Nov. 1, 2011
Watch Press Conference Highlights
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
The following quotes have been excerpted from Army head football coach Rich Ellerson's press conference, held Tuesday, November 1, 2011, in the Randall Hall auditorium.
Army Head Coach Rich Ellerson
(Ref.: opening statement)
"It's the most important game of the year, because it's the one that we play this week. We're 100 percent committed to staying in the moment and working overtime trying to find a way to be 1-0 this week. Obviously, there's a little bit of a buzz. Guys are excited to go. We're going to stay in the moment and try to have fun with this next adventure. It's going to be a tough one. (Air Force) is a very gifted outfit. They've had some challenges on defense, a little bit like we have, but they're getting some guys back. Offensively, they're an absolute nightmare. They've made a bunch of plays in the kicking game. They're a complete outfit, and it's going to be a great challenge."
(Ref.: status of Army junior QB Trent Steelman)
"We don't know. Ask me in a couple of days. He is further along than I'd hoped he'd be at this point. He thinks he could have played the other night; I don't. He thinks he can play this week. We'll have to make a determination probably tomorrow. I want to make sure we aren't just dumb-tough. Obviously, we'd love for him to play. He desperately wants to play. We just need to be smart and make sure we don't set him back and lose him for some games that we might otherwise have him for."
(Ref.: what he takes away from last week's victory over Fordham)
"You saw that our guys love to play. They wouldn't be talked out of loving to play by their opponent, by the conditions or by the scoreboard. They like to play the game. They saw that in themselves, they saw that in one another and that's a good thing."
(Ref.: challenges of playing at Air Force this week)
"There is no history. It's a season onto itself. We're just somehow, some way, trying to be 1-0 this week. We know that it's going to be tough. The toughest thing about the trip to Air Force is the team that's waiting for you when you get there. It's a good football team. It's talented. It's well-coached. It does things that stretch you. They do things that you don't see very often, and obviously they're comfortable trying to defend the triple option. They see it in house. They see it routinely in their schedule. Those are the things about this that are challenging. That's what we're looking forward to."
(Ref.: when junior QB Trent Steelman will return to practice)
"He will not go in practice today, or at least he won't do much in practice today. If he's going to try to play on Saturday, we'll make that determination tomorrow, and he'll have to practice tomorrow."
(Ref.: whether or not Army is closing the gap with Air Force)
"Obviously, we really like the path we've chosen. If you're narrowing the track, that implies that we're on the same track. The truth is, we have our own vision for Army football. We think we're gaining on that objective. We really feel strongly about the voice we've chosen and the path we've chosen for Army football. We're going to be competitive week in and week out. Now, will we be competitive on Saturday? For that you have to tune in. I have so much respect for their program and what they do with it. You look at that senior outfit on offense and how much they do and how well they do with it and how well and efficiently they execute. I just don't know where they find the time to practice all that stuff, especially here at the service academies. They run triple option, but that's not all they do. They do so many other things that are diverse from that, and they do it so efficiently and so well. The ball's never on the ground. It's impressive. They're doing it with a bunch of guys that have been there for a long time. They have a bunch of seniors out there that have the ball in their hands and going through their hands that are efficient with it, and at the same time creative. They can turn nothing into something with their legs. You could argue that the physical maturity side of it very much stands on their side of the field, but we're gaining on it."
(Ref.: mindset of the team)
"You see every class out there. You probably see too many young guys for a consistently good football team to have out there, but you have every class represented. They've created a brotherhood. They didn't inherit that. They created it. They certainly had that legacy, but they created it. I would argue that they have decided that they like to play the game and they've got a way of approaching the game from a week to week basis regardless of what happened last week, regardless of what the scoreboard says, regardless of what the people in the stands are saying. They're going to play the game. They're going to step out between the white lines and enjoy this mess. They like it. They like the physical part of it. They like the challenge. They know they're getting better. They can feel it; they can sense it. That's the feeling that permeates the team. I think there was a time, maybe, earlier this year when that was a little bit unsettled. We were looking for that voice or looking for that direction or looking for that way to approach the challenge."
