Via WP-ORG Moderator Listserv: Jack Morrison ’59, ’58 Undefeated Team, wrote the following for public distro:
I apologize for the length of this Report to those who may be casual Army football fans. However, many of my ’58 Team teammates and other Army Footballers over the years have asked for more specific details than just a broad overview. I hope those details give everyone a better picture of Army’s new Coach and our 2014 Army Team coming out of Spring Drills.
After reading and hearing about the many things new HC Jeff Monken has been doing since arriving at WP in January, I was looking forward to watching him conduct a practice session on Friday and seeing his team in action at the Spring Game on Saturday. I must say that I had high expectations based upon everything I had read and heard.
I am happy to say that Coach Monken not only met but exceeded those high expectations in practically every way.
Prior to practice, I had the privilege of spending some time with Coach Monken in his Office, presenting him a copy of the book about the ’58 Undefeated Team, “When Saturdays Mattered Most”, signed by its author, Mark Beech, son of our ’59 Classmate Gary Beech. I emphasized our ’58 Undefeated Team’s full support of him and his staff.
I was also given a tour of the Recruiting War Room, where there were 500 3×5 cards with names of academically qualified prospects, along with their vital physical and academic statistics, including which other schools were also actively recruiting each one. I was told they expect to add 500 more names to the walls when the Assistants go out on the road again in May.
Monken has a reputation as a “relentless recruiter” and he has chosen experienced recruiters as his Assistants. That’s important because we need a big upgrade in terms of both quality and depth going forward if we are to achieve our goal of being competitive and beating our Sister Academies consistently.
Friday’s practice was scheduled as a light Walk Through in shorts and helmets prior to the Spring Game. Walk Through is a complete misnomer. NOBODY walked. Everyone RAN, Full Speed, for TWO hours! Even Coach Monken. The Offense was in Michie and the Defense was on Howse Field. Coach Monken literally SPRINTED, (not jogged) back and forth between fields.
Monken’s practices are fast paced and focused on fundamentals. His Coaches are intense and active. Monken paces back and forth between individual drills, shouting comments and encouragement, instructing coaches to correct player’s mistakes. Nothing misses his watchful eye, even the littlest detail. Players and Coaches alike are held accountable. To say that Monken is a “Hands On” Head Coach would be an understatement. No way could he ever be confined to a tower. Way too much energy!
Since the Spring Game was going to be a fully simulated game, including kick-offs and punts, a lot of attention was given to Special Teams. Monken himself is the ST Coach. He stood in the middle of the Return teams, shouting instructions to both kick coverage teams and the kick return teams, while 6 other Coaches assisted.
His attention to detail included 5-minute sessions on:
Kick-off Returns Kick-off Coverage
Punt Coverage after a Safety
The latter is something that very few teams ever practice, even during the season, since Safeties are relatively rare. Here was Monken addressing it in Spring Practice! Impressive!
During the 11 on 11 Offensive session, Monken operated two Offensive huddles simultaneously, with the #1 and #2 Offenses quickly alternating. I had never seen this done before but it succeeded in getting probably 50% more snaps in the same amount of time. Very efficient use of time. Pity the poor Scout Team Defense this Fall.
During practices this Spring, Monken seemed to make big examples out of seemingly little details, usually singling out the most experienced players to make his point to other team members … if Monken is unhappy with his best players, it certainly sends a message to all the other players. We won’t tolerate mistakes or lack of effort!
Example #1 – Last year’s starting QB Santiago overthrew a receiver badly on a long pass. Monken stopped the drill and made Santiago SPRINT 50 yards to retrieve the ball and SPRINT back. Lesson learned! Be more accurate!
Example #2 – Last year’s best WR Moss caught a long pass and then just jogged after he caught it. Monken made him SPRINT to the End Zone and BACK, telling him that’s where he is expected to take the ball after every catch. Lesson learned! Hustle and complete the run after catch!
Example #3 – Last year’s starting FB Dixon fumbled the ball in practice after being tackled. After practice, Monken had him line up on the Goal line with a ball in his hands and then had him run and fall down with the ball every five yards until he reached the end zone, then turn around and come back the other way for 100 yards, while all the other running backs observed. Lesson learned! Don’t fumble!
Example #4 – Last year’s starting QB Santiago is battling AJ Schurr for the #1 QB job. Monken wanted to see both of them in Spring Game action. However, Santiago had violated an unspecified off-the-field (not Academics) Team Rule back in January. Monken had stipulated 3 things Santiago had to complete prior to the Spring Game if he wanted to play
in it. Santiago failed to complete one of the requirements. Consequently Monken held him out of the Spring Game completely. After the game, families and friends were on the field getting player autographs and pictures. Monken went up to Santiago and gave him a big hug and said he would see him in Fall Practice. Lesson learned! We have team rules AND consequences!
