Jeff Monken Post Spring Press Conference Quotes

April 21, 2014

WEST POINT, N.Y. - Army head coach Jeff Monken met with members of the local media Monday afternoon inside Nowak Auditorium. The Black Knights wrapped up their first spring under Monken's guidance on Saturday.

(Re.: opening statement)
“We’ve come a long way. I think our guys put in a great effort during the spring and worked hard. They tried to do all of the things we asked them to do. If they continue to put forth that type of effort, I think we’ll have a chance to improve when we get back here in August and get ready for the opening game.  We’ve got a lot of work to do over the summer. We have to get these guys prepared physically. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get out there and work with those guys again. We’ll look at the things we didn’t quite master this spring and get ready to see what we’ve got for the season.”

(Re.: players who surprised him in spring practice)
“There were a lot of guys who impressed us this spring, who I thought did a really good job. I was really impressed with the competition between Larry Dixon and Matt Giachinta. That is a position where we rely on those guys an awful lot, and it usually takes more than one guy at that position. Those guys get tackled a lot and get hit a lot. In the secondary, it was Geoffery Bacon, Hayden Pierce, Chris Carnegie and Josh Jenkins. Carnegie didn’t get a lot of time in the spring because he’s been nursing an injury. That’s an area where there’s always a concern, but there’s some gifted athletes out there in college football that play the skill positions on offense. To not be able to match up with those guys is a concern. I think all four of those guys give us a chance to do that. I was excited to see the competition between the two quarterbacks, A.J. Schurr and Angel Santiago. I think both of those guys will be in the mix in the fall. I think they both made some subtle improvements in the things that they needed to over the course of the spring. We had some quarterback-center exchange issues, but that had more to do with the fact that we had moved two guys to center who hadn’t played center. It got better, but we’re going to have to clean that up. Richard Glover, the nose guard, is tough, quick and really plays with intensity and effort. Joe Drummond and Mike Ugenyi, those guys who make up that first group at defensive line really came along this spring. We’ve got some work to do, but we’re going to work on some things this summer. I was excited to see Tony Giovannelli and the plays he made on Saturday, he really improved from the first week. Kelvin White moved from quarterback to wide receiver and in a couple of days, he was already playing with the first team. He takes so much pride in knowing the offense that it has made it an easy transition for him. I thought Xavier Moss did some nice things as we went through spring. He really struggled at the beginning of the spring when the ball was in the air, but he got better.”

(Re.: how the players have learned the system)
“I don’t know that they understand the system yet. A lot of them know their job right now, but in terms of how that fits into the grand scheme, I don’t know that we’ve got a great handle on that yet, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams. I watched the special teams practice on Saturday and we had countless mistakes, missing assignments and blocking the wrong guy. We had some guys playing some different positions because we split the team, but I hoped we would have a little better handle on understanding the grand scheme of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

(Re.: quarterback competition)
“I think (Santiago and Schurr) have themselves up at the top. I think they will probably be battling for the starting position.”

(Re.: any positions that progressed through spring)
“I don’t know if I went into the spring with expectations about what we’d have at any position. I’m disappointed we didn’t have guys like Terry Baggett and Raymond Maples who have played quite a bit, but weren’t able to practice because of injuries. There are several guys who had the red jersey on all spring, and it would have been nice to evaluate those guys.”

(Re.: offensive line progression)
“It was interesting to go through the spring and realize that we do teach things a lot differently than they had been taught in the past. Some of the techniques we teach are a little different. It took some time for those guys to learn. They haven’t mastered any of them yet, but they’ve improved. I was really pleased with Justin Gilbert and his athleticism. Drew Hennessey is the same way. He’s a tough, competitive kid who’s gained 13 pounds since we’ve been here. Moving Matt Hugenberg from guard to center was a good move. He gives us the best chance right now of the guys we have. A lot of those guys were nicked up this spring and were limited, but we’ll get a better idea this fall. That’s a position where we’re either going to have to get a lot of guys to change or we’re going to have to keep our fingers crossed that we get a freshman or two who can play to provide us some depth.”

