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New coach leads Army into spring training

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Posted: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 4:30 am

On the battlefield, preparation is key. The Army Black Knights know the case is the same on the football field.

Army began spring football practice on March 25, more than five months before its first football game of the 2014 season.

This spring marks a fresh start for new head coach Jeff Monken. He comes to West Point after a successful stint at Georgia Southern, where he went 38-16 and helped the program transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Bowl Championship Subdivision.

The highlight of his tenure at Georgia Southern was going to Gainesville and beating Florida 26-20 last season.

Spring football allows players to become accustomed to their new coach and work on the technical and strategic changes the new regime brought in.

The Black Knights have plenty of room to improve defensively after finishing with the 75th-ranked defense out of 123 NCAA Bowl Football Subdivision teams.

Opponents averaged 31.6 points and rushed for 213 yards per game against the Black Knights, but new defensive coordinator Jay Bateman joins the staff after serving as the defensive coordinator for Ball State University.

Bateman helped Ball State finish ninth nationally in turnovers gained last season. That skill was sorely missed for the Black Knights, who forced just 17 turnovers in 12 games.

Monken likely won’t change Army’s triple option offense much, but the Black Knights have a coach with a proven track record to take the attack to the next level.

He helped the Georgia Southern offense win the NCAA rushing title in 2012 after averaging 399.3 yards per game and helped Jerick McKinnon and running back Dominique Swope set the NCAA record for rushing yards by teammates with 3,063.

Monken has an experienced backfield at his disposal with quarterback Angel Santiago along with running backs Terry Baggett and Larry Dixon, all three of whom are seniors.

Baggett was Army’s leading rusher after compiling 1,141 yards and eight touchdowns on 141 carries. Dixon finished the season with 717 yards and six touchdowns, while Santiago rushed for 683 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The trio helped Army run for 309.8 yards per contest and finish with the nation’s third ranked rushing offense.

The Black Knights open the season against Buffalo on Sept. 6 at Michie Stadium.

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