Medical Red Shirts
Even the players with injuries that prevented them from participating in practice were not spared. A Strength & Conditioning Coach was assigned and he kept them busy: if you had a leg injury, you were doing sit-ups and push-ups; If you had a shoulder injury, you were running. No one was just standing around. It was as if it was intended to make the injured want to get back to regular practice as fast as possible.
Friday Evening Team Dinner
After the Friday practice, Monken, his staff, and the whole team hosted a casual dinner in the Kimsey Center. Supe Caslen and AD Corrigan spoke briefly and Monken talked to the many ex-players who were invited to the Spring Game by the Army Football Club.
It was interesting that AD Corrigan told about the Army team members coming to him after Ellerson was released and asked for a new Coach with more energy, passion and toughness. IMO, they certainly got what they asked for … IN SPADES.
Monken was all over the room, actively seeking out and engaging in conversations. Someone described him as … “Paul Johnson (who is well known for his toughness and gruffness) … with a personality!”
Monken chose to have a full simulated game this Spring, primarily to observe his players under game conditions, but also to give his Assistant Coaches some experience working together during a game, since many were new and had never worked a game together. Good move! He told his players to treat the Saturday Spring Game as their first game of the season. He emphasized that all positions were open.
The Spring Game featured the Black Team with the #1 Offense and the #2 Defense against the Gold Team with the #2 Offense and the #1 Defense. The Supe was the Coach of the Black Team and the Comm was the Coach of the Gold Team, mostly in name only. In actuality, the OC coached one team and the DC coached the other. HC Monken stood behind either the Offense or the Defense during the entire game, sticking his head into huddles and making corrections or yelling to his Coaches on the sidelines to work on correcting mistakes that Monken was pointing out. He must have paced/jogged back and forth for 5 miles during the game
NOTHING gets by this guy!
Unlike Ellerson’s Triple Option (which had morphed into a Half-Bone or Wish-Bone the last couple of years and was very Vanilla in terms of its pre-snap sets), Monken’s Offense is very diverse with multiple sets/looks.
Examples: We showed a standard Triple Option with QB under Center, a FB, and two Slot Backs flanked outside the Offensive Tackles (see Navy). But we also showed a Tight End as a Wing Back on the weak side of an unbalanced line; a three-wide Receiver set all on one side; a Read Option out of the Shot Gun with just the QB and FB four yards deep in the backfield (a’la Oregon). We even ran a full-house backfield with the QB stationed just two yards behind the Center. That was really a Power Triple Option with a lead-back. Yet Monken runs the Option out of all of these different sets. Ought to give opposing DCs/Teams a lot more to have to prepare for/defend.
Monken’s passing Offense is light years ahead of Ellerson’s passing game, which was next to last in 2013 (only Navy threw for less). Plebe QB Kaufman started for the #2 Offense in Santiago’s absence and completed 13 for 17 and 206 yards and a TD. He was very accurate and hit several wheel routes to his backs for good yardage. #1 Offense QB AJ
Schurr was 9 for 18 with 2 TDs, but his receivers dropped a couple of balls. He was better on a couple of runs, a few being scrambles after being flushed from the pocket. He struggled in the first Half, but recovered and conducted some nice drives in the second Half.
The QB position is still up for grabs in the Fall. Ex- #3 QB White (6’3″, 215 lb.) was moved to WR 3 days before the Spring Game and started for the #1 Offense. He made a couple of nice catches. He will be a big help at WR with more reps this Fall to learn the position.
Monken’s Run Offense is definitely FB-based. #1 FB Dixon had 52 yards in 12 carries for 2 TDs and #2 FB Giachinta had 68 yards in 14 carries. RB Giovanelli had 6 catches for 114 yrds and WR Parros had 3 catches for 68 yards, including a 36-yard TD. I feel that we really needed injured RBs Baggett and Maples to give us more speed to the edge. Not impressed with our current back-up slotbacks.
1,000-yard Senior RBs Maples and Baggett did not play due to both having groin injuries. Both will be back in the Fall to join with FB Dixon to form one of the best complete backfields in the country, IMO. #2 FB Giachinta looked very good. A tough, physical runner, he will be much needed for depth this Fall since the FB takes such a beating in Monken’s Option Offense.
There were several problems on the QB/Center exchanges and also the snaps on the Shot Gun. The #1 Team Center had just been moved to Center last week and was snapping for the first time in game conditions. Monken made the C and QB go to the sideline and practice snapping, but also sent a D Lineman over to simulate game contact. Both Centers also had a couple of bad snaps to the QB in the Shot Gun but, again, this was also their first time doing that in game conditions. That should improve with Fall practices.
Overall, the Offense showed some raggedness, but that could be expected given that Monken’s Offense is much more complex/diverse and has totally different terminology and philosophy vs. last year. It would be asking a lot of the Offense to master it in just 15 Spring sessions. We really need the 28 practice sessions permitted by the NCAA prior to our first 2014 game vs Buffalo on Sept. 6 at Michie.
