• Graham Knight

Coach Monken: 'We're anxious to be back here in the office' - Press Conference 1/3/22

by Graham Knight

Army Black Knight's Head Coach Jeff Monken gets the blue ribbon for beating all the other academies to the press podium and hosting the first Academy Football Press Conference of the year. GO ARMY! The Eastern College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year started off the press conference by summing up the end of the season.

Looking back at the end of last season raises the question about what's first on the agenda for the coming year?

An inventible part of the coaching job is dealing with coaching changes and Army's already technically had 3. If you've been follow Sal Interdonato's reporting on you know that two coach were hired away from Army including Saga Tuitele, Army's offensive line coach, who was hired by Fresno State.

And Shiel Wood, Army's safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator is now Troy’s defensive coordinator.

What does Coach Monken have to say about that?

A large part of the press conference was spent talking about the highs and lows of the past year, the job of recruiting and remembering the strong seniors and promising players who will be returning in 2022.

You can watch the entire press conference here...

Or feel free to read it. Here's the entire transcript. This was transcribed by voice to text so be warned it's not perfect.)

Coach Monken: [00:00:00] Good afternoon, we're we're anxious to be back here in the office and back to work. Really a nice finished to the season. I was really proud of our team as an incredible ending to to an exciting game beaten Missouri in SEC team. It was just such a huge feeling of accomplishment for our players. We hadn't won a power five game since twenty, I guess twenty seventeen against Duke and have had lots of chances and come really close and so really proud of our guys, particularly some guys down the stretch like Jabari Laws, who who came in off the bench and just, I mean, I couldn't be more proud and more happy for him and our team and how excited they were for him in the locker room after the game, and Cole Talley to nail that field goal to win the game. Just an incredible feeling, especially coming off of what was a disappointment, I guess 11 or 12 days before that, whatever it was to finish the season like that, just great for our seniors. They did a tremendous job leading our team all year long and so nice field goal in the off season with a victory, for sure. And we're anxious to get back to work and our players are actually reporting back to campus today. Most of their classmates are back and we'll be back in the weight room next week and getting prepared for 2022. [00:01:30][90.6]

Graham Knight: [00:01:35] Got to love that work ethic. [00:01:36][1.1]

Coach Monken: [00:01:38] Well, wait, what are you going to do, sit around and pat yourself on the back? That's not exercise. So we're we're going to get back to work. [00:01:47][8.6]

Graham Knight: [00:01:48] Yeah, yeah. Right away. Way to start the new year. [00:01:51][2.8]

Eric: [00:01:53] Joe, I got to kick things off. [00:01:54][1.4]

Joe Iacona [00:01:56] Coach Monken , happy New Year. Congratulations on another successful season. First question, obviously, college coaching is kind of a 365 day your job. What is what are the priorities for your program and your staff with some some signings, official visits, whatever, as well as like you mentioned, some strength and conditioning work? What are your priorities for the first quarter of 2022? [00:02:22][26.1]

Coach Monken: [00:02:24] In the immediate right now is to is to get going with recruiting. We've got an official visit this coming weekend and we have one every weekend through the month of January, so we got a lot of work to do there. And and it's gone well. We've gotten several commitments in the early signing period, but now it's it's closing this thing out and we're going to have to to put our dukes up and and and go to battle with some other programs to to get this recruiting class finished out. But you know, for guys to to be able to come to Army, this is this is one of the most successful college football programs in the country over the last five years. So it they're joining a great program with a tremendous institution to to to to to be able to, you know, call their their their alma mater. And so we're excited about that and get guys on campus and sharing this incredible place with them and their families. Our players obviously coming back. We're going to meet with them tomorrow and kind of send our seniors off. We will have a banquet here in a few weeks, but just one last time to get together and and congratulate those guys on a great career. And then we'll we'll get to work on on our offseason program, which will begin next week officially. So I know our our young guys are returning, players are anxious and and ready, and we're we're excited to get them back. [00:04:03][99.1]

