato has been on the Army football beat since 2007. He'll take you inside the huddle and into the lives of the Black Knights. Read Full
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