March 31, 2011
Q&A with Coach Ellerson: Army 2011 Part II
GoBlackKnights.com's Paul Franklin continues his one-on-one exclusive conversation with head football coach Rich Ellerson in Part II of our series with the 3rd year Army mentor.
Hear what Ellerson shares about the team's post spring practice routine, this year's tough schedule and much more.
Here is Part II of our two part Q&A series with Army Black Knights' Head Coach, Rich Ellerson.
GBK: With spring practice now over, what's the routine for the players the rest of the semester?
Ellerson: Because we had spring practice so early, we can take advantage of a relatively long swath of time to accelerate and make real gains with our physical development. They will have their heads down in the classroom and their heads down with their companies. Guys will be reinvesting in their companies and embrace the other loyalties we have.
Last season was grueling. There's no other word for it. The summer training camp, where the Navy game was, where the bowl game was, spring football - man, it's been a grind. So this is a chance to not have to see Coach every day and run into each other and just train and go to school and do something on weekends that doesn't involve football. It's healthy physically and healthy mentally, and guys need to take advantage of this.
GBK: Recruiting returns to high gear next month. Do you and the staff ever get to shut down and get away from the monster that swallows so much of your time?
Ellerson: After the bowl game some of the guys went right on the road recruiting. When you have a lot of kids visit it's really a seven-days-a-week job. It doesn't let up; it's a real grind for the staff. So it's time for them to get out of here and relax a little bit; get out of here at a reasonable hour and take some vacation time. But we'll turn around twice and it will be R-Day, so it's important for everybody to charge their batteries.
GBK: What about the head coach? Do you ever get away?
Ellerson: I did some Founders Day talks over spring break and they sent me to California, so that was pretty neat. And my wife and I stopped at Tucson on the way back for a couple of days on the way home. There's a family reunion coming up later, and I'll take a few days here and there. But I kind of like this, so I'm not running off anywhere. I'll take off two weeks.
GBK: No matter where you might run off to, you can't get away from a schedule that's going to be pretty rough from the start. (At) Northern Illinois, San Diego State, the Big 10 (Northwestern) and another road game (Ball State). Not to mention you have only four games at Michie. It seems that the 2011 schedule is tougher than last year's.
Ellerson: That's because of the nature of the first three games. And which Ball State will there be? A 1-11 team or an 11-1 team? The first three opponents are teams that have been in bowl games and are returning a lot of good players. The thing I don't like about it is you have San Diego State and Northern Illinois, teams that don't, unless you're really following college football - especially if you're an East Coast guy - resonate that, "Hey, those guys are really good.' I was trying to work out a deal where I could trade San Diego State for Cal. The casual observer would say, "What are you thinking?'' When you play someone like that, I want it to be a brand name. I want people to know it's an uphill fight.
And so the rest of the schedule becomes a little bit of a mystery. But we'll all know eventually. The good news is I don't think any of those guys are running around saying, "Oh boy we get to play Army.''
GBK: Speaking of which, what do you project those teams will be getting when they go up against this year's Army football team?
Ellerson: I feel the arrow stays up offensively; the skill level, the experience level. And the guys stepping into the front line, they don't have a lot of game time but they're not green. I feel good about them. I'm really pleased with how the center position worked out in the spring. Will Wilson came into the prep a couple of years ago as a real average athlete and did a really nice job changing his body. He exceeded my expectations. I don't think they'll be much of a drop between he and Zach (Peterson).
The defense is problematic, especially down the middle at free safety, middle linebacker, nose tackle and strong safety, and the list goes on
rush end. They're all pivotal guys. I feel good about our athleticism; we can run and jump and all that. But there is no way to quantify the experience and how well they will see the game, how intuitive they are and how comfortable they are in their skin as the season unfolds. But I can say this: Those guys will improve dramatically as we go out there and the game slows down for 'em.
The concern for me is the young guys. They're gifted guys but young guys, like that second row on defense. The thing most discerning is the defensive line. We haven't replaced (Mike) Gann (at nose guard), and the guys we were looking at in the spring were out with a broken hand, a pulled hamstring or something. Some of them didn't play enough and some didn't play at all. So that presence still remains a little problematic, and the hardest thing to find in football is that interior lineman who has the presence rushing the passer. So that's still a little bit of a question mark right smack down the middle. And those cats are hard to find. The rest of the crowd I feel good about.
We'll look a little funny getting off the bus. We're not going to be real big guys, but we've got some strong, athletic, powerful guys who can do what we're asking them to do.
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