November 20 practice blog

Army’s first Top 25 rankings since 1996 are a testament to how hard the Black Knights have worked, quarterback Kelvin Hopkins said after Tuesday’s practice.

The Black Knights made their first appearance in the Associated Press (No. 23) and Coaches (No. 24) polls since the final 1996 rankings.

“It’s an honor to be mentioned among the teams that are there,” Hopkins said. “But, we are not done yet as a team. We know that. Our goal is not to get in it. It’s to finish in it. That’s something that we have been stressing for two years now, not just to get in it but to finish in it and finish the season there. We are approaching practice with our focus on Navy. We have to focus on our next opponent to stay where we are and keep moving up.”

Hopkins said being left out of last year’s final rankings after a 10-3 season last year fueled this season.

“It was definitely one of our team goals (finishing in the Top 25) and I think that was the only one up there that we didn’t get,” Hopkins said. “We were really upset and disappointed about it. That’s why we made it a point for it to be on that goal board this year and to finish that goal out. We made a great stride to get there but we want to keep pushing and try to finish there. That’s the real goal.”

Senior linebacker Kenneth Brinson said the goal of finishing in the Top 25, “was brought up collectively” by this year’s team.

“It’s great to be able to fulfill something that we wanted to do last year but it’s also great in sense that this group of guys was able to take the steps toward accomplishing what we set out,” Brinson said.

Army’s national ranking has been, “years in the making,” senior fullback Calen Holt said. Coach Jeff Monken planted the seeds as soon as he stepped foot in post in December 2014.

“That was one of his goals,” Holt said. “He wasn’t striving to be on par with every other team that has been here at Army. He came to build a legacy. My freshman year was probably the roughest (2-10 record). We didn’t see that. We were really close in a lot of games. Every year since, we’ve been reaping the benefits of our work.”

Junior linebacker and captain Cole Christiansen said finishing in the Top 25, “is a real special thing. That’s always something that I wanted to be a part of when I decided I wanted to play college football. It’s pretty cool to have a chance to do it.”

Tuesday was the first of back-to-back practices before an extended Thanksgiving leave. It was also the first time that Army had practiced in full pads in three weeks, Monken said. The Black Knights are idle until their annual rivalry with Navy on Dec. 8 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Everyone knows we are three weeks out,” Brinson said. “Coach (Jay) Bateman was talking how important these next two practices are before we go off.

“I love going home. I’m not going to ever say no to that. But, we definitely recognize that we need to put in the work so we can make sure we can relax and take a break when we leave.”

After Wednesday’s early afternoon session, the Black Knights will not return to the practice field until Monday.

“There shouldn’t be any laying off the throttle,” Christiansen said. “Every single practice, we should be trying to get better. Whether the game is tomorrow or a month and half away, we should be having our best practices of the whole season.”

Army’s trio of senior fullbacks Holt, captain Darnell Woolfolk and Andy Davidson received their top choices during Branch Night last week. Holt, Woolfolk and Davidson will all  be field artillery officers following the lead of Mike Viti, their position coach.

“Just similar interests and guidance from our coach,” Holt said of the branch selection. “We all have a pretty close bond with each other. We are going to see how it works out with the three of us and seeing if we can post with each other.”

Coach Jeff Monken and Hopkins made the national media rounds before practice. Monken appeared on CBS Sports Radio’s Jim Rome Show. Hopkins was a guest of Newy Scruggs on NBC Sports Radio.

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and SoundCloud @salinterdonato. Started a Facebook page, solely for Army coverage. Here’s the link.

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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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