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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