Army Football is back, and this year the team is opening with a barnburner match-up against the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina University. I confess that when I first heard about CCU’s mascot, I assumed it meant that they were a Jesuit school putting a literal choirboy on the sides of their helmets.
Friends, that’s not what this is at all.
Mascots aside, the reality is that this Chanticleers team has won at least 11 games two years in a row. They’ve been absolutely fantastic, especially on offense. If the Army Black Knights want a chance to win this one late, they’re gonna have to come prepared, control the clock, put up plenty of points, and make a few game-changing plays on defense, too.
Even then, this game will probably go down to the wire.
Army Black Knights
It’s an experienced group on offense. We’ve got three firstie quarterbacks, all of whom have started and played in meaningful games. Moreover, the Black Knights return three starters on their offensive line, including team captain C Connor Bishop, their best fullback, several experienced slotbacks, a potentially game-breaking wide receiver, and one of the best tight ends this team has seen in a long time. That is an awful lot of returning talent, especially for a service academy, and yet, to hear Head Coach Jeff Monken tell it, this is a young team that’s got a lot of really talented athletes who are only just now going to get the chance to start and/or play.
Army still probably needs to find some answers throwing the ball. They’ve lost both QBs Christian Anderson and Jabari Laws to graduation. Meanwhile, QB Tyhier Tyler went just 3/7 last year with 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and 1 sack. Cade Ballard went just 0/2 with 1 costly pick on a gadget play against Wake Forest. Jemel Jones had the best stat line of the incumbent quarterbacks, going 7/13 for 135 yards, a touchdown, and a pick, but of the three, he’s the least likely to see action.
Where Army has got to make its money is with the Fullback Dive. We’ve got FB Jakobi Buchanan returning after a season in which he averaged 3.7 yards/carry and scored a whopping 12 touchdowns. Oh by the way, he also absolutely dominated Missouri’s SEC defense in the Armed Forces Bowl. Alongside Buchanan, we ought to see a heavy dose of cow FB Tyson Riley. Riley, who’s averaged 4.5 yards/carry the last two years in a row, has a little more speed and is currently listed first on the depth chart.
With the Fullbacks mashing the middle, that’ll open up the Option Pitch to SB Tyrell Robinson, who averaged fully 8.5 yards/carry last season alongside 12 receptions and 6 total touchdowns. Or maybe we’ll see some downfield passes to WR Isaiah Alston, who had 22 receptions last season for a whopping 20.4 yard/catch!
On defense, we’ve got preseason second team All-American Rush LB Andre Carter II. Carter’s success, though, will be highly dependent on the success of new Army NT Isaiah Filisi. Filisi stands 6’3” and weighs 300 pounds, and rumor has it that he’s the strongest guy on the entire team, too. But he’s also got to replace one of the best nose tackles Army has ever rolled out in Nolan Cockrill, and that’s a nerve-wracking proposition.
Filling out Army’s D-Line, we’ve got Kwabena Bonsu and Nate Smith, both of whom are big, experienced players. Alas, the rest of the front seven is new. Yearling ILB Kalvyn Crummie and cow ILB Leo Lowin are both relative unknowns, while cow Apache LB Jimmy Ciarlo has to replace now-graduated Malkem Morrison, another outstanding long-time starter. Thankfully, these guys can rely on an experienced secondary with captain SS Marquel Broughton alongside firstie FS D’Andre Tobias and firstie CB Cam Jones plus cow CB Jabari Moore. That’s a good group on the back end, and assuming that Army can get its usual — outstanding — level of production at inside linebacker, really, this defense ought to do well.
Our final note comes on special teams. Army returns two kickers, firstie K Cole Talley and cow K Quinn Maretzki. Both have starting experience, and both have kicked well through summer camp. P Billy Boehlke is new, but we’ve heard good things. Hopefully we won’t actually see him much.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Coastal Carolina has won a lot of games in the last few years. Last year they went 11-2, 6-2 in the Sun Belt, but they also struggled against the better teams on their schedule. They won close games against Buffalo, Troy, South Alabama, and Northern Illinois in the Cure Bowl, but they lost to App. State and Georgia State, arguably the only really good teams they faced during the regular season.
Senior QB Grayson McCall is outstanding. He went 176/241 passing for a whopping 2,873 yards (73.0%) with 27 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions in 2021. If there’s a hole in McCall’s game, it’s that he took 16 sacks, and that’s kind of a lot. Still, it’s honestly amazing that the guy didn’t head to the NFL. He set a new NCAA passing efficiency record and would have been one of the best quarterbacks in the entire draft!
