WIll the Triple Option Stay at Army

by John Furgele

The coaching search at Army continues into the holidays.  Like Air Force and Navy, Army incorporates the triple option as its offense.   In fact, they prefer it.  The question is will the next coach there continue to run it or will they try a different offense?   The last two non option coaches, West coast disciple Todd Berry and former NFL coach Bobby Ross did not have success at West Point.   In fact, the offense under Berry was so bad, that he was replaced after seven games in 2003.   Ross believed in the pro set and that too, did not come with good results.

We all know the strengths and weaknesses of the triple option offense.  The obvious is that because most schools don’t use it or play against it, it’s tough to prepare for and therefore, an undersized Army can have success by running it.  That said, the fired Rich Ellerson believed in the triple option and didn’t have success winning games with it.

It’s not a difficult offense to install and at Army it would be easier for the players because they’ve been running it for years.  Quarterback A.J. Santiago just finished his first year as the starter and will be a junior next fall.  He knows the offense and should only get better with more snaps.  If the triple option is not used, I’m not sure if Army is big enough up front to pound the ball or more, protect Santiago or whoever is dropping back to pass.  The West Coast offense is famous for using short passes as runs and that could help Army by spreading things out and using short, quick passes.   But, the WCO is also famous for bloated quarterback stats without substance.   How many times have you seen a quarterback line of 14 of 20 for 93 yards and nine points?  There are many times where the quarterback completes 2 of 3 passes and on fourth down, the team punts.

What will the interviews sound like?  Will the Army brass insist that if hired, “you must run the triple option offense,” or “how do you feel about adopting the triple option as your offense at West Point?   The answers will be fascinating to be sure.   Former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has expressed an interest in the job.  He certainly has the West Point look, but what offense does he prefer?  Current Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken is rumored to be a candidate, but my question is why?  Of course, West Point is unique, a special place and Monken runs the triple option at GSU.  But, the Eagles beat Florida this year in their last year in Division 1-AA (FCS) and are preparing to jump up to Division 1 (FBS) and the Sun Belt Conference.  One would think that Monken would want to lead Georgia Southern into the top level of college football.

Army is a Division 1 school in name only.  If Army played Division 1-AA in the Colonial Athletic Association, they would have a very difficult time going 4-4 in conference games.  If they played in the Missouri Valley Conference, they would have a difficult time going 4-4 in conference games.   Next year, they play two 1-AA opponents in Fordham and Yale.   They will struggle with Yale, but they should win and they will likely be an underdog against a Fordham team that gives athletic scholarships and just went 12-2 with a 1-AA playoff appearance in.    Grobe is unemployed and though he resigned at Wake Forest because he had simply run his course, he apparently is eager to coach again.  His hiring would make sense and would likely be welcomed by the Army brass.   For Monken, it would be a step down, but the allure of coaching at the Academy may be in his blood.   There are certainly less headaches coaching cadets over the regular student athletes that attend Georgia Southern or just about any other Division I school.

Army will get itself a coach and it will get itself a good coach, but will they choose one that will run the old Triple option?   That is the ultimate question.

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