(Ref.: assessing the play of Army junior FB Jared Hassin)
"Jared's part of the starting rotation. We're playing a couple of fullbacks. Larry Dixon is off to a great start, but Jared's right in the middle of it. He's still in the starting rotation. He's going to play routinely. Jared just took such a beating last year as a wishbone fullback for 13 games with really not much time off, and frankly he's still paying the dues for that. He didn't bounce back quite like we hoped he would through the offseason. He has some chronic health issues that are kind of making us struggle to get him ready to play without getting him behind the curve physically. We're still trying to find out the exact way to balance that preparation time for him. He's still a huge part of it, and is very, very capable. We just have to find out how much we can ask for him to do and still expect him to be productive like that."
(Ref.: keys to success in Army's rushing offense)
"Our quarterback play has been consistently good. To be great, we need to get the ball up off the ground consistently. That's been our bane. We're an option football team and we have some operators at quarterback who have been able to distribute the ball. We have a little bit more juice when we're pitching the ball and in some cases handing the ball off to some guys where you don't have to knock everybody down to make a few yards. Our backfield is a little bit more physically mature, a little bit more experienced and a little bit more explosive. Offensive line-wise, we're playing with great confidence up there. Like Air Force, we're a little bit undersized, but we come off the ball differently than what most people do right now in college football and it's difficult to adjust to. Obviously, this week both defenses are used to looking at a team that plays that way so it won't be quite the advantage that it is some weeks."
(Ref.: Air Force's offense not relying exclusively on the triple option)
"My sense of it is that they force you to prepare for (the triple option). If you don't defend it, you'll get a bunch of it. They're not married to it. They'll see something like maybe they didn't like what they saw from us a year ago from an option standpoint and there were better things in their package to go to that would be more productive. I still maintain that if you don't configure yourself in such a way that you can defend triple, you're going to get a lot of it, and they're really good at it when they want to be."
(Ref.: the plan at quarterback versus Air Force if Trent Steelman is unable to play)
"We'll start Max (Jenkins). Our intention was that Angel (Santiago) would play earlier and more than what he did on Saturday. The conditions were the determining factor there. I'm just not sure how meaningful the turns under those conditions would have been developmentally, so we kind of got away from our script. Our plan would be to start Max and play Angel relatively quickly."
(Ref.: keys to stopping Air Force's offense)
"It's a tough deal. They can be a devastating triple option attack if they choose to be. And yet, (Tim Jefferson) is really having a good year throwing the football. His legs are involved in more than just the option part of the game. They can jump in I-backs. They have a go-to running back in Asher Clark. He's the real deal. They can get in the `I' and run power and iso. They've got a lot of things in their playbook they can go to. I don't think they go to everything every week. You don't know quite how they'll see you. If you try to defend everything on every snap against these guys, good luck. They're really good, so you're going to have to pick your spots. And, when you guess wrong, you're going to have to survive it so you can line up again. Last year, we guessed wrong and they got us for a bunch. We have to be able to survive those instances when they nail a call."
(Ref.: assessing the Air Force special teams)
"They block kicks, they fake kicks and they return kicks. Obviously, the kicking game is a volatile part of the equation. And you're at altitude so the ball travels. There are a lot of yards underneath that ball when you put it in the air. We'll need to be on point."
(Ref.: how a lack of reps for Army freshman QB Angel Santiago could affect the quarterback rotation at Air Force)
"We don't know what we don't know, but I'm not sure that those conditions would have told us a whole heck of a lot about where he is. Every time he walks out there, he is very, very comfortable out there between the white lines with the ball in his hands, and that was true again in those conditions. Now, he wasn't out there very long because that was the nature of the contest. I think the fact that we were playing in a foot of snow meant that it wasn't going to have a lot of carry over whether he played for a quarter or two quarters. I don't think that's going to be significant"
(Ref.: whether or not he'd like to play in snow again this week at Air Force)
"I am hoping for some snow. I don't think we're going to get it, unfortunately. We were looking for a repeat to see if we could do that again. We'll wear all white and see if we can disappear."
