Weekly Press Conference Quotes

Weekly Press Conference Quotes (12-8-09)

The following quotes have been excerpted from Army head football coach Rich Ellerson’s press conference, held Tuesday, December 8, 2009, in the Randall Hall auditorium.

Army Head Coach Rich Ellerson
“It’s good to be in a game week. We had those two weeks of preparation – one of those was dominated by the Thanksgiving break, and in the other we got some great work on our next opponent. Obviously that sense of urgency, that immediacy, is easy right now as the game looms on Saturday. We are very much ahead in terms of our preparation, now it’s a question of being as fresh, healthy and automatic as we can be. We will manage the emotions of the week as we get close.”

(Ref.: preparation during the extra week)
“We got a little bit introduced prior to the Thanksgiving break so that we could hit the ground running last week, and we did that. We had a very good fundamental, physical week of preparation. The vast majority of our physical work is now behind us. We practiced yesterday so now we start to taper off a little bit. The plan has been in now for a number of days and we have had a chance to rehearse it and rep it. We are going to try to resist the urge to use the extra time to trick our own guys and get too much on the table. Again, it’s a matter of trying to be as automatic as you can as you go to play. We need to manage the emotions and adjust on the run. It’ll be good for us from the standpoint that we’ll be just that much healthier and just that much fresher. The fact that we got away from each other for a few days was a healthy respite at that point in the season. It’s a chance to charge your batteries and reflect on how much you enjoy this and how much there is to look forward to. And now, that’s all coming home in this final stretch of preparation.”

(Ref.: motivation)
“We’ll be as emotional as the day is long, but you have to manage that emotion and prepare yourself for the rigors of a contest. They are going to make some plays and we are going to make some plays. We are going to be ready for 60 minutes of football. Certainly we’re going to be excited when we kick that thing off but we have to stay excited and stay on the edge. We have to take their best shot and keep it going for 60 minutes. Obviously, this is one of those weeks, where between the style of play and the connections between our coaching staffs, there is that ‘I know that he knows that I know that he knows’. You can really screw yourself into the ground if you don’t relax and understand that it’s [about] our guys and how they see the world, and how they can handle it.”

(Ref.: the team’s attitude)
“It’s Army-Navy. Should we walk around with a chip on our shoulder (after suffering defeats to Navy)? I think so. I think it’s natural. We don’t have to work at that. First and foremost, it’s a chance to play. We have been away from the game for a couple of weeks, and we are looking forward to it. We are playing a game that has all kinds of meaning, both for this season and this team and from a traditionalist’s perspective. We will be excited to play. I think sometimes there are so many things that we have to talk about, so many things that could conceivably get to the point of being a distraction, that what we need to do is kind of push all that into the background. We are certainly conscious of the shoes that we are walking in and the venue that we are sharing, but we play because we love to play. We play because we care about the team and one another and we are looking forward to this last opportunity for these seniors to step into this venue and play Navy. There are all kinds of reasons to be in the moment, and that has been our struggle and our war cry all year long, and if can’t do it this week we’ve really missed the boat.”

(Ref.: differences between the two offenses)
“[The differences] are in how you complement it. When we are running triple, we are running triple. It’s how you counter the things that people do to defeat that play.”

(Ref.: how Ellerson learned the triple option)
“Paul Johnson and I coached together at Hawai’i for five years. I was running this offense when I was in high school. I was a wishbone fullback in high school. Paul (Johnson) has got the greatest influence in terms of what we are doing and how we approach the problem right now because there is that connection. [Offensive Coordinator] Ian [Shields] brings his perspective into the thing because he ran this offense in college. He brings that slightly different perspective to it. [Associate Head Coach/Guards and Centers] Gene McKeehan was with Paul at Navy for a while. I spent some time talking to Paul, but most of our conversations have not been so much about triple option as about the timeline you might expect as you start to transition to this offense. We had those conversations when I was at Cal-Poly. We’ve had more conversations since he’s been at Georgia Tech about the inculcation of coaching at an Academy – what the challenges might be, what the expectations might be. We’ve had some of those similar conversations with [former Army coach] Jim Young. The triple-option, while not a lot of people do it and appreciate the entire nuance, once you [run it], you [understand]. We enjoy watching each other play. Every opportunity we have, we watch Navy play, we watch Georgia Tech play. Certainly that’s because we’re friends but we also try to see how people try to defend it. We try to see what kind of answers people are coming up with along the way. We all have a little different spin on it – we all have different assets to play with. There is no doubt that if this is a family tree, the patriarch is Paul Johnson.”

