Coaching transitions are always hardest on the seniors.
The most talented ones – for example, Army’s senior offensive backfield – are still starters and playing primary roles, churning out yardage.
Others, though, slip into the background.
Take, for example, senior wide receiver Chevaughn Lawrence. He started 22 of 24 games the last two seasons and led the Black Knights’ ground-oriented triple-option offense with 10 catches.
But as a senior under new head coach Jeff Monken, he has zero starts and zero catches. He’s a backup player with limited snaps and a special teams contributor.
Lawrence, a 6-foot-1, 222-pounder who played for O’Fallon Township High in O’Fallon, Ill., isn’t grumbling. He’s playing whatever role is left for him behind the starting wide receivers, sophomore Edgar Poe and sophomore Xavier Moss, and a twist to Monken’s version of the triple-option with a tight end, junior Kelvin White.
“We have a really good receiver corps with younger receivers who have improvd every year,” Lawrence said. “I think they’re doing great things, and it’s pushing me to get better as an individual. We are a really tight and close; just to see those guys making plays is good. I’m proud of them. I just try to do whatever I can for my teammates.”
The word among Army’s coaches and around the locker room is Lawrence “might not have any catches but he works his butt off … very good blocker, very good team player. … runs routes well but the ball hasn’t come his way … not a captain but plays a captain’s role … .”
Following Army’s bounce back from a demoralizing loss to Yale with a 33-24 win over Ball State last week at Michie Stadium, Monken addressed the issue of his seniors with reduced roles and their contributions. Army improved to 2-3 as the Black Knights prepare for a second straight home game against Rice (2-3, 1-1 Conference USA) at noon Saturday at Michie Stadium.
“I think overall our team is unselfish,” Monken said. “There are probably some guys that maybe felt like their position or role wasn't what they wanted it to be and have stepped away, but for the guys that have stayed, they know exactly what is at stake it's not about personal ego, statistics or individual awards. What we are trying to accomplish are team goals and I think our whole team has done a good job with focusing on trying to be the best we can to accomplish the goals that we have.
“Our scout team does a great job, we have some seniors playing on our scout team who aren't starting on offense or defense, some of them are playing very few snaps on special teams, some of them are not even getting to travel, but they are doing it with a great attitude and working as hard as they can because they know that is their role and they want to win and I think everyone on our team is committed to doing everything they can to help us be successful.”
That might be extraordinary at a civilian school, but it comes with the territory at West Point.
“It’s the Army way,” Lawrence said. “We’re at this school for a reason. We’re going to keep fighting no matter what – that’s our job. It’s what we do when things get hard. We step up to the challenge. I think we did that (against Ball State). This is a good group of guys who keep fighting no matter what.”
What’s ironic about Lawrence attitude is how he felt about an Army when he was first recruited by former Black Knights assistant coach Joe Ross.
“I knew nothing about West Point when coach Ross came to recruit me,” Lawrence said. “I was impressed by West Point and everything it had to offer. But when he told me I had to do military commitment, I said, ‘OK, we’re done with this meeting,’ and I walked out.”
But Ross stayed on Lawrence, who became a direct admit and three-year letterman entering his senior year.
“I learned more about Army and all the things West Point has to offer,” Lawrence said. “I learned about the brotherhood we share. I have friends here that will be my friends the rest of my life.”
That hasn’t changed with has status as a starter or backup.