Joe Iacona [00:04:05] Thanks, and then my follow up and final question, coach. You know, when you're successful, a program like you mentioned as armies been over the past five years. You know, part of it. I don't really want to call it a negative, but kind of part of one of the weird consequences of that is you have a lot of your staff members who get other opportunities and get hired other places. The last couple of weeks you've lost Coach Tuitele on the offensive line and coach Wood on the defense to a defensive coordinator opportunity with Troy. What is the plan to replace those two? [00:04:35][29.6]

Coach Monken: [00:04:36] Well, we've already we've already started to to work on that. We've we've I I know we can't make any official announcements. It takes us a while here to be able to make official announcements. But we've got a replacement in place already for one of those positions and we expect to have the other one filled here in pretty short order. So the great thing is it's it's a great place to work. It is a desirable place for for for people to come in and seek employment. And it's it's an exciting time to be, it's exciting, to be a part of army football at this time in our history. And so I think there's there's there's the ability for us to go out to be able to attract very talented people. And it's one of the great things about, about army and about the academy is I think we don't have to settle. We can we can get really good people and we have high standards and and and we're going to take the time that we need to be able to replace people when we when we lose them. So, you know, it's it's it's tough to lose good coaches. It's it's one of the most difficult things. Probably, I think in my job is to replace good people because you want to get people as good or better than the ones you lost. And and sometimes we're able to and sometimes it's, you know, there's there's just certain things people do as recruiters or as coaches or as people that make them really dynamic. And I think we lost two really good coaches in and Coach Wood and in Coach Tuitele, good people. But but I'm confident we're going to we're going to get some great people to take their place. And like I said, one of those positions already been been filled. [00:06:35][119.4]

Eric: [00:06:38] Ken McMillan. [00:06:38][0.2]

Ken McMillen: [00:06:40] Hey, Jeff. Happy New Year, Jeff. As far as following up on Joe's question about recruiting. Can you tell us about your your approach? I mean, I figure how an SEC team recruits different from West Point. Is it really you go for the best possible candidate, those who can qualify academically and such? And secondly, what are the priorities as far as recruiting goes for the next class? [00:07:08][28.0]

Coach Monken: [00:07:10] You'd be surprised how similar it is to other colleges. We're seeking the same things, we're seeking people who are highly qualified as as both students and as athletes, and if they if they aren't. A good enough football player to help us win at this level. Then the conversation's going to stop right there, there's. It doesn't matter how good a student they are or how interested they are, and in West Point, if they're not good enough to help us win and we're not going to recruit them, so they've got to be a good enough football player. But then, along with being a good enough football player, they've got to be able to to gain admission into the academy. And we've got to either educate them on West Point so that they they do have an interest. There's very few guys that that we recruit that already have an interest in. In it, we don't meet many guys who see West Point was my dream school. And they're, you know, getting recruited by tons and tons of FBS football programs. It's that's no knock on West Point or the Army. It's just not common. And I think that there that's for a lot of reasons. But the service peace beyond graduation is so different from a traditional school. Sometimes young men in their families just need to be educated on that. They don't have any idea what that looks like or what that's all about. So a lot of it is, is finding the right guys and then educating them about West Point. And and it turns out there's there's a pretty big pool of guys that that we think can can contribute and help us and and have an interest. So that doesn't mean there aren't interest from other colleges. There's still other colleges that we recruit those guys in other academies to try to recruit them as well. And and and so we we find the right guys and give it our best shot. And so far, you know, we've we've had enough guys that it's worked out pretty good for us. So I like the efforts of our staff. I think we, you know, we we put as much effort into recruiting here as maybe anybody in the country. And I mean, the time that we spend in the in the volume that we go through is is pretty incredible. But what's unique about the academy is that, you know, we don't have 25 initial scholarships like a traditional college. We don't have the transfer portal open to us. It is, but there are not many guys who on transfer from another college and start over as a freshman and that which is what they'd have to do here at the academy. So the transfer portal isn't an option for us. Obviously, the academics are our priority, so we've got to find a pool of guys there. But we don't sign. 17, 18, 22, two guys, like some colleges are, we're going to sign a full class at an academy, which means we're going to send guys to our prep school enough that we've got a whole team to field because we play a full season in our prep school and then we bring some guys in direct guys that academically can qualify to come straight from high school into the academy. We'll bring guys in that way too. So it's every year we're bringing guys in at every position. There's no necessarily this is a priority position and we're going to bring in guys at this position over another position. There's just it's just a different model for recruiting and it's probably shared by the other academies and and it's pretty unique to what what we and the other academies do. [00:11:35][264.2]

