WEST POINT, N.Y. - Army head football coach Rich Ellerson spoke on Tuesday at the football press conference held at the Randall Hall auditorium.
As is tradition, the 3rd year Black Knights' head coach started out with his opening statement, before he fielded questions from the press, including GoBlackKnights.com.
"We're anxious to play. It's been a long preseason. It's been a long time leading up to this. We'll have another full practice this afternoon and then start tapering ... make sure that we take a fresh, healthy outfit to Northern Illinois.
This is the most difficult opening game since I've been here. We're playing an opponent that is as good or better than anybody we faced last year.
- Army Head Coach, Rich Ellerson
This is the most difficult opening game since I've been here. We're playing an opponent that is as good or better than anybody we faced last year. They've got an awful lot of people back on offense who were tremendously productive. They're coming off a streak where they've been winning once a week. And yet there's still some uncertainty going in to face an opponent that has a new head coach. I think they're going to leverage what they've done well in the past, but there's certainly going to be some differences. We prepare for that routinely because we're always going to face something maybe a little bit different than what we got from someone last week, given the style of play. We have the worst of both worlds. We have an opponent that's veteran and accomplished with a new leadership and new style of play, although I don't think their offense will change dramatically, as productive as they've been and as veteran as they are.
So anyway, we have a tremendous challenge, and of course we're very focused internally. We talk about how we're a young football team, and we are. We're fortunate to have some veteran leadership that's sprinkled in at key positions. We're really going to have to lean on those guys as we come out of the gate and find out who we are. I can't wait to get started."
The following are Coach Ellerson's response to questions from GBK.
GoBlackKnights.com: Coach, there is quality depth at both slot positions, and the B-back spot. What will determine how you utilize and get rep for these players ... especially some of the younger guys like Trenton Turrentine and Larry Dixon ?
Ellerson: "The nature of the offense will give them the opportunity. How much they play, frankly, will be determined by how well they handle their opportunities as they come out of the gate. Trenton, especially, because Malcolm Brown wasn't 100 percent early in training camp, so Trenton got to handle a lot of the load early on and is probably a little further ahead than maybe we'd hoped at this point. We won't be able to prove that until we play a game. They're both going to play. Larry Dixon is going to play. They're both going to play a significant role. How much they'll play down the road will depend on how they manage the reps they get in the early contests."
GoBlackKnights.com: Speaking of depth ... potentially this is the best group of receivers you have had in your brief time at Army. With the maturation of
Jared McFarlin and Anthony Stephens, the progress of Davyd Brooks and the addition of Chevaughn Lawrence, does this allow you to open up the offense in a manner that perhaps you could not do as much or at all in 2010?
Ellerson: "Well, we're never going to be an aerial circus, but we do think there are opportunities on the perimeter. Austin Barr's now practicing closer to full speed. Davyd Brooks has been doing this for a long time. We have some talented youth out there. We can keep a fresh pair of legs out at wide receiver that carry a threat with them. We need to be a little bit more balanced, but nobody's going to mistake us for SMU."
GoBlackKnights.com: With the inexperience on the defensive side of the ball, how important is it for offense to control the ball and the clock if you will.
Ellerson: "I think it's a potential boon for us. There's something happening in college football and I think it will become evident maybe this year with the success that we saw at Oregon with their style of play and the way they attack the clock. They're trying to get the ball snapped 90 times a game. What we're hearing is that Northern Illinois is trying to do something along those lines, and I don't think they're the lone rangers. They're a lot of teams out there that are trying to snap the ball more and more to where the tempo of the game starts feeling rugby-esque. That can be especially challenging for a young defense. The good news is that it's a young defense, but it's an athletic defense and a well-conditioned defense. That's where I think the game is moving toward us a little bit at the academy. What we think an athlete looks like, how we think he should be conditioned, how he should handle fatigue and adversity, all those things should play to our strengths in time. The style of offense, obviously, if we need to make the game a little shorter we can. We have to get some first downs to do it, but we can counter that style if our defense needs that. We'll just have to see how this plays out, but I do think there's something interesting happening in the game, in general. The style of play is changing, and I think it's going to mean that we have to change what we value in our systems and what we expect from our players."
On the other end of this season opener is first year Northern Illinois Head Coach, Dave Doeren, who spent five season coaching at Wisconsin, where his final two seasons were as the Badger's co-defensive coordinator.
Doeren kicked-off his first pre-game press conference with an opening remark and fielded several questions from the press, including two from GoBlackKnights.com.
GoBlackKnights.com: You mentioned the Black Knights' offense several times .... What is your biggest concern or challenge relative to facing Army's triple option offense, especially specific personnel?
GoBlackKnights.com: How important is it for your team to get the Army offensive off the field in order to eliminate the Black Knights controlling the clock.
We have provided you with the video link to Coach Doeren's press conference.