Sept. 4, 2012
The following quotes have been excerpted from Army head football coach Rich Ellerson's press conference, held Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012, in the Randall Hall auditorium.
Army Head Coach Rich Ellerson
(Ref.: opening statement)
"We're excited to go. We've been dreaming about this and working for this since January. We had a great preseason. We still have a few bumps and bruises we're working through this week, but as I said, we're excited to get this show on the road."
(Ref.: making the long road trip to San Diego State)
"Our timeline is stretched on both ends, but you still have a plane ride, you get there and go play. The distance won't impact the score. Our guys are focused on other things, not the distance."
(Ref.: facing an Aztec team that has already played one game)
"There's a truism in our business and it's that you make more improvements in that first and second week than you do the rest of the year. Certainly, they (San Diego State) were in a hard-fought football game last week at the University of Washington. They had some bad things happen to them early, got into a hole but battled back. They didn't get talked out of believing they could win. They were really impressive from that perspective. They will grow by leaps and bounds as a result. The nature of our offense and defense is such that it mitigates some of that. A year ago, when we opened with them, they had played an option team at the end of the previous schedule and then opened against another option team before playing us. They had been preparing for an option team for eight months. I'm sure they've devoted time to preparing for the option this preseason, knowing they are playing us and having Air Force in their conference, but you can't not be focused on that Washington game. There's something in that for us maybe in that regard. There's something in it for them in that they know more about themselves. They know where to invest the time and energy."
(Ref.: assessment of his Army team right now)
"I know we've prepared well and had a tremendous offseason. They've been focused on this start, worked hard and prepared well. We're a more mature football team than we were a year ago. Mature beyond our years, if you will. Last year we were starting more freshmen than seniors. This year we're starting about the same number of sophomores as we are seniors, but we have a significant senior presence on both sides of the ball. Those `young sophomores' are older than their age because of the circumstances of a year ago when they were between the white lines with the game on the line. They knew what they were preparing for last spring and this summer through training camp. We're a much more mature football team both as competitors and physically."
(Ref.: his expectations for this 2012 team)
"There are all kinds of expectations about how we play and how we manage a football game. I mentioned that we're a more mature football team, and we expect to win. We expect to be in some tough situations and we expect to handle those situations. We'll be physically and mentally tough and a team that's more present and precise because of who we are. I think where we are physically and where we are as competitors gives us a chance to do that. I talk all the time about how this West Point experience can be an advantage for us on Saturday afternoons. It doesn't have to be in our way; it can be an advantage ... we've managed the physics of the game so that we can leverage those things that our unique at West Point and use them to our advantage. That's my expectation for this year. We've been at this long enough, in the saddle for three years. We have enough guys who were recruited and developed for this style of offense and defense. We have an internal schedule which cracks the code in terms of how to manage the West Point journey in such a way to keep ourselves healthy and fresh on Saturdays. We believe that will all come to fruition, so in the course of this season, you'll see a healthier, fresher team that will develop, take advantage and grow from week-to-week. You're not going to have to read between the lines to know that things are working. You'll be able to see it on the scoreboard more often than not."
(Ref.: how the team has bonded)
"The culture of our football team has been extraordinary from day one in terms of the guys' ability to stay together, refocus and throw it back out there. Some situations they've found themselves in and how they've responded has been remarkable. The physical maturity and the experience that this football team has is much different than the last couple of years."
(Ref.: effectiveness of his double-eagle flex defense)
"I would argue that it is a little bit unique, it's multiple and it allows you to play with guys who look good in a cadet uniform. We don't value 300-pound linemen; we value strength, explosiveness and range of play. Therefore, we're not going to ask a guy to do one thing on Saturday afternoon and then ask him to do something else when he graduates."
(Ref.: sharing the ball in the run game)
"That's the expectation when you run the option. Our opponent will determine who is going to touch the ball. Obviously, not everything we do is triple-option. We have some designed hand-offs, but we also have some designed keeps. Our quarterback's ability to distribute should be an asset. We have a four-year starter (Trent Steelman) at an academy running the option. That gives us a great chance to be right in terms of who has the ball in their hands on any given play. There are also some really gifted guys around Trent as well. I'm impressed with Terry Baggett. He's one of those good news stories; a guy who had a few flashes of brilliance, but was banged up a lot of last year. Raymond (Maples) and Larry (Dixon) have never been better."
(Ref.: Robert Kough and Mike Ugenyi playing defensive tackle)
"The defensive front is near and dear to my heart. Some of the guys who are playing defensive end this year were playing defensive tackle last year. Having Mike and Bobby in there is part of why are optimistic. Obviously, they'll be playing their first significant number of repetitions this week. They've prepared really well and are both physically mature, gifted guys that are going to improve as the season rolls along. We're going to give them a reasonable job description. I felt like there were times last year when we were asking guys to do something that, frankly, wasn't in the cards physically."
(Ref.: importance of senior quarterback Trent Steelman to the offense)
"We have a four-year starter at quarterback. That is good anywhere, but it's especially good at a service academy which runs the triple option. A guy who has been in as many hard-fought situations as he's been and a guy who has been in the program with the same coaches for four years should be a tremendous advantage for us. He's beyond being an experienced, good player; he's a great young leader. He's very much respected and liked by his teammates as a fierce competitor. He's somebody they will rally to when things get hard. He's handled some incredibly difficult moments. This football team's had some great days and some tough days. He takes it all on his own shoulders and has learned how to manage himself to be an asset to his teammates."
(Ref.: addressing the turnover issues from last season)
"There are a lot of lessons to be taken from last year and that's one that certainly sticks out. If you can turn that one glaring statistic back the other way, the scoreboard looks different and we feel different about the season. But we can't do that. We've owned that fact. There are a lot of reasons as to why you get into a situation like that. What we've challenged ourselves with is handling those situations better. Obviously, we've reinvested and looked into everything we do in terms of teaching those fundamentals better. What we don't want to do is go out there and play afraid. If you're not careful and make a big deal about this, your purpose in life is to go out and not fumble. When you do that, you fumble and you're not having any fun. Some of these great, explosive, dynamic players become hamstrung. We are constantly fighting to become unconsciously competent with all those fundamentals associated with the football."
(Ref.: moving forward and not dwelling on the 2011 season)
"We are looking forward and only thinking about one thing right now. That's San Diego State. However, you're not going to go through something like last year and not find a way to use it. It was so excruciating and so hard. We weren't in a hurry to dismiss it, but we drained it for all it was worth. We went through it, over it, back-and-forth and made sure we took every lesson away from it. When that was done, it becomes ancient history. The challenge now is how we built that into our preparation and the choices we make going forward."