The good news is that, for the first time ever, the entire team will be stationed at WP this summer so they can continue to work out together (on their own – no Coaches) and improve prior to the start of pre-season drills in August, just like all of the other Div. 1A programs do currently. New Team Captains Dixon and Bacon have already begin to organize 7 on 7 drills during the Summer to help the passing game and Defensive Backs get better.
They will also have access to the Malek, Dawkins, O’Meara Strength & Conditioning facilities (forgive the blatant plug for my ’59 Classmates) all summer. Many players are on detailed diets to help them gain quality weight gradually so as not to lose any speed/quickness/agility while doing so.
Another couple of months under Monken’s Strength & Conditioning program should also be able to add a few more quality pounds to our players before the season starts, especially our O Line. We were woefully under-sized on both sides of the ball last year and it cost us dearly. I expect us to be a lot more PHYSICAL this Fall. Monken is fanatical about developing TOUGHNESS and I look for it to be more even more evident come Fall with 28 more practices.
Monken also moved our biggest O Lineman (285 lbs.) to Center the last week of practice in order get more beef in the middle, with 2-year starter Powis (252 lbs) moving to Tackle. Good move! You may recall that our Offense was dominated by a couple of opposing NTs last year (WF/Navy).
Monken’s Base Defense is a 3-4. He features a lot of line penetration designed to put pressure on the Offense and disrupt their timing. During the Spring Game, there were a lot of LBs shooting gaps, Safeties filling on sweeps, and even a Corner Blitz, which resulted in a QB sack and fumble recovery. I never saw a Corner Blitz from the Double Eagle Flex. The #1 Defense had 11 Tackles for Loss and 2 Sacks.
We lost all of our starting LBs from 2013 to Graduation, but I also felt that was the weakest part of our Defense. All were only about 200 lbs, too small to be effective in today’s game, IMO. This year we have four Soph MLBs who all are bigger (215-225 lbs), faster, and more physical than any of last year’s backers. Fahn made 8 tackles, Forgrave made 7 tackles, Akinniyi made 5 tackles, and King made 4.
Overall the Defense showed more HITTING than last year when we suffered from a lot of arm tackling and poor fundamentals. But Monken vociferously complained to his Coaches that the players were hitting hard but not wrapping up properly. Those are just the lack of basic fundamentals we observed the past few years that will take time to correct. 28 Fall practices will help that with Monken’s attention to details/fundamentals.
Some of our D Linemen look bigger and stronger than last year but they are still undersized. They were very active penetrating gaps . The good news is that while we are still under-sized, we do have some depth/experience and can rotate two full units to stay fresh.
We had some problems rushing the passer without blitzing a LB. The Offense did complete a couple of long passes up the seam and on wheel routes. Overall, the Defense was a lot more physical than last year and I expect that to improve during Fall Practice.
We looked better on the Kick-off and Punt Return Teams. Last year we were last in the Nation in both. CB Josh Jenkins provides a little speed/shiftiness on Punt returns and WR Moss gives us some size/speed on KO Returns (although he suffered an injured shoulder on a big hit on the 2nd Half KO and did not play after that).
We made both long FGs and our long snaps were accurate. Our #1 Punter got off a couple of long punts but also shanked one, Our FG Kicker served as the Punter on the Gold Team and shanked a couple. Not sure of our depth at Punter.
Monken was all over our KO and Punt coverage teams, yelling at the Gunners on a couple of occasions. I expect his emphasis on STs and his attention to detail to help improve both Coverage and Return units this Fall. Nowhere to go but up after last year.
Saturday Evening 2013 Team Dinner
On Saturday evening, the 2013 Army Team was honored at a formal Team Dinner (Full Dress uniforms) in Ike Hall which was suggested to the Supe by Monken, although he had not even coached that team. A few years ago, Ellerson had discontinued the practice of a Team Award Dinner following the season. Various awards were given to graduating Seniors. All the lower class team members were present. Very motivating to the lower Classes.
Monken spoke and commented about this coming Fall when many opponents would host Army with Military Appreciation Days. He said he appreciated their hospitality but would hope that the opposing fans would “throw things at our bus after we beat them up on the field.”
One small indicator of how detailed and professional Monken is in all aspects of his job: I just happened to see him in the kitchen personally thanking all the cooks and servers after the Dinner. CLASS!
I was totally impressed with new Coach Monken in every aspect of his job. He brings passion, attention to detail, discipline, accountability, a motivated coaching staff, boundless energy, recruiting expertise/experience, aggressive schemes, and a TOUGHNESS that really fits our current needs following the past couple of years.
From what I can tell, the Army players have really bought into his program and are excited about next year. But we have a long way to go and it will not be easy.
Supe Caslen and AD Corrigan have selected an impressive young Coach to lead Army football back to respectability. With Top-down leadership provided by Generals Odierno and Caslen, and On-field leadership provided by Coach Monken, I truly believe that we have the WHOLE team in place to make us all proud of Army Football again … SOON!.
Regards, Jack Morrison ’59, ’58 Undefeated Team