Ken McMillen: [00:11:37] Just the follow on what you just said about you recruit oppositions in your course of your time here, though. Do you tend to recruit one position more than another? Do you say that, hey, we have to get a bunch of quarterbacks and we've got to get a bunch of linebackers in and then go from there or not? [00:11:54][16.7]

Coach Monken: [00:11:55] I think we try to find guys that are versatile, that have position flexibility, and I'm sure probably a lot of people are looking for guys like that. But that certainly helps find guys that you think can play multiple positions. And once one side of the ball, the other, you know, they they can play multiple defensive positions where they can play multiple offensive skill positions. Or it's a guy that that we think can play on either side of the ball so that those guys are usually a priority for us. [00:12:27][32.6]

Ken McMillen: [00:12:30] Thanks Jeff. [00:12:30][0.2]

Eric: [00:12:32] Graham Knight Go ahead. [00:12:32][0.1]

Graham Knight: [00:12:34] Hey, I think the trend line here is to pile in on Joe's question, kind of continuing with recruiting coach. You know, one of the impetus is for having the Commander's Classic in Arlington, Texas, was recruiting. And I know we're just a couple of months away from that game, but I'm kind of curious, A, how exactly does that help Army recruit and B any indication of if it's helped yet or how it's going to help? [00:12:58][24.0]

Coach Monken: [00:12:59] Oh, I think it helps. I think it helps that we're a national team that we play all over the country and that's that's unique to us. We're the only academy that does that. You know, essentially the the Air Force is a West Coast team, and they they the only time they travel this direction is when they play the other academies. Know the Navy's an East Coast team and we play all over the country. So I think that that's appealing to the prospects around the country, and we got to play twice in Texas, once in the Commander's classic, as you mentioned in Arlington. And then we go back and play in a bowl game so that any impact we had, we had guys that were recruiting from the state of Texas that were both of those games. And it's nice to have guys there when you win, that's for sure. So hopefully, hopefully it was impactful. [00:13:53][53.6]

Graham Knight: [00:13:56] Yeah, and just a quick follow up to that does does having a commander's classic something like that in Texas is that help recruiting because it gives the Texas recruits a big stage to perform on in Texas? Or does it help attract more people? A pretty large military installations down there. I'm just curious exactly how it helps. [00:14:16][20.3]

Coach Monken: [00:14:18] I think I think on both fronts, certainly to to be in front of our men and women who serve that are in the army. There are a lot of army bases down there and a lot of families. We've got a lot of alumni from West Point in Texas. Every time we play in Texas, we seem to draw a very big crowd. So I think that's that's certainly a positive. Maybe don't get as many as we get at home, which is why I like to play those games at home. And when we when we play the the academy match up at home, we usually have a an oversold crowd. We got a sell out and then so it's nice to have our home field, our own locker room and and feel like we've got that home field advantage. But I think I think there's there's benefit to playing in those kinds of venues too for our players. And it's just a neat experience, the great opportunity. And and so they did a great job with it at first class and and obviously getting the wind down there was was a big win for us and it it makes it seem like it was a much better experience than had we been on the losing side of it. [00:15:40][82.0]

Eric: [00:15:41] Ken McMillan. [00:15:43][2.0]

Ken McMillen: [00:15:47] Jeff, if we can go to a review of this past season. What's your big picture sense of 2021? Was it a success, a rousing success or do you still have those regrets like we could have done a little better? [00:16:01][14.9]

