8/7/19: Army preseason camp news and notes

After a Monday practice that fell short of expectations, Army picked back up on Wednesday with an effort that at least satisfied, if not enthused, head coach Jeff Monken. About half of practice was filled with heavy rain, but the players didn’t seem bothered by it. They were more interested in making up for the lack of effort two days prior. As nose guard Rod Stoddard assesed afterwards, “I thought we got back into the rhythm.”

Linebackers stepping into new roles

The most impressive play I saw on Wednesday wasn’t a touchdown or an interception. It was a deflection by an outside linebacker. A ball was lofted to Dominic DiStefano and as he reached out to grab it, Jack King leapt off the ground and dove forward, knocking the ball away with his fingertips.

When Monken gushes about his young linebacking corps, he starts to ramble. It’s not because he can’t stay focused. Rather, he keeps bringing up new guys that he’s excited about. One day it’s Kemonte Yow. The next it’s Cedrick Cunningham. On Wednesday, one of those guys was King.

We’re really excited about how he’s grown and developed,” Monken said of King, before going off on a tangent again about how he believes that linebacker Arik Smith has a lot of the same characteristics of senior Cole Christiansen. It’s a good problem to have.

He raved about Joe Stephenson, saying that both he and King were standouts at special teams last year and should play major roles in helping to fill the Kenneth Brinson-sized hole at outside linebacker.

2020 already?

The most interesting part of Monken’s defensive breakdown is that he’s already thinking about 2020. After combing through a list of impressive incoming sophomores, he says that it will come in handy with all the seniors he’ll lose on the defensive side of the ball at the end of the season.

It’s an insightful look into the mind of a Division I head coach. There are so many boxes to check before the Aug. 30 opener at Rice, and yet, Monken is still keeping an eye on the following season.

“I’m glad there’s some names we’re able to call out and make some contributions this year and be able to carry the torch for the next season,” he said.

Freshman quarterback interview

I spoke with Jemel Jones, one of five freshman quarterbacks who have been practicing with the team for two days now. It’s been quite the awakening, between the whole roster getting sent back to the locker room on Monday to the pouring rain on Wednesday.

How have the first few days of practice been for you?

“It has definitely had been a rough past days, highs and lows, but we’re not letting the lows affect us. Be consistent.”

What advice has senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins given you and the other freshmen so far?

“Definitely the footwork in the offense and just slowing down the mental aspect.”

You were at the prep school last year. What’s your assessment of how the team looks this year in relation to last year?

“If we just keep working hard, we’ll be the team we want to be.”

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