Media Day blog

Complacency has been one of the buzzwords around Army preseason practice.

Coach Jeff Monken has stressed to his team coming off a 10-win season that “complacency is the biggest threat to success.”

The message is for players to put everything that Army has accomplished over the last two years (18 wins, 2 bowl victories, 2017 Commander in Chief trophy champions) in the past and focus on the goals of the 2018 team.

“It’s wearing your own arm out and patting yourself on the back,” said Monken when speaking of complacency during Media Day. “You think, ‘you have arrived and we’re pretty good and we will just roll the gold helmets out there and people will run for cover.’ It’s not the case here. It will never be the case here. We have to earn everything we’ve got.”

Among the goals this season: Reach a third straight bowl game. A feat that has never been done at the academy.

“The opportunity (for a third straight bowl) is out there but it’s going to take a tremendous effort for us to do that,” Monken said. …”I know it would be a great source of pride for that (senior) class.”

Monken said the challenge for the players, “is to improve as a team and get better. The records are a result of what we do in terms of preparation, our effort, just the execution of the plan every week. That’s where I challenge our guys to do that. Whatever the result is, that’s a byproduct of what we have done in terms of executing the plan. We really coach our guys to follow what we are asking them to do and what they know and believe in as a plan for victory and to work hard and play hard and take great pride in the little things.

After a 10-win season, what’s the next step for the program? When asked if the word, “undefeated” has been mentioned during preseason camp, Monken replied, “Once a week. That’s all we want to do is go undefeated once a week. It’s silly to talk about that (going undefeated for the season). Some of those games are months away. We got one game that we are concerned with and that’s the Duke game (August 31) and we are going to try our best to win that game. When that one is done, we will get prepared to try to win the next one. That’s all we do. I think our guys realize and are bought into that philosophy. It’s how we have been able to have some success over the last two years. It’s not looking a long way into the future. It’s concentrating on the next game.”

Would Monken like to see Army remain an independent or join a conference in the near future? “I hope we can stay independent. We are a national university. I like the idea of playing a national schedule and being able to travel and play different teams from year to year. We give our academy and football program exposure to cities and states and prospects and fans around the country. I think it’s a real positive for us and hopefully we are going to be able to manage to do that.”

Can an independent team survive in the current college football world and its four-team playoff? “The playoff system as is doesn’t include anyone outside of the Power 5 conference any way. Central Florida went undefeated last year,” Monken said. “You can’t do any better than that and they didn’t get into the playoffs. I don’t anticipate if it remains a four-team playoff that anyone outside of the Power 5 schools are going to get in. That’s not something I consider or even worry about.

“What I’m hoping we can do is to continue to have sustained success here. That’s not something that even really needs to be discussed. A playoff and getting into those things. That’s for other people to consider. What we need to consider is trying to go 1-0 every week, beating our academy rivals so we can win the Commander in Chief’s trophy. That’s the championship we are after. If the playoff system even expands, my feeling is if you win enough games and you think you are good enough, they are going to invite you into the playoff. If they don’t, they won’t.”

Junior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins received a passing grade from offensive coordinator Brent Davis in his preseason progress report. When asked what signs Davis was looking to see Hopkins in the preseason, he said, “Just manage the game and manage the team, manage different situations. Take care of the football. He’s done an outstanding job with that so far. We hope he’ll continue to do that. We wanted to see if he wanted to get the tough yards like Ahmad (Bradshaw) did so many times for us and keep the chains moving. We feel like he’s done that. I think he’s a physical guy, certainly Ahmad was very physical. He’s different than Ahmad but we feel like he absolutely likes to run the football and he can do some other things really well as well.”

Passing is also one of Hopkins’ strengths. Will Army complete more than its total of 20 passes in 2017 this season? Davis said he’s concerned with one number.

“We want to be No. 1 in passing efficiency in the country,” Davis said. “We have been many different times and different places over the years. That’s what is most important. It’s not how many times you throw it. But how efficient you throw it because our offense should lend itself to having big plays in the passing game and we feel like Kelvin is a good enough passer that he can make it count when we throw the football. Whether we throw it 10 times or maybe it’s five times and he completes two long touchdown passes, all that adds up. We don’t have a set number. We’re not here to say we are going in trying to throw the ball this many times. But, we feel really good about his ability to execute the passing games. Really good.”

Senior linebacker Chandler Ramirez said he sacrificed his Spring Break body for the better of the team in the offseason. Ramirez added 20-25 pounds and is now up to 255. Army coaches say trying to move Ramirez at the point of attack is going to like blocking a fire hydrant. Ramirez is expected to play the outside linebacker/hybrid role of Alex Aukerman. Ironically, coaches sat down Ramirez going into his junior year and told him, “This is what we want you to do. We want you to look like Auk.”¬†Aukerman, a 210-pound safety in high school, played at 260 pounds his senior season in 2018. Look for a story on Ramirez in our upcoming preview package.

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