Coach Monken: [00:16:03] So I alw ays have regrets that we could have done a little better. I've never been a part of an undefeated season and in all the years I've coached, so there's always there's always something out there that we can be better at. And so I think probably if we went undefeated, I'd probably find things in certain victories that we could have done better. There's always areas for improvement. I was really proud of our team. I was really proud of our team the way they responded after losing those three games in the middle, in the middle of the season and and the way we battled against a great what I considered a great Wisconsin team. They were physical. That's a talented good football team. And then the Wake Forest, who was into the top 10. And that's that's a really good football team. And they won 11 football games and and like really talented well-coached. And it's a loss that I'm not happy about either one of them. But our guys, just they they they played like they belong there and believed they were going to win and then to win those games down the stretch to to answer those three losses with a wind down at Arlington over Air Force was big and then to to answer the the Army-Navy loss like we did with a win in the in a bowl game. And it wasn't an easy win. It wasn't a walk off. I mean, we were we were having to slug that thing out all the way to the end, come from behind it and just really proud of our team and the way we finished. I'm sorely, sorely disappointed about losing the Army-Navy game, but that's going to be the case. I think no matter what, if, if, if we won every other game and lost that one, there be a great disappointment. And we want to win that game. We want to win the trophy outright. We didn't get it done and that's disappointing. But there are a lot of other things along the way that that I'm really proud of with our team and and amidst our seniors and how well they led us. And that was right through the last game. You know, they they they all played and they were all there and they were all in and and and it took some of those seniors to to win that game for us. I mean, as Jabari was taken down the field. You got guys like Cam Holloway and no one Knapp and Dean Powell and Zach Ward that are that are seniors that are that are in there picking up all the blitzes and the twists and K-word. And you know, those are seniors playing their last game and and they they gave him the time and it helped him get the ball down the field. You know, Brandon Walters coming up with that touchdown catch, that's a g uy playing his last football game. So. And defensively to just, you know, guys played our last game really proud of of how they answered the threat in that last game. [00:19:17][194.6]

Ken McMillen: [00:19:20] Aside from wins and losses, where did this team over perform were surprised, and if you don't mind, where did this team underperform this year? [00:19:28][8.7]

Coach Monken: [00:19:30] Overperform. [00:19:30][0.0]

Ken McMillen: [00:19:34] Maybe like a surprise you were like hoping for something, but got something better. [00:19:37][2.8]

Coach Monken: [00:19:40] I don't know. I mean, know individual guys like Andre Carter. We always felt like Andre was going to be a good player, but you know where he he? Perform this year with all the sacks that was really a pleasant surprise, and I wouldn't have guessed that he would be up there and he'll be the top sack or the sack leader for the NCAA. Or maybe, maybe he's number two right now, I don't know. But I mean, either way, it's pretty, pretty good performance there. Their goal tally. Two years ago, he's a freshman and he's kicking against Michigan. He gets hurt and he's out most of the year, and then last year he's out the whole year. And for him to come back and play the way he did, it was a pleasant surprise. The way those three quarterbacks performed. Christian Anderson played his best football this year. He, you know, he's had some good games. But this year was the best season that he's played. There were some things that, you know, he'd like to have back and everybody make some mistakes. But I just the confidence he played with just really, really a great surprise. So there's some individual guys like that, and I go on and on, there's several underperformed. I mean. I think in every one of the losses, we find things we wish we would have done better plays, we wish we would have made and, you know, credit the other teams, the other teams made plays and then beat us. They got guys on scholarship too. So. There's a lot of it's a lot of things probably that we could have controlled, and we didn't do a very good job of that in some of those losses. But there were some victories where we didn't do that either. We still got away with it. We found a way to win, so it's hard to play perfect. But, you know, overall, I'm proud of our team and and I'll I'll I'll never. Ever be completely satisfied that we've we've accomplished all that that we can? You know, just like I said, we go undefeated and there still be things where you feel like you could play better. So I think it's just the nature of being a coach, being a coach or being in a leadership position. [00:22:18][157.7]

Ken McMillen: [00:22:21] Yeah, obviously the quarterback position is always, you know, always front and center with everybody. You lose Christian, you lose Jabari. How do you feel about the quarterbacks going into next year? And would you anticipate using a similar format this year with the one two or three quarterbacks being utilized? You know, because that was something that you had not embraced before, but kind of had to when you and you said it turned out well. So what's your early thought on how you want to use quarterbacks in 2022? [00:22:51][30.4]

