• Erin Summers

High-Powered Army Defense Takes On Powerful Georgia State Offense In Week 1

Reporting by Erin Summers

edited for web by Joe Harman

The Army Black Knights defense of the CIC Trophy started the minute the team came back together to practice this spring.

The focus has been on Army's veteran squad.

"I'm really proud of last year's team and the guys that we have on this year's team that were part of what we went through last year," Head Coach Jeff Monken said. "There is excitement and anticipation for the season coming up."

Army led the nation in overall defense last year and features eight returning starters on that side of the ball. In their second year under Defensive Coordinator Nate Woody, the Army defense looks to be a strength in 2021.

"We're light years ahead of where we were last year going into that first ballgame," Woody reflected, "So we're all very excited about about the opportunities we've got ahead of us."

Led by linebackers Arik Smith, defensive backs Cedrick Cunninham, Jr., Marquel Broughton and Jabari Moore, defensive talent won't be a question for the Black Knights.

"Talent will only get you so far, and we have plenty of it," Broughton said at a recent press conference. "But more importantly, we have guys that care about each other and guys that work really hard, especially on that back end."

Offensively, the biggest question mark is who will line up behind center. With six different quarterbacks splitting time last season, the Black Knights have options.

"Tyhier [Tyler] and Christian Anderson, they're probably at the top right now, battling it out," Coach Monken revealed. "Jemel [Jones] is a very close third in there. And I've been very pleased with Jabari Laws, I think [he] will be able to help this football team. We have the good fortune of having multiple [players] I'd be comfortable starting."

Senior Christian Anderson, for his part, will be ready to go in Week One if Monken taps him. "I'm confident in my abilities to lead this team," he says. "I feel like my coaches and my teammates feel confident in me as well, just given my experience.”

Army's QB1 remains a mystery until the Black Knights' first challenge of the season -- which will be Saturday, September 4 at Georgia State.

The Panthers boast a prolific offense led by quarterback Cornelious Brown, who threw for nearly 2,300 yards last season. As a team, the Panthers rushed for 1,940 yards.

"They do a really good job on offense, [they're] skilled, fast, athletic," Army's Monken says of his team's first opponents of the year. "Defensively they are not as big, but very quick. Our DCs are very close and have similar philosophies."

While every team wants to start their season 1 -- 0, Army has a score to settle. Just two years ago Army lost in their last match-up with the Panthers in crushing fashion, with an interception at the 3-yard line in the closing minute ending Army's last chance to score and the Black Knights fell 28 -- 21.

Bottom line . . . the Georgia State game promises to be an exciting one!