The problem for Coastal is that they have to replace almost everyone around McCall. The Chanticleers have some returning experience on offense, but outside of senior T Antwine Loper and G Willie Lampkin, they don’t have a lot of returning starters. RB Braydon Bennett is probably their best returning skill position player; he had 74 carries for 636 yards (8.6 yards/carry) plus 7 touchdowns *and* 24 catches for 295 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2021. Beyond that, though, this is a team with a lot of young, potentially talented players alongside a couple of transfer students on the offensive two-deep. They’ll need someone to step up if they’re going to have the kind of season they’ve gotten used to having.
Coastal’s defense lost even more than its offense. Sophomore DE Josaiah Stewart returns after having posted 12.5 sacks a year ago (5th in the nation!), but beyond that…? Friends, this team has to replace *nine* guys. Coastal’s two-deep currently lists eight transfer students plus returning two-time All-Sun Belt CB D’Jordan Strong. A few other guys have played but not started, especially in the linebacking corps, but almost all of these guys will need to pick it up fast if they want to succeed.
For the most part, Coastal was good against the run last year… except when they weren’t. They held UMass, ULM, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern, and South Alabama all well under 100 yards of rushing, but it’s an open question as to whether or not any of those teams were at all good, save South Alabama who threw for 353 yards in a respectable offensive effort that nevertheless fell a little short. Better running teams did MUCH better against the Chanticleers defense.
– Buffalo: 262 yards on 5.6 yards/carry.
– App. State: 228 yards on 5.6 yards/carry.
– Troy: 164 yards on 4.6 yards/carry.
– Georgia State: 175 yards on 4.2 yards/carry.
– Texas State: 188 yards on 5.9 yards/carry.
– Northern Illinois: 335 yards on 6.1 yards/carry.
Is this going to be an easy game? Hell no.
Is there an opportunity here? There definitely is.
We know how Army wins this game. But because there are so many new faces in Coastal Carolina’s lineup, the analysis this week is exceptionally straightforward.
Army Pass Rush vs. QB Grayson McCall
Coastal has three new starters along their O-Line, and presumably, they’ll want to double-team LB Andre Carter because he’s Army’s obvious pass-rushing threat. But Army blitzes from a lot of different directions, and a new O-Line with relatively inexperienced running backs could easily have a little trouble sliding into the right protections. With that, Army either gets home a few times and disrupts McCall’s rhythm, or McCall is going to light the Black Knights up just like he lit up 22 other teams over the last two years.
Army Triple-Option vs. Inexperienced CCU Defenders
Coastal plays a decent number of option teams, and they know Coach Monken institutionally from back in the FCS days. But seeing the triple-option in person is always an eye-opening experience, and this particular defense has never really played together as a unit.
Army really should be able to make that work.
The Black Knights had a tough scrimmage this past Saturday, and we probably let it get a little too much into our heads when we recorded the Army Football Show earlier this week. It was Ring Weekend, it’s unclear how much the starters played, the team didn’t really hit or tackle, and anyway, it was freaking practice. We said as much on the show, but even with that, I personally felt a lot better after hearing Coach Monken talk at his weekly press conference earlier this week. Coach sounded upbeat and confident, a welcome change from this past Saturday.
Army caught a Hell of a break on the timing of this game. Having it at night means that we’ll probably see temperatures in the mid- to upper-70s with an outside chance of showers. Humidity will no doubt be through the roof, but at least our guys won’t melt from the sheer power of the sun. That’s not nothing in an early season match-up down South.
The line on this game opened at Army (+3) but has since slid to Army (+2). Based on recent history, I might’ve personally set it at Army (+10), but the Chanticleers have a lot of new faces, and it can take a little time for all those personalities to gel on the field. Meanwhile, the Over/Under currently sits at 53.5, making the Over arguably the best bet on the board.
Unfortunately, ESPN has broadcast rights for this game, which they’ve relegated to ESPN+ despite seemingly having an opening on ESPNU. We know that the four-letter-network isn’t looking to do Army’s broadcast partners over at CBS Sports any favors, but this is still a marquee mid-major match-up. The decision to hide it behind a paywall is as baffling as it is disappointing.
Army at Coastal Carolina kicks off at 7 pm. It ought to be a good one.