(Ref.: ways to approach the Army-Navy game)
“All year long we have a patch on our jersey. We have represented an active-duty division out of the Army. We have taken some time each week to learn the history and those traditions. We have been addressed by men and women who have deployed with those divisions. This week, we wear our own patch - the United States Corps of Cadets. That’s our story. Because it’s a longer time, we will have a few more visits. We had the Cadet Captain come and visit with us and he had a great idea. We will also have a couple of other individuals that I think represent other interests from the Long Gray Line, to make sure our guys understand the shoes that they are in. There is a fine line between putting on a backpack of all these guys you are carrying around with you and being buoyed by this experience and those shoulders that we are standing on. That’s the challenge. Certainly we want to appreciate the opportunity, but we need to be buoyed by that knowledge, not weighed down by it. At the end of the day, how much of that can you carry out between the white lines? I think so much of that is important in our preparation. I can’t imagine what the actual environment is going to feel like, because it’s going to be unique for us. What we’ll try to do is introduce as many distractions into the practice environment as we can think of, and then some, with the idea that with whatever is happening on the sideline or scoreboard or in the stands, we are 100 percent focused on winning the next snap. We can win that fight, because that’s what will influence the outcome of the game. That’s what will influence the scoreboard –how we handle each one of those snaps, each one of those individual fights. When we come to practice tonight in the stadium, there is going to be more noise and commercials and whatever we can do. It doesn’t matter what happens on the sideline or in the stands, we will be on the field taking care of business.”

(Ref.: managing emotions)
“If I have to motivate our guys to play in this game, at this point in our season, at this point in their careers…It’s exactly the opposite. We have to manage those emotions. We talk about the edge – this is one of those games where I don’t worry about getting to the edge, I worry about jumping off the edge. We are going to have to get there and stay there, and that’s something that’s an ongoing challenge over the course of a contest. It all has to be managed and we’ll be prepared for it. We have to rely on the experiences that this team has shared. The good news is that we have been in a lot of uphill fights and we are used to it. We know it’s an uphill fight but we know that there is a path that will get us to the top, and we are on it.”

(Ref.: expectations on making a bowl game)
“[Not making a bowl game] rubs at our consciousness. We don’t like the fact that we have been out of the mix for as long as we have. We are anxious to find a path to success.  I’m thrilled that I get to be a part of that.”

(Ref.: his relationship with Navy coaches)
“Our lives are intertwined. I haven’t talked to Joe [DuPaix] for a few weeks – we respect the fact that we are going to be friends and our lives are tied together, but right now we are competitors. He and I are fierce competitors. [Navy head] coach (Ken) Niumatalolo and I are fierce competitors. I was with coach Niumatalolo last week and the last thing we said to each other after we patted each other on the shoulder was ‘See you after it’s over.’ In the meantime we have our knees bent and we are keeping score.

“It’s appropriate that in this contest, in this game between these two institutions, that our coaching staffs should have those kinds of feelings.  This rivalry is built on respect. When I talked about rivalries when I was at Cal-Poly, I talked about this one as being the template. This is the ideal. Whether our cadets know their Midshipmen is irrelevant – they know so much about each other. They know and respect the path one another have chosen. They have chosen the profession of arms while their country is at war – that says a lot about a young man. I challenge people to watch how we compete. Watch what’s happening between the white lines and watch how we handle ourselves afterwards. Compare and contrast that with what you think of as great rivalries from around the country this week and last week. I think we compare favorably to all of them. That relationship between myself and their coaching staff and our coaches – we understand how to keep score.

