2019 First Spring Practice Blog

“It’s supposed to be spring practice, not winter practice,” Army coach Jeff Monken said about halfway through the Black Knights’ first session since defeating Houston 70-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl and finishing with an 11-2 record and No. 19 Associated Press ranking.

Temperatures were in the mid-20s with a real feel in the teens Thursday afternoon into early evening. Monken gave his players a period to warm up inside the Foley Athletic Center at the midway point of practice.

Junior linebacker Ryan Parker, who is competing for the will linebacker position opened by the graduation of James Nachtigal, was impressed with the energy considering players were coming off Fourth Quarter Warriors drills, which start at 5:35 a.m. for an hour, earlier in the week.

“We’ve been going through that and everybody is beat down and leaning on each other to get back out,” Parker said. “We go out there today and I couldn’t say enough about how well we performed out there and how hard that we went even with being tired and worn out from school.”

Parker said the team got the most out of its only practice before spring break. Army returns to the field on March 19.

“I think that’s how we all feel,” Parker said. “This is the start. There’s a lot of guys getting a lot of reps and there’s a lot of opportunities out there (in the spring) and everybody felt that today and was able to get after it.”

Junior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins said Thursday was, “one of the best first practices of any period of camp that we’ve ever had – spring ball or fall camp – where everybody came in and was ready to work and the energy level was up there.”

“You can gauge how people are involved and how excited people are for the season,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins, who was running on the side, was one of the many players limited or not participating in practice due to muscle pulls or strains from Fourth Quarter Warrior drills.

“We had a bunch of guys pulled their hamstrings,” Monken said. “We got about eight or nine hamstring pulls right now on guys that we were expected to have practice.”

Monken said sophomore guard Peyton Reeder (shoulder), sophomore linebacker Gavin Bassett, sophomore tight end Jake Lauer (knee) and freshman tackle Kam Holloway are among the players that will participate in spring practice due to injury.

Reeder, who started 11 games at right guard last season, would have been one of the players getting snaps at center to replace three-year starter Bryce Holland.

Junior Jack Sides, who started the Armed Forces Bowl at right guard for an injured Reeder, opened spring as Army’s first-team center.

“He (Sides) has really, really grown as a player for us,” Monken said. “I’m really, really proud for him and I’m glad for him. He’s worked hard. He’s kind of like Austin Schuffert (a 2018 senior tackle). He’s paid his dues and he’s finally in position to do it.”

Monken said freshman Dean Powell and junior Will Huff will also get some work at center in the spring.

Army’s first-team offensive line was Sides, sophomore left tackle Luke McCleery, returning starting junior left guard Jaxson Deaton, Powell at right guard and sophomore right tackle Alex Herndon. Sophomore starting right tackle JB Hunter missed practice due to illness.

Sophomore Christian Anderson and freshmen Jabari Laws, Mike Mbony and Tyhier Tyler took reps at quarterback. Freshman Clay Czyzynski, a scout-team quarterback last season, has moved to fullback.

Freshman Cade Barnard was running with top fullbacks Connor Slomka and Sandon McCoy.

VIDEO: Junior cornerback Elijah Riley talks about first spring practice, mindset after 11-2 season, weight room gains and more

VIDEO: Black Knights are back.

VIDEO: Fourth Quarter Warriors drill Luke McCleery vs, Kwabena Bonsu

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