GBK: Black Knights Winter Conditioning 2011

Football season is 365 days a year at, but let's take a look at the six month divide by summarizing the period between September and February.
September - December: Is there a better time of the year? College football kicks off and there is no better place to watch a game than at Michie Stadium on the campus of West Point. We keep you up to date with the latest happenings of the football program while also keeping your fingers on the pulse of recruiting.
Bowl Game: Even if you can't make it out to the bowl game, we've got you covered!
January-February: It's time to look back at the season while turning an eye to the following one. Who is coming back? Who is leaving? Where are the biggest needs? Of course, this is the prime time to look at recruiting. We track all of Army's top recruits as National Signing Day draws near as the Black Knights assembles their 2011 recruiting class.
But also, Winter Conditioning kicks off for the Black Knights … so here we go all over again.
And that is where the Strength & Conditioning staff led by Brett Gerch, along with the assistance of Kevin Schadt and Scott Swanson come into play.
… Brotherhood, Mental Toughness, Relentless Effort & Will To Win
GBK had a chance to catch-up with Gerch as he discusses this winter's plan of attack relative to specific players and the overall team focus.
We also take a look back and a rare glimpse inside the workouts through a 6 minute video of the players training during the off-season. It doesn't include everything that the team does, but it gives you the fans an overview as to what the Black Knights were focused on during the training.
It will show a lot of speed development and explosive lifting.
Winter Speed & Conditioning
"We are actually starting our winter workouts on the 10th … Monday," Gerch shared on Thursday. "The first days of classes are today, so we are letting them get situating with classes and books and everything. The guys who went to the bowl game didn't actually report until yesterday, so we want to give them time to get situated. "
For the players, they will be testing Monday and Tuesday of next week.
That will consist of the basics, such as Height & Weight; Pro-Agility; Vertical & Broad Jump; 225 Bench Test and a Flying 20 and perhaps a power clean.
Once the staff does the testing, they we will begin full workouts starting Thursday and we will end up going four days per week - Monday-Tuesday-Thursday-Friday. The squad will lift and run each day … the first couple days will consist of full lifting and running will be more teaching them some of the things they may have forgotten over the past six months, in terms of running mechanics.
"This year we are going to focus more on the running and speed side of things," Gerch says. "For the most part, we try to get an equal amount of the strength & power and speed & quickness.
Coming out of the bowl game we are going to look a little more on speed & quickness leading into spring ball. Spend a little more time at the indoor facilities working on the mechanics and footwork."
"The freshmen will be doing the exact same workout as the upperclassmen.," declares Gerch. "We were fortunate enough during the season for those guys who did not travel came in on the Fridays and able to learn some things."
"They aren't where the upperclassmen are, but they have a decent idea what we are looking at when it comes to most of the exercise are concern. They are still pretty raw. The lifting mechanics are pretty good for the freshmen, but the running mechanics still need a little work and aren't where the upperclassmen are. So we are going to have to eyeball them a little more during the workouts but we are going to throw them in with everyone else."
Clearly there is quality added value that a player can receive in a year or two under Gerch's S&C program. Then there are those experience players that even separate themselves from the pack of their peers when it comes to the effort they put in and the output.
"Jarrett Mackey is one guy that comes to mind when it comes to work ethic and output," Gerch shares confidentially. Steelman (Trent) for his size is really strong, can move pretty well and his work ethic is one of the best on the team."
"Steve Erzinger is up there with Mackey and Steelman as one of the hardest working guys.
When asked about Erzinger's size, Gerch provided this insight. "He actually made great strides during last year's off-season. He put on 20 pounds and got up to 225-230. Coaches say he moved as good as he ever had with the additional weight."
So as players weigh in on Monday, it will be interesting to see where they are now versus the start of the 2010 season, but more so Gerch knows that it is time to take things to another level.
Raising the Bar
"There are definitely some players that we need to see some results," he says.
"Man, when I see some of those teams like SMU and I looked at their defensive and offensive line, those guys were huge. So it would benefit us greatly if guys like A.J. Mackey and Chris Swain both need great off-season's and need to put the weight on."
As the season went on, it appeared that the effectiveness of players like defensive end Josh McNary dwindled. Yes, Mr. Sack Machine was hampered with a hamstring injury coming down the stretch, but like McNary, the interior of both the offense and defensive lines are constantly facing the challenge of size & endurance for an entire season.
So, Gerch was quick to point out that with Mackey (A.J.) and Swain, both who are likely to get first looks at replacing senior Mike Gann at nose tackle, some things must change.
"Those two definitely need to get bigger," Gerch says candidly. "Under this system I can't compromise their speed for their size and we need an improvement in both those areas … speed and size. Neither one of those guys aren't where Gann was size wise and Gann wasn't the biggest guy to begin with."
"But don't get me wrong, it is very possible. However spring ball comes up quickly so we only have about 4 ½ weeks to do stuff. Time is the key and there are few guys that are going to look at doing some extra stuff with at the end of lift just to try and put a little more mass on them. We will try to feed them the muscleman shakes … some extra for them and in the case of Mackey and Swain, those are two guys that we will have to watch their diet a little to make sure they are eating healthy and correctly. "
The Speed Factor
Fast is fast and there is only so much that even the best S&C program can enhance that God given attribute. Even so, the Black Knights must see improvement in the area of team speed, but especially at the skilled positions.
"We are definitely trying to work on that, but as you said it is a big part of the genetic pool," said Gerch. "To be honest with you and for the skill guys, it will be our number one focus this off-season … that speed and quickness."
With our guys like Malcolm (Brown), Cobbs and Crucitti, but he will be actually playing baseball, so we probably won't see him. Like our corners, we need to get Josh Jackson a little faster. Actually we need to get them all faster."
Another area that Gerch pointed to the need to see a significant improvement in speed is at the wide receiver position. "When it comes to testing and even in practice, Davyd Brooks is a decently fast player, but we need to get him to translate that to game speed," he states. "I will be looking to see what Anthony Stephens can bring and then there's Jared McFarlin, who spent the entire 2010 season adding muscle and is now up to 212 pounds. He is about 6-foot-4 and who has a nice vertical and someone that I could see us taking advantage of, especially in the red-zone.
No one can deny that 2010 was a significant year and successful one for the Army football program. But its success will only take on the form a true legacy if the 2011 team builds on the foundation that was laid this past season.
Complacency will not be part of the vocabulary for Gerch, Swanson and Schadt nor will Ellerson and his staff allow it to be part of the mindset of the 2011 Army Black Knights.