“When I say respect, I define that as caring what [an opponent] thinks. I care what coach Niumatalolo thinks about our preparation and how prepared our team is to play, just like I know that our players care about that guy lined up across from them thinks. What’s going through his mind when this thing is over? What does he think about me? That matters. It matters a little bit each week, but it takes on a special significance [this week]. It’s entirely appropriate that our coaching staffs are friends and respect one another.”

(Ref.: Navy slotbacks coach Joe DuPaix)
“I recruited Joe to Southern Utah, and coached him there. When I got the head coaching job at Cal-Poly he was one of the first guys I called to try and entice to come with me. We were together for seven years at Cal-Poly and he was in a leadership position for us there. I watched him get married; I watched their family grow right around us. His family and my family will be friends for the duration. When he made the choice to go to the Naval Academy I was excited for him and I was proud of him. I am not at all surprised by the job that any of those guys are doing – they are great men. They have set the bar high for us, but we are in the hunt. We have got their scent and we are coming to get them.”

(Ref.: moving the Army-Navy game to the final week of the regular season)
“Before the season started I probably would have said that this is a great venue, and it’s appropriate that this game stands alone. As you get closer to the game itself, that’s one more distraction that you have to put on the shelf. Those are the types of things that, at this point in the game, become a little more incidental. As I looked at the season in general and the scheduling ideas, I think that this game should have its own place - it’s unique enough, it’s special enough, and it deserves it.” 

(Ref.: the development of QB Trent Steelman)
“I would say that the development of our offense in general has been a little bit uneven, but certainly he is one of the highlights. He is probably the guy that’s the most dynamic with the ball in his hands. He does a better job every week of managing the game and distributing the ball as necessary. He has demonstrated the mental and physical toughness that it takes to play quarterback in this offense and at this level, and he’s done it while he’s been a plebe at West Point. All of those things are remarkable accomplishments. I couldn’t be more pleased with where he is. Obviously I’d like to see us be a little further down the path from an offensive production standpoint, but I’m not at all displeased with his development or what the prospects are for the future.”

(Ref.: where the Army program stands)
“We have grown in so many different respects. The thing that I am the most proud of, that I think the senior class should be most proud of is the internal voice, the internal culture that the football team has - the expectations internally, the way the men carry one another, their relationship to West Point, their expectations with respect to the Army. All of those things I think are right. That shift and ability to articulate and discover their vision for Army football that I think has always been here, [has changed]. We have had just enough success to set that cement. This is the right voice, this is the right culture for Army football to have. We are on the right path. That senior class will be able to point back [and say] ‘I was there when that changed; I was a part of that. I have my fingerprints all over that.’ It’s going to be positive, and it’s going to be successful. That’s also something that when young men come to look at us to decide whether or not they want to come to West Point, football will be attractive to them. These are the kinds of people with the right kinds of attitudes, with the right kind of vision of themselves that you are going to want to surround yourself with if you are a young person. That evolution that started in January, and there were a bunch of key point throughout the year including the season, was pivotal. Where that [culture] is right now is the thing that we can be most proud of. The offense is here, and the defense is there, and the kicking game is the other place – there are a million battles that we fight along the way, but that culture and voice – the way we feel about one another and who we represent – that’s strong stuff that bodes well for our future.”

(Ref.: which of the Navy options is most dangerous)
“I think it’s their quarterback [Ricky Dobbs]. He can run the option, he can throw the ball, and he has scored a gazillion touchdowns this year. I think that’s probably what they’d like [us to think], and I think that’s probably how they see us. Certainly they have a lot of weapons – a veteran and efficient offensive line that knows what they are doing. They adjust together. The part of the scale that tips the strongest in their favor would be their ability to adjust, both as a coaching staff and as an offensive system – they have been around the block a few more times than we have. The challenge is going to be to keep up with them from an adjustment standpoint. They’ll understand what we are trying to do, and they’ll know where they need to go. The same thing is true on our part. How efficient they are in terms of making adjustments, and how fast they play – that’s’ where we are going to have to fight extra hard to keep up with them I think.”

