Players remember Brandon Jackson on April 17 and every day

Brandon Jackson was in the thoughts and prayers of Darnell Woolfolk and his Army teammates and coaches Tuesday.

Players shared stories and memories about Jackson, who would have turned 22 years old today. Jackson, Army’s two-year starting cornerback, passed away in a single-car accident on Sept. 11, 2016.

Coach Jeff Monken has said Jackson’s locker would remain set with his uniform and practice gear at least until he would have graduated.

Woolfolk, who will be a senior fullback and was recently named a team captain, played with Jackson at Army Prep before their freshman season in 2015.

“We know that he’s still looking out for this team and he’s always part of the brotherhood,” Woolfolk said. “We want to let him know that we love. We always miss him and we talk about him every day.”

Hard to forget Army’s emotional entrance to the field before the 2016 Army-Navy game with players chanting one of Jackson’s favorite sayings, “Scared Money Don’t Make No Money.” The Black Knights went out and snapped Navy’s 14-game winning streak in the series with a 21-17 victory. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw scored the game-winning touchdown on a 2nd-and-8 from Navy’s 9. Jackson wore No. 28.

 

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Recruiting: Hanover Area (Pa.) lineman Justin Kopko’s commitment, Black-Gold Game visitors

Justin Kopko’s connection to Army football started to grow the moment the Hanover Area (Pa.) junior received the underclassman offensive lineman MVP award at the Black Knights’ prospect camp last summer.

Kopko made his eighth trip to West Point for the Black-Gold Game Friday. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound tackle gave his commitment to coach Jeff Monken at the spring game.

“It (the commitment) was coming,” Kopko said. “I’d rather be here than any other school in the country. It’s a top-notch place and the team is going places. I love it up here. Once I got the offensive MVP and started to get familiar with all of the coaches, I knew then that it was the right place.

Kopko, one of the top returning lineman in Pennsylvaniaa high honors student, visited Temple.

St. Joseph Regional (N.J.) junior safety Jimmy Ciarlo tweeted his commitment to Army Saturday. Ciarlo attended the Black-Gold Game. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Ciarlo had offers from Syracuse and Old Dominion.

Dutchtown (Ga.) running back Jonathan Andrews, Vance (N.C.) defensive end Damar Faison,  Mishawaka (Ind.) offensive lineman Alex Faulkner, Springfield (Ohio) linebacker Cameron Hoelscher, Utica Eisenhower (Mich.) defensive end Henry Janeway, East Lincoln (N.C.) defensive end Ryan Matz, Viera (Fla.) linebacker Brandon Mays, Centennial (Texas) OL Kyle Perry, Midlothian (Texas) fullback Landry Songer, Rockwall (Texas) kicker Cole Talley, Lake Ridge (Texas) running back Cartraven Walker and Montclair (N.J.) running back Danny Webb were among the 2018 commits attending the Black-Gold Game.

2019 commits (4)
S Jimmy Ciarlo, 6-3, 190, St. Joseph Regional HS, Montvale, N.J.: Other offers – Syracuse, Old Dominion. (COMMITTED, April 13)
LB Ryan Jewell, 6-1, 223, Pelham (Ala.) HS: (COMMITTED, April 4)
OL Justin Kopko, 6-4, 315, Hanover Area (Pa.) HS: (COMMITTED, April 13)
QB Dedrick Wilson, 6-1, 195, Kenedy (Texas) HS: (COMMITTED, March 28

 

 

 

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Black-Gold Game Recap

Kelvin Hopkins and Army’s offense were in mid-season form early in the Black-Gold Game.

A steady diet of fullback dives, a couple keeper by Hopkins, Army’s sophomore quarterback, and a few fourth-and-short conversions highlighted a 17-play drive that ate up the majority of the first quarter. Fullback Connor Slomka finished the march with a 3-yard touchdown run.

“That exactly how I pictured it,” Hopkins said of the drive. “That’s what we like. I think we got off the field with maybe four minutes left on the clock. It was a real grind-it-out drive. The offense was moving. We made two fourth-down conversions. That’s Army football right there.”

Army broke down the teams into Black (including the first-team offense) and Gold (including the first-team defense).

Hopkins, Kell Walker and Christian Anderson quarterbacked the Black team participating in that order. Cam Thomas and Luke Langdon were the Gold quarterbacks. Langdon led White on its only touchdown drive in the second quarter.

