Army sophomore linebacker Jeremy Timpf never expected to be in such a position four games into the Black Knights’ football season.
The sophomore linebacker is leading the team in tackles with 43 as a first-year starter. He recorded a career-high with 14 in last week’s loss at Yale. He also paces the team in tackles for a loss with five and returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown last week.
Just a year ago he was limited to the scout team.
But those aren’t his only unexpected positions in 2014 for the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder from Tucson (Ariz.) Sabino. Based on his play, Timpf didn’t expect to be in the position of speaking for the team and about its remaining eight games.
Army has dropped to a disappointing 1-3 start under new coach Jeff Monken. Next up is Ball State at noon Saturday at Michie Stadium. The Cardinals have won the last three straight, including two routs of 41-13 in 2013 and 48-21 in 2011.
“We’re beating ourselves,” Timpf said. “We just have to all get on the same page. We have to have 11 guys making plays together. We still have eight games left and we’re still working hard. The coaches are still coaching. We’re never going to quit; we’ll keep fighting. We still think we can have a winning season and a bowl game.”
The last two games Army hasn’t been able to hold off its opponents late in the game. Yale outscored with 1:42 to play to force overtime and win 49-43. Wake Forest rallied with a 10-0 fourth quarter margin for a 24-21 victory.
“You win throughout the game, you just don't win in the fourth quarter,” Monken said. “It's come down to the fourth quarter for us the last two weeks and we haven't been able to get it done.”
Timpf has made a meteoric rise from the prep school two years ago and scout last year to his starting role. His climb up the depth chart began when Monken and his staff spotted something they liked in him in the spring. By the end of spring drills he had jumped over starters into a starting role.
“I’m not surprised because I worked hard every day,” said Timpf in a matter-of-fact fashion rather than braggadocio. “I’m also not surprised because of the efforts and help of my teammates.”
In the season-opening 47-39 victory against Buffalo, he was in double figures with 11 tackles and nine solo. Next in a 35-0 loss at Stanford, a team with superior size, he had 10 total tackles and seven solo; he also had a forced fumble on punt coverage. He recorded eight tackles with seven solo in the 24-21 loss at Wake Forest.
In addition to his leading tackle total, he has two interceptions, three pass breakups and one fumble recovery.
His 43 tackles nearly doubles the second player on Army’s list, linebacker Andrew King with 24, as Monken and defensive coordinator Jay Bateman are still trying to find the right mix. That’s a result of the different starting combination they have tried.
Of the front seven, only Timpf, senior outside linebacker Stephen Ricciardi, senior defensive tackle Joe Drummond and senior rush end James Kelly have started all four games.
“Most of our errors have been mental because we’re a young defense,” Timpf said. “We have to keep working on our assignments so that were executing together. We just have to keep fighting.”