(Ref.: what getting to a bowl game would mean)
“I think it would validate our culture. It would validate all of those things that much more. When you think about this senior class, and what they have endured and what they have overcome, what a supreme moment that would be for them. I maintain that if they cancel the game, that the job that this senior class has done up until this point has been really remarkable. Whether it’s evident to the people around the program or not, it has turned. It has changed. The direction is different. The path we are on is exactly right. We are going to get where we set out to go. Let’s find out if we can get there Saturday. It’s an uphill fight, but these guys are used to it. We can’t wait to get on it one more time and have at it.”
(Ref.: how the team practiced with the extended break)
“We treated it a little bit like a bowl game. We used the Thanksgiving holiday as a chance to recharge our batteries and get away from each other for a few days. Before we let them go, we were able to get the basic plan installed so that as [the players] were thinking and dreaming about [the game], they were thinking and dreaming about the right things. Last week was our physical week – that’s where we were in full pads most of the week. We did a lot of our combative work, and as the plan got in place, we started to work in all of those distractions I talked about earlier. We will carry that through today. After today we start to turn back a little bit. We start getting off our legs a little bit earlier, making sure everyone is as fresh and as healthy as we can get them, which is the advantage of having that extra week. That health and freshness part of it should really be working in our favor. Our offense and defense are not going to change dramatically. We have to be prepared for the uniqueness of one another, but we need to resist the urge to do too much. That’s where extra time can lead to if you’re not careful. That can lead you down the wrong path.”

(Ref.: what the Army offense needs to do)
“We need to do no harm first. We need to do what we’ve done really well the last few weeks – and that’s take care of the football. We need to be opportunistic. When we do get behind them and the ball hits us in the hands, we need to take advantage of every one of those opportunities. When we get one right we need to take advantage of it. When they get one right, we need to make sure that the ball is still in our hands and that we can preserve our right to punt. We have to resist the urge to try and go out there and do something heroic. There will be plenty of opportunities. We have good players doing the right things at the right moment. We need to take advantage and capitalize on those opportunities – don’t force it.”

(Ref.: the importance of the Army-Navy game worldwide)
“We are working hard to realize well ahead of time whose shoes we are stepping into. As a coach to share that sideline with some of the men that I know personally, like Jim Young – our players are very conscious of whose shoes they are stepping into – we know who we are. We know who we represent. We are proud of that place and heritage. However, as we get closer and closer to the contest, the focus needs to narrow. I told the guys that as people around the world that are deployed turn on the radio or TV, and all those fans that are there to see us play, let’s not get there and try to watch them try to watch us. Let’s be sure that we’ve got our heads down and we are doing what they’ve all come to see. They’ve come to see an Army football team that’s on the hunt, that’s trying to do something extraordinary. Let’s make sure we are in that moment. That’s what they want to see – an Army team that is in the moment, that is present and understands what is happening in the moment.

Sophomore K Alex Carlton
(Ref.: Army-Navy rivalry)
“This is one of the most historic rivalries out there and it will be fun. Army-Navy is big enough as it is. This year, it’s a lot bigger with the potential of going to a bowl game and that takes it to another level”

Junior DT Mike Gann
(Ref.: the Army-Navy rivalry)
“You look back at the season and think man, I wish we could have won a game here or there or maybe made some plays to win a few more games. Now, I can’t think of a better way to set the stage for this game. Going in trying to not only beat Navy but go to a bowl game is just fantastic.”

(Ref.: slowing down Navy)
“You have to play disciplined football. Being disciplined and knowing your assignment are the keys. Where defenses go wrong is they focus on the ball too much. This week, it’s all about each individual doing their assignment to get the job done.”

Junior DE Marcus Hilton
(Ref.: keys to victory)
“Against the option, you have to have your eyes on your assignment. It’s just playing perfect football on
the defensive side of the ball, that’s the key.”

(Ref.: bowl game possibilities)
“This season we have had our ups and downs. We would win a game, lose a game, win a game lose a game but through it all we have stuck close to one another. Now all of our hard work has paid off. Now we are in a position (with a win) to go to a bowl game and that’s what you for live for as a football player.”

Knight Vision


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