(Re.: team’s strengths following spring practice)
“I think our team came together and played together better than they would have at the onset in January. We were going through the workouts and naturally, they’re just trying to find their way into the depth chart to get a chance to compete. Our guys did a good job of holding each other accountable and setting some expectations for themselves and for each other. But we’ve got a long way to go. I’m not ready to anoint any part of our team where we’ve got a strength. We need improvements in every area, including coaching. Special teams is something I’m very heavy-handed in and after watching the film from Saturday, it’s a poor job on my part for not getting those guys prepared.”

(Re.: preference of having multiple quarterbacks or having a clear starter)
“Jerick McKinnon was our starting quarterback to start the year last season at Georgia Southern. We had a rash of injuries and were down to our fifth string running back. So it was either play the fifth string back or put MacKinnon, who was probably our best offense player, in at running back. That’s how Kevin Ellison ended up being the starting quarterback. I don’t know that that’s ideal, having two different guys in there, starting one week and not starting another. I think we want to settle on one guy. I think that will help our team and give them some confidence. It will help our coaches call plays. We realize each guy has his own set of strengths and to be able to make adjustments with the guy that’s in there will certainly make things a lot easier. But we’ll do whatever we have to do to try to win a football game.”

(Re.: was moving Matt Hugenberg to center because of his size)
“He is a bigger guy and he was doing a pretty good job of getting movement at the point of attack when he had to go up against another body. We get a chance to see these guys do a lot of things in practice, and we just felt like he was going to give us a chance to snap the ball and be good up the middle.”

(Re.: status of Julian Holloway)
“Julian sat out the whole spring and we’ve been trying to rehabilitate the injury. There’s a possible he could need surgery to get him to full health. That’s the last resort. We don’t want to make a habit of cutting guys open before we can get things fixed in our training room. We’ve got hopes that he’ll be out there for us.”

(Re.: will freshmen have an edge coming in with a blank slate as opposed to players who have been here)
“I don’t know if that will necessarily give them an edge. Every place I’ve coached, there have been freshmen who have come in and played and it didn’t matter how long the staff had been in place. There will be some guys who will be able to come in and contribute and there will be some guys who won’t. It probably has more to do with the players physically more so than the mental part of it. Our veterans get a little bit of a head start on the freshmen, but it’s usually fairly easy for those guys once we get in camp. I worry less about them learning than I do about them physically.”

(Re.: issues with fundamentals)
“Everybody has their way to teach the things they want to get done. I’m not saying that what they’ve been taught in the past was wrong, it’s just not the way that we teach it. If you go to another option school, they might teach fundamentals completely differently than we’re teaching them. There are some things that one coach emphasizes more than another. It’s just our way of doing it, it doesn’t make the way they were doing it wrong, it just makes it different.”

(Re.: monitoring players’ training over summer)
“The unique experience here at the Academy is that our guys don’t just take summer school classes and work out. They are also obligated to go through summer training. Most of those guys will be able to do that summer training early in the summer and can come back and take summer school classes and work out here with our strength staff. The nature of the United States Military Academy allows us to be able to keep pretty good tabs on each one of those guys. To be able to monitor those guys on what they’re eating and how much rest they’re getting will be beneficial. We want our guys to have the best opportunity to succeed once they get back here in the fall. We’ll be working with them during the permissible weeks in the summer.”

(Re.: coaches’ performances this spring)
“I was really happy with the enthusiasm and the effort. Our staff is fully invested in getting this thing turned around. We’ve got a veteran staff and a great bunch of men who are good football coaches. They care about our guys and want to see them succeed. We’re holding them accountable to be the best that they can be. Our coaches have really embraced the philosophy here. I did my best to hire coaches who would be good fits for Army football and I’m very pleased with the job they’ve done. I set the expectation for excellence and that doesn’t just fall on the players, it’s also the responsibilities of the coaches. When our players don’t perform as well as they’re capable, it’s our job as coaches to get them where they need to be.”

(Re.: on what Larry Dixon and Geoffery Bacon going to mean to the team as captains)
“I’m excited for those guys. I think both of them have displayed the kind of leadership it takes to earn the respect of their teammates and be voted team captains. I’m sure they’ll do a great job leading our team, along with the two guys we voted on our leadership council who are going to take a leadership role as well. I think it speaks to the respect their teammates have for them.”

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