Here’s coach Jeff Monken’s assessment of the quarterbacks after spring football: “I would be difficult to make a decision on who are quarterback is going to be based on tonight. I thought all of those guys did some good things. Kelvin Hopkins has had a good spring and I think really earned the respect of his teammates. He was outstanding high school quarterback that won a lot of football games. He’s gotten so much better this spring running the football and running the offense.

“We used Kell Walker at the quarterback position all spring and that was an interesting project to be able to get the ball in his hands. With all of the different things that we did with the quarterback last fall, it makes sense to have a really good runner in that position. I don’t know if he’s going to stay there but he may play there some.

“With the two young guys, I was really encouraged to see Cam Thomas and Christian Anderson make some plays tonight. I think they still have some growing to do to be able to lead this offense and lead this team and then you have a veteran like Langdon that has been around the program. He makes good decisions. He’s tough and we have a lot of confident in him in his knowledge of the offense.

“It will be interesting to see how it (starting quarterback) plays out. We probably in our minds have an idea of what we think might happen but it’s a little bit early.”

Monken said he will continue to approaching the 2018 season as if Army will not have three-year starting quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw’s graduation date is said to be still in question.

The game was stopped with 11:36 left in the fourth quarter with Black leading 21-7. Monken said he didn’t want to change for any more injuries to occur. The game was stopped a few times due to players being banged up.

The first-team offense: QB Kelvin Hopkins, FB Andy Davidson; SB Jordan Asberry; SB Fred Cooper; WR Cam Harrison; WR Kjetil Cline; LT Nick Stokes; LG Jaxson Deaton; C Bryce Holland; RG Peyton Reeder; RT Austin Schuffert.

Scoring plays: Black – Connor Slomka 3-yard run; Kelvin Hopkins 1-yard run; Rashaad Bolton 2-yard run. Gold – Calen Holt 3-yard run.

Play of game: Slotback Fred Cooper’s jump cut made linebacker Christian Gomez and Jack King miss in the backfield and the freshman was off on a 35-yard run, which set the final touchdown for Black. Read my story on Cooper here.

For a photo gallery of the game featuring Kell Walker, Calen Holt, Cam Thomas and Christian Anderson, click here.

2018 captains were announced by Monken when he met on the field with the team after the game. Players selected sophomore linebacker Cole Christiansen, senior center Bryce Holland and junior fullback Darnell Woolfolk as captains.

Monken revealed that sophomore defensive end/linebacker Amadeo West, a projected starter, sustained an injury while rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that caused him to miss the 2017 season. It’s unlikely that West will play this season.

Woolfolk, junior linebacker James Nachtigal were among the players that didn’t participate in the game. Christiansen’s reps were limited.

Miscellaneous notes: Neither defense forced a turnover. Freshman cornerback Javhari Bourdeau tackled Kell Walker for a loss. Freshman defensive lineman Emmanuel Ukhueligbe knocked down a pass. Cam Thomas completed passes to Ke’Shaun Wells and Christian Hayes. Nick Schrage booted a 54-yard punt…Freshman Sean McNulty missed a 37-yard field goal to end the first half.

VIDEO: Rashaad Bolton leaps into the end zone for touchdown

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April 6 practice blog

The quarterback competition heats up Saturday morning when Army holds its first scrimmage this spring.

Coach Jeff Monken said hitting will be live on quarterbacks during the offense vs. defense scrimmage. In some past scrimmage, quarterback have worn non-contact jerseys.

“We don’t have anybody out there that’s played in a (full) game at quarterback,” Monken said.

Monken said he doesn’t, “have any idea where it’s going to shake out,” at quarterback for the 2018 season. He said both sophomore Kelvin Hopkins and sophomore Kell Walker, who played running back his first two seasons, “have done some good things.” Monken also mentioned he’s anxious to see what freshmen Christian Anderson and Cam Thomas can do under scrimmage-like conditions.

Hopkins and Walker, who are roommates, discuss on a nightly basis what quarterbacks coach Mitch Ware is looking for in Army’s starter. Hopkins said junior quarterback Luke Langdon has helped him with the mental side of the position.

“It’s a very healthy competition,” Hopkins said. “We all are supportive of each other and we all trust coach (Mitch) Ware that he’s getting to put the best guy on the field that’s going to help the team win and we all believe in that,” Hopkins said. “It’s all about the team and it’s all about winning and whatever guy is under center from that room is going to be the best guy for that.

Part of the thinking of Walker’s experiment at quarterback this spring was the thought of giving freshman slotback Fred Cooper an expanded role. Cooper played in 10 games in 2017, scoring two touchdowns among his 13 carries.