Coach Monken: [00:22:53] I think those guys did a really good job and what we had was was a couple of starting quarterbacks. Guys that had been in games, had started games, had been the guy and and so we really had obviously with jabari laws having been out and he he was a starter two years ago and had earned that in 2019. He Christensen, Tyler Tyler both started games. So we really had the luxury of having some guys, some confidence and some some experience. Obviously, having entire back next year is going to be be great for us. I'm excited about his development, just how much he's improved and he's such a competitive kid and and and he's a great kid. Just fun to be around and and makes everybody feel good and lifts everybody's spirits and. They pulls the best out of other people, which is a great quality for a quarterback, and I'm excited about the guys we've got that are in the program. Cade Ballard, who will be back. And Cade is a guy that has had all kinds of success as a starting quarterback, as a high school quarterback, he started two games here for us last year. We won them both. Jamal Jones, I think, is very talented. Maurice Bullen And then there's some, some young guys. So Bryce and Daly, who's they get rabbit from Abernathy, Texas, who was on our scout team essentially all this year? Really tough physical player. There's you know, there's there's there's some guys, some young guys coming up in the program that it's going to be excited to to see, develop and see what, you know, see what they look like. There's, you know, Gary Phillips. Oh, who else, we got that that's coming up that position that they're all slip in my mind right now, but there's some young guys that I'm excited about and that they're going to develop. There's like they're just like the quarterbacks that we play with this year. They weren't ready as freshmen, but they're going to be ready. [00:25:15][141.7]

Ken McMillen: [00:25:17] T hanks to. [00:25:18][0.3]

Eric: [00:25:19] All right, we'll do a few more for coach John Kiki's. [00:25:21][1.7]

John K: [00:25:24] And they go to Happy New Year. [00:25:26][1.9]

Coach Monken: [00:25:27] Same to you. [00:25:27][0.5]

John K: [00:25:29] I'm just curious. I never asked, What do you do to relax? And how often do you relax? [00:25:33][4.2]

Coach Monken: [00:25:35] Work out every morning at six a.m.. Pack lunches, take my kids to the bus stop. I love doing that. [00:25:43][8.0]

John K: [00:25:46] But the traveling. [00:25:47][1.5]

Coach Monken: [00:25:49] I went I went to Illinois for the holidays my family lives. That's where I grew up, so I got a chance to see my folks and my sister and brother and their families, and that was relaxing. That was nice. I mean it, you know, I got to tell you, John, there's there's some angst, always. In my in my job, I don't I don't know that as a head coach, I ever truly relax. And you probably ask a lot of head coaches the same, they'd they'd probably tell you the same. And I envy those people that can completely put it down and put it away. But I have a difficult time doing that. But it's the sense of responsibility that that I feel is the coach and just knowing all the things that need to be done and the decisions that need to be made. And you know, we get we got done with the game and I started thinking about all we have to do with recruiting and all we've got to do with obviously a couple of coaches that we've got to replace and and spring practice and the guys coming back. And it's just it's just the nature of it. So but I do like to travel with my family and we get away spring break and holidays, and it's important for me to do that with them. I can't be at work all the time and I I enjoy being a dad. You know, it's the we we were. We were down there in Jersey City Friday night after the after the meeting and there was a guy there from football scoop that was was following us and he asked me what I was going to do now the rest of the night, as some would take my my daughter to the swimming pool. And and I did. I mean, you know, it's I was thinking about the game. I was watching your swim and you know, and that's fun is fun for her. It's fun for me to be there with her. But you know, that's just it's important to do that, that I don't have a more important job than being a dad or being a husband. That's those are the most important jobs I get. But there's a lot of responsibility in being a head coach, and so it's hard to put it away. Hard to put it down. But you know, when I come here to work, I don't stop being a dad. I don't stop thinking about my daughter and thinking about our school and how she's doing in school, and I got three of them. So, you know, we just balance it. [00:28:15][145.8]