(Ref.: playing for the Commander in Chief's Trophy)
"Obviously, that's part of the drama, but that won't impact the outcome. That's something that's part of our culture here. It's part of everybody's sensibilities. They know that's on the line. We'll have a great week of practice. This is a relatively easy week from a head coaching perspective. You have to make some good decisions along the way, personnel-wise and style of play-wise, but in terms of getting guys excited to practice, excited to play, just get out of the way. They're really looking forward to playing."
Senior LB Andrew Rodriguez
(Ref.: feeling at this point in the season)
"We haven't come up with all the victories we've been looking for, but it felt like up to this point in the season we've really had a lot trust in our process and in our coaches and in our system. I feel like we've grown more comfortable with our system. We've had a lot of new players get in and they've done really well and started to grow. We're getting better week by week."
(Ref.: positives of the season)
"I've seen a lot of growth. It's a continual process, we're always trying to get better. It's really exciting to watch all of the different aspects of the team come together and continue to improve. We love playing the game so we're not going to get up too much or down too much because, no matter what, we always have the opportunity to play the next down, so we're excited about that."
(Ref.: going into the Air Force game)
"It's a big week. Every time you play Air Force it's a big game. Each game is big on our schedule, each one is important and we need to win it. We'll be traveling to Air Force; they play really well at home. They're a great team with a lot of skilled players and great coaches. It's going to be a challenge for us and we're just going to go in there and get after it in practice this week in hopes of coming away with a victory on Saturday."
Senior QB Max Jenkins
(Ref.: opportunity to win Commander in Chief's trophy)
"It's exciting, it's a great opportunity. Like you said, we haven't really had success against them in the past, but it's over, it's a new team, new season and one of our team goals is to win the CIC so this is the first step in that process. It starts today with a good practice and do we have to do to get ready for Saturday."
(Ref.: challenges Air Force poses)
"Playing against them and Navy is always a challenge because they run similar offenses to us and we play them every year. It's only natural that they have a good game plan set up for the triple-option offense. They know what to do and they're going to make very minimal mistakes so it's our job to focus back on the fundamentals and know that and be precise enough to where we can take advantage if and when they do make a mistake and capitalize on the opportunity."
(Ref.: rolling last week's effort against Fordham into this week against Air Force)
"We had a lot of guys get opportunities to do some great things last Saturday, so that's going to help bode well for everybody the rest of the season. You never know when it's going to be your number that gets called and just being able to have that opportunity and build on it sets us up for Saturday."
Junior DB Josh Jackson
(Ref.: experience in playing in last week's snowstorm)
"It was the most extreme game I've ever played in. Being from the south, you don't see a lot of snow and of course you don't see as much as we did last Saturday. It was a big shock. My parents called me after the game and when they turned on the game on CBS Sports they thought it was a re-run of a game from years ago. They couldn't believe all that snow that came down. It was a great experience and everybody was hyped for it. The first snow game. It was a great experience because it was so different; everyone sliding on the field and falling over snow, it was fun. But then the cold starting setting in after the first quarter and you realize how cold it actually is. It was a great experience to play in that weather and we just know that weather doesn't affect this team, we're going to play in any condition."
Freshman FB Larry Dixon
(Ref.: expectations going into the Air Force game)
"Just play as hard as we can. We're going to hope for the best."
(Ref.: difference in offense with Max Jenkins at quarterback versus Trent Steelman)
"Not a lot. Trent is a special player, but they do a good job of not trying to replace him but build on what we lost."
(Ref.: Army seniors looking for their first win against Air Force)
"I don't think it's a rallying cry, I think the fact that it's Air Force and we just want to beat them. We're Army, they're Air Force, we're Army, they're Navy. We just want to beat them. I don't think what's happened in the past is affecting what's happening now, we try not to get caught up in that. We have one game here and we have one game that matters and that's the game against Air Force this weekend."