“I think he’s got a lot of ability and he’s going to play and I think he will help us,” Monken said of Cooper. “He’s got potential to be even much better than he’s shown so far…He’s got to be consistent and he’s got to grow. He’s still a freshman.”

Junior linebacker Kenneth Brinson could be pulling double duty Saturday. Brinson, one of Army’s top throwers on the track team, is expected to compete in the Army-Navy meet.

Sophomore cornerback Richard Hanson intercepted a pass on the final play of practice.

Freshman kicker Sean McNulty made a 43-yard field goal to close the session. Monken said freshman Landon Salyers, “is probably” at the top of kicking depth chart followed by McNulty.

Sophomore Will Huff has moved from tight end to offensive lineman.

 

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Offensive Line Spring To-Do List

Army football has built a belief among its offensive linemen over the past few seasons.

The line’s nickname of “Malicious Offensive line Brotherhood” continues this spring following the loss of three senior starters and the departure of starting junior tackle Rick Kurz.

When asked what he wanted to accomplish with Army’s offensive line this spring, offensive coordinator Brent Davis said, “I’d like to continue to build on the culture of toughness that those guys have embraced. I’d like to really to focus on the fundamentals and for the young guys, who haven’t played, to invest in the offense and take ownership of learning it. I think we need to increased our football IQ amongst the group as far as what we want to get accomplished and understanding the overall scheme.”

Then, Davis said maybe the most revealing comment on the interview.

“The tradition of our offensive line here and what we are trying to build should never graduate,” Davis said.

Senior center Bryce Holland is the lone returning starter but there’s no need to panic. Davis and assistant Todd Spencer are regarded as two of the best in teaching blocking schemes for Army’s triple-option offense. Both Davis and Spencer have been around the offense for more than 20 years.

Davis said junior tackle Austin Schuffert’s role will increased this fall. Schuffert started in a 21-0 win at Air Force and was used as a sixth offensive lineman late in the 2017 season.

“He’s played in big situations and he’s really worked hard over the last four years to develop himself,” Davis said of Schuffert. “He’s a self-made player. He’s got a ways to go but he’s really continued to improve and I’m really proud of him so far.”

Davis said sophomore Jaxson Deaton, who has started four games in his first two seasons, “can be just as productive as the guards IJosh Boylan and Mike Houghton) that we has last year if he will maximize what he has.”

“I think Deaton is a guy who has played at a high level at times and he just needs to continue to focus on the mental side of the game,” Davis said.

One offensive lineman to watch this spring is freshman Mike Gerber, who both Davis and coach Jeff Monken have mentioned as having an upside.

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Early spring football observations

Army coach Jeff Monken is looking for leaders this spring to step and replace graduating seniors John Voit, Alex Aukerman and Rhyan England among others.

Monken may have to look not further than the leader of the offensive line. Bryce Holland, a senior center, has been one of the most vocal players as Army enters its second week of spring practice. Holland expressed his displeasure with the loudness of the offensive line’s clapping when breaking the huddle during Friday’s practice. Army’s center returns for his third season as a starter this fall.

“Bryce Holland has been doing an unbelievable job in leading the group,” Army offensive coordinator Brent Davis said. “People feed off his energy. He’s a really good football player and an equal leader. He sets the tone of the group and he’s the right guy to have doing it.”

Junior quarterback Luke Langdon has looked smooth operating the triple-option offense and looks quicker when running. Sophomore Kelvin Hopkins, who has been limited, is throwing the ball well. Sophomore slotback Kell Walker’s reps continue at quarterback. Walker looks like he’s getting more comfortable with the offense. Can still see Walker getting some opportunities at quarterback this fall even if he doesn’t finish spring at the top of the depth chart.

Junior fullback Calen Holt’s blocking is near a pro level. Holt plays every snap the same way – all out. Defensive backs have been on the other end of Holt’s crushing blocks.

Freshman Cam Harrison, Army’s most experienced returning receiver, has had a strong start to his first spring practice. Harrison’s route running is sharp and he’s caught almost everything thrown his way.

“We are out here working trying to get better every day so we can prepare and hopefully perform better than we did last season and have an even better season,” said Harrison, who started the first two games of 2017 and caught Army’s only completion in its Armed Forces Bowl win over San Diego State…”Just as a group, we need to lead ourselves and push each other, In the end, we are leaders.”

Monken on Harrison’s spring, “He’s mature for his age. He’s not older. He’s just a guy that is a little more mature and he’s pretty focused. I think he does a good job. He’s made some pretty good catches. He’s an aggressive kid. When K.J. (Cline, who is banged up) comes back, he’ll be another guy that’s played some. He’s (Harrison) impressed so far.”

