Sunday, June 23, 2024

Army Football Preview: First Look at 2024 (Second Quarter)

This post continues our first-look series on Army Football’s 2024 season. This week we start on the season’s second quarter, talking about how the Black Knights’ foes did during their spring games.

As we noted last week, Head Coach Jeff Monken told the team during spring camp that he wanted to get back to a bowl game and win it. The schedule looks largely favorable, but the Black Knights will need to play good football early because things get harder down the stretch.

If you missed the first part of this series, you can find it right here.

Thursday, Sep. 26: Temple Owls Football

Temple finished 3-9 last season, 1-7 in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). The Owls then lost arguably their best player in QB E.J. Warner to Rice through the transfer portal, and now, friends, they have some serious rebuilding work to do. 

The Owls brought in Rutgers transfer QB Evan Simon to compete for the starter’s job over the offseason, but redshirt junior QB Forrest Brock took most of the first team snaps during their spring game. It’s unclear what that means long-term, however, given that the team’s defense “dominated” their offense during the annual Cherry and White Game. The defense put up at least 8 sacks and 3 three-and-outs during the scrimmage.

“I don’t know if our quarterbacks are ready for that yet. There’s not a whole lot of flinching that goes on in their approach. There were a couple of weeks we had the quarterbacks live, and they handled the pressure well. I just think that the development still needs to take place regardless of them taking command of the offense.”

 — Temple Head Coach Stan Drayton, talking about Temple’s season opener at Oklahoma

The AFF Crew would find it easier to believe in Temple if they were in an easier conference. As it is, this is a tough way to try to take that elusive next step towards a winning season.

Saturday, Oct. 5: at Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Tulsa went 4-8 in 2023 but just 2-6 in the conference. They beat Temple and closed the season with a win over East Carolina, and they somehow beat a solid team from North Illinois in a close game early in the year. Still, this team also has some serious work to do to become legitimately competitive in the AAC.

The Golden Hurricane finished the spring with the defense ahead of their offense thanks largely to Indiana transfer EDGE Myles Jackson. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman QB Kirk Francis went 10/22 passing in the spring game for 106 yards.

“The spring has gone well. There’s been a really good vibe and good energy. We’ve been able to get in a lot of quality work. Our whole thought process with spring practice was not how the team is doing, but how the individual is doing.

“Some guys have to work on getting stronger, playing lower, playing tougher, playing with better fundamentals, throwing it better, catching it better, covering it better, whatever it might be. It’s a lot of team work, but it’s all centered back to each player growing individually…”

 — Tulsa Head Coach Kevin Wilson

Wilson will head into his second season as Tulsa’s coach in 2024. Before the Transfer Portal, coaches often needed at least two years to get their kids into place to run their specific systems. That may no longer be the case now, but this is still a team that was just 97th in scoring last year and 118th in points-allowed. 

Can a single edge rusher, no matter how talented, make that much of a difference? Seems a little hard to believe, but I guess we’ll see.

Saturday, Oct. 12: UAB Blazers 

The Blazers also went 4-8 last year, though they finished a game ahead of Tulsa in the conference at 3-5. Former Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer enters his second season as the Blazers’ head coach with both a year of experience under his belt and a largely stable roster returning from last season. Amongst those returning is starting QB Jacob Zeno, who took most of the snaps during the team’s spring game, finishing 15/21 for 147 yards and a pick. That’s not bad, especially since UAB’s defense has been by far the best part of their team through the spring.

Defenses typically get ahead of offenses during this part of the offseason, but even with that, this particular defensive effort has to be considered good news. UAB put up almost 30 points/game last season (52nd) but allowed damn-near 37 points/game (130th) on the other side of the ball.

“I thought defensively it was winning football. The first half they got the ball moved on them, and besides the one touchdown, they were able to get stops and force field goals. They came out in the second half with a winning mindset. They had an energy to them – a physicality to them and obviously a ball-hawking mentality.”

 — UAB Head Coach Trent Dilfer

Unfortunately for Dilfer, UAB’s top two cornerbacks both entered the transfer portal at the end of April. That’s a tough way to start a team’s defensive rebuild. UAB’s players also became the first Division 1 team to join a players’ association, seemingly at Dilfer’s behest. That probably won’t impact play, but it certainly shows the way things are headed in college football overall.

Like we said last week, Army badly needs to find a way to win at least two of these three games, and really, any loss here probably ought to be considered a disappointment. That’s the way things look right now, at least.

As we noted in the opening, Army will need to bank some wins in the early half of the season if they can because the season’s back half promises to be a good bit more challenging than most of these first six games might be. That’s the way it’s looking right now at any rate.

Cover image via @ArmyWP_Football.

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