John K: [00:28:17] Thanks Coach,. [00:28:17][0.0]

Eric: [00:28:19] The last two questions for Coach Will Go Graham Knight, and I'll close out with Ken McMillan. [00:28:21][2.8]

Graham Knight: [00:28:24] Coach. You know, we talked a little bit about priorities and look back at twenty twenty one, you know, army football has been fairly innovative. You know, you think back to Red Blake in the start of the offensive platoons and then the defensive platoons, and then somebody was there with the t formations. You know, what kind of innovations are we going to see out of army football is the 2022 season starts. [00:28:51][26.2]

Coach Monken: [00:28:52] I mean, I don't know. I don't know. I don't know that we're going to. Change what we do and we do what we do here schematically for a reason. I think it gives us the best chance to win and. As I watch college football intently and and we're committed to running the ball and stopping to run this, we try we try to do that and we don't always succeed. We're not always more successful than our opponent and doing those things and and but we strive to. But I watch college football and I think the Alabama game the other night, they started the game with 10 straight running plays. I watched the Baylor game the other night and then the fourth quarter. I think they finished with thirty two yards passing at Baylor, but they ran the ball effectively and we present it differently. We might look different to everybody else, but I think that wins football games and the majority of college football games are won by the team that wins the rushing the rushing contest. If you run for more than your opponent, you got a better chance to win. Doesn't mean you win all the time, but you have a better chance to win. So. I don't know if that's innovative or not. It's just it's just fact. And we're going to do everything we can to try to win the game just to try to have one more point. We're not. We don't we don't have schemes, we don't call plays or call defenses or do things because we think there's going to be a fan appeal or people like watching this or we do it because we think it's going to help us win and if we win, that should be appealing enough. So I guess, comparatively speaking, to where Army has been in the decade before I came here, we're probably innovative because we're winning a heck of a lot more games. So that's the bottom line, and that's all that really matters. And that was having to do with me that has to do with our players and the execution and our coaches who are preparing those guys. So if we can continue to do that, then that that's that's all I really care about. [00:31:23][150.4]

Graham Knight: [00:31:24] We are well said. Hey, best of luck in 2022. Thanks, coach. [00:31:26][2.6]

Coach Monken: [00:31:27] Thank you. [00:31:27][0.2]

Eric: [00:31:28] Last month for coach Ken McMillan. [00:31:29][1.1]

Ken McMillen: [00:31:32] Jeff , two orders of business, do you have spring dates? Have you replaced Tennessee on the schedule? And the big question is, do you have other position, emphasis or concerns for spring ball? [00:31:43][11.4]

Coach Monken: [00:31:46] We have replaced, we have replaced Tennessee. Then we put that out already. We did Villanova. OK, I just want to make sure we were okay to do that. Yep. And then sorry, so so we had the spring dates. I don't have those in front of me. It's going to be March and April, late March and April, and I'll have to get those out to you just exactly when we're going to start. It'll be after our spring break will be the the bulk of it. We may have a practice or two before spring break. But, you know, we try to really, really early. And you know, the weather's just so unpredictable up here. We've done a really late and pushes us, you know, a little bit in recruiting, so we'll probably finish in mid April. Kind of like we have in the past and allow our coaches to get out on the road recruiting and then in the spring, I think. You know, we're we're we're going to be replacing some guys, obviously those quarterbacks that we talked about, and it'll be it'll be good to get those guys I mentioned that don't have as much experience and opportunity to perform and see what they can do. Leading the offense, who's going to be some offensive lineman to replace a few skilled guys that we need to replace a defensively? I mean, right up the middle. Nolan, Cockrell, Eric Smith, Cedric Cunningham. I mean, three really important players on our defense. And so fine and replacements for those guys is going to be critical for us. And that's what spring is for springs to develop those guys and develop the young guys and find out about our team and find out about individual players, which we will and and hopefully that I heard be famous. That'll be, you know, something we'll we'll feel better about after the spring and on on where we're headed into the 2022 season. Thanks, Jeff. [00:31:46][0.0]


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