Harrison rubbed his fingers together after making a catch Friday. The Allen, Texas native said. “I’m wearing the Johnny Manziel Money Season t-shirt. He’s trying to make his comeback.”

Army is deep in returning secondary talent. So much that sophomores Cameron Jones and Jaylon McClinton, who started six games and five games respectively at cornerback in 2017, are taking reps with the safeties this spring.

“It’s better than it’s been,” Monken said of the secondary. “We are not super, super talented. The more they play the better they get.”

Sophomore Elijah Riley, a two-year starter, is the most experienced cornerback among a group that includes Mike Reynolds, who started seven games in 2017, freshman Javhari Bourdeau and sophomore Glen Coates. Junior Jalen Sharp is rehabbing from a season-ending knee injury.

“I definitely want to work on my leadership skills and getting the young guys going,” Riley said. “I’m always trying to perfect my craft and shine my sword every time I come out here.”

Monken said he’s waiting for a leader to emerge in the secondary to replace four-year starting safety Rhyan England.

“Maybe, it will be Gibby (Gibson, senior safety),” Monken said. “Maybe, it will be Max Regan (senior safety). Maybe, it will be McClinton or Riley. I don’t know, still waiting for a guy. Gibby naturally should be the guy. He’s got the most experience. He’s the older of those guys. We will see.”

Asked Monken, who will be Aukerman in 2018? Aukerman was one of Army’s most valuable players because of his versatility to line up as an outside linebacker and defensive lineman.

Monken said, “Amadeo West but he’s out right now. To do the things that we did with Alex, sometimes, Alex was down there playing 5-technique and sometimes he’s out there battling a tight end. Amadeo is athletic enough and has the body to be able to do all of those things. I don’t know if he’ll do it. Right now we are thinking he’s the guy that can do it. If not, Chandler Ramirez.”

West, a sophomore, is with the team this spring but is rehabbing a knee injury suffered in the preseason last September. Monken had said West will be ready for preseason practice.

Asked Monken, who will be Voit, a three-year starting defensive end, in 2018? Monken said Wunmi Oyetuga, who played opposite of Voit last season.

And, who will fill the void of nose tackle Andrew McLean, who has moved to a student coach after an ACL injury in 2017? “Ray Wright but he’s out (injured),” Monken said. Sophomore Rod Stoddard, freshman Joe King and junior Cordarrell Davis are getting turns at nose tackle.

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and Sound Cloud @salinterdonato. For Army coverage on Facebook, here’s the link.

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Black-Gold Game Update

Army’s Black-Gold spring game is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday April 13 at Michie Stadium.

Honorary captains including Ronnie McAda, quarterback of the 1996 Independence Bowl team, were announced Friday. Other honorary captains are Tony Bianchi, Rashad Hodge, Landis Maddox, Ron Richardson, Jim Slomka, Eddie Stover, Gary Williams and Abel Young.

Army will also honor James Chun and Chris Koshinski as posthumous captains.

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and Sound Cloud @salinterdonato. For Army coverage on Facebook, here’s the link.

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March 20 practice blog

Certainly didn’t feel like the first day of spring as Army opened its spring practice with temperatures in the mid-30s.

Even coach Jeff Monken was wearing earmuffs.

Indeed, sophomore Kell Walker, who has started at slotback his first two seasons, was working with the quarterbacks. Read my story on Walker’s spring tryout here.

In accessing the quarterback position, which includes sophomore Kelvin Hopkins, junior Luke Langdon, freshmen Christian Anderson and Cam Thomas, Monken said, “there’s some guys that have been around the program and some guys that are pretty new and have a lot to learn. There’s some guys that are talented enough. We’ll see if they play well enough for that position to be the guy.”

Monken said the biggest difference from last year’s start of spring to Tuesday’s first day was noticing that the players from Army’s 2017 senior class, which helped Army to 10 wins in 2017, weren’t practicing.

“Not that we didn’t the year before,” Monken said. “We had some great guys in that group with (Andrew) King and (Jeremy) Timpf and so on. This group of seniors that is graduating this coming spring, they played a lot of football for us and meant a lot to our team, helped us win a lot of football games the last two years and you notice them being gone. I saw Mike Houghton and Brett Toth watching the offensive line and just how much they played and how knowledgeable that were and on defense, John Voit, Alex Aukerman and Rhyan England and what they meant to our our program…It’s a new time every year that’s really college football.”

Junior fullback Darnell Woolfolk said the returning players, “have high expectations going into the season especially after last year. But, the past is the past. We have a new team so we have to keep getting better every day.”

Monken said managing the expectations will be among the priorities this spring.

“I think it’s easy when you have a couple of winning seasons in a row for guys that haven’t experience anything but those winning seasons to maybe think it’s a lot easier than it is,” Monken said. “It’s really tough. We have to keep our team from being complacent and really pushed to get better.”

VIDEO: Defensive line drill in slow motiuon

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Pre-Spring Practice notebook: Fullback depth, Johnson-West recoveries, Monken on new WR coach

Fullback will remain Army’s deepest position this spring.

Coach Jeff Monken said there’s no plans of moving any of the team’s top four fullbacks – Darnell Woolfolk, Andy Davidson, Connor Slomka and Calen Holt – to another position. The quartet combined for 1,869 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2017. Monken also said freshman fullback Sandon McCoy, who rushed for 58 yards on 12 carries last season, is also a player to watch.

“It’s a good problem to have if you consider it a problem,” Monken said of the fullback depth. “The problem is you want to get them all a bunch of reps but you can’t. They are all worthy of getting some time.”

Sophomore offensive lineman Mike Johnson and sophomore defensive end Amadeo West are potential starters in 2018 after both are coming off 2017 preseason ACL injuries. Army is taking a cautious approach with Johnson and West. Monken said they would be limited to running in the spring.

“We just don’t want to throw them right into the wolves right now,” Monken said. “They are going to get nursed back to health and be ready to go for summer workouts.”

Johnson started two games at right guard his freshman year in 2016. West had four tackles and a sack in five games as a freshman.

“I really though Mike Johnson may have been a starter this past year had he been healthy and not gotten injured,” Monken said. “It will be good to have him back…I think Amadeo West has a chance to be a tremendous player for us.”

Monken said sophomore tackle Alex Herndon is on medical leave this semester and could factor into the 2018 starting offensive line when he returns.

Army added wide receivers coach Marcus Edwards and special teams coordinator Mike Krysl to its staff in the offseason. Monken said Edwards, who held the same position at Stony Brook, came highly recommended.

“We were really excited to get him,” Monken said of Edwards. “We brought several guys in. We were able to talk to some outstanding candidates. I thought the group of guys that we brought in to interview for that job were great. It was really a difficult decision. Ultimately, we just loved his energy and his passion for teaching…Everybody had great things to say about him. He worked really hard since he’s gotten here and he’s working hard in recruiting and that’s important. I’m sure he’s going to do a great job.”

Krysl’s hiring shifts Sean Saturnio back to tight ends coach and gives him additional time to focus on his West Coast recruiting area.

“That’s such a vast recruiting area for him (Saturnio),” Monken said. “For him to do that and do that well, you could do that full time and nothing else and it wouldn’t be enough time. He’s able to concentrate on his recruiting area which is very large and coach the tight ends.

“He will still be involved with the special teams like Mike Viti and Daryl Dixon were in their respective teams. We will still have one coach on the staff in addition to coach Krysl to be a lead coach to help Mike because the special teams is a lot in itself with coaching the kickers, punters and snappers and doing all the breakdowns and scouting reports. We’ll continue to have Saturnio and other guys on the staff assisting Mike.”

 

 

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Roster update: Andrew McLean, Chris Carter, Marcus Hyatt

Andrew McLean’s college football career appears to have come to a close.

McLean, who started 17 games at nose tackle in the last two seasons, will be a student coach this spring, coach Jeff Monken said. He suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 7, 2017 at Rice. McLean had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate. He had one more season of eligibility left.

“Having another surgery in this offseason with the ACL got him a little down in the dumps about his body and his health,” Monken said. “He wants to be commissionable and he’s really focusing on making sure that he is healthy to do that in December when he graduates.”

Junior quarterback Chris Carter isn’t on the spring roster. Monken said Carter has, “got an issue that he’s dealing with that’s related to the academy discipline structure.”

“Hopefully it will work itself out and he’ll be able to come back,” Monken said.

Carter started the final two games of his freshman season and was the starter against Notre Dame his sophomore year. He didn’t play in the 2017 season due to academics but he still practiced as a scout-team quarterback.

Marcus Hyatt’s name remains on the roster but Monken said the cornerback isn’t currently at the academy. Hyatt, who started eight games in 2016, battled a neurological disorder that hospitalized him for three months in 2017.

“We are hopeful that he can return but we are not sure he is going to be able to,” Monken said of Hyatt. “He’s got to be completely healthy to satisfy the academy and he be commissionable. It’s still yet to be seen.”

 

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    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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