Rich Ellerson Talks Recruiting: Part 2

This is the second installment of ArmySports.com's exclusive interview with head coach Rich Ellerson. In this installment Ellerson discusses attrition from the prep school, next year's scheduled move of the prep school from Fort Monmouth to West Point and his decision to keep the roster size at 150.

READ PART I

ArmySports.com: Army's top two defensive linemen at United State Military Academy Prep School, Julius Warmsley and Jamal Mtshali both decided that West Point was not for them. Top defensive line recruit Joel Cox who committed to attend West Point this year wasn't admitted after his physical. You have Gann, McNary two impact players on defensive line, and Hinton graduating after this year. A two part question. Are you concerned that losing those players will leave a hole in depth chart in the future? Do you think that moving the prep school to West Point in 2011 might limit some attrition down the road?
Rich Ellerson: When we first got here in January (2009) and we got Warmsley, Mtshali the recruiting model was in transition. We where throwing something together at the eleventh hour. I think recruiting and retention are inexorably tied. Frankly the class we sent down where a little bit hit and miss. There were a handful of guys that were down there because they could play. I don't think Jamal ever wanted to come to West Point. He just never did. He was looking for something else and there was no one else standing. We were the only one standing (with an offer). At the eleventh hour because there was no one else and he was a qualified student. We were let's see if it takes. Warmsley that's another issue. Cox physical it wouldn't have matter where we recruited him or how we did it.

[Note: Warmsley signed with Tulane and played against Army, Mtshali transferred to Delaware and Cox signed with Ball State]

I am concerned. We have a plan but I am concerned about the end positions in particular . I really like the Mackey brothers. A.J. is having a good camp as well. [A.J. Mackey is a defensive tackle, his Jarrett brother, who was featured in defense section of interview last month, is starting bandit tackle] Chris Swain, the younger interior defensive linemen, when you talk about the next best defensive player whether he's an end or a tackle, we feel pretty good about where we are at interior D-line. We hope we have somebody coming up from the prep school. We hope one of these guys we have here direct, Victor Ripley, in particular who's going to have his shoulder worked on but we have high expectations for in the future. Quen Kantaris is already here. We like some of the guys at the prep school.

[Note since this interview Kantaris who was a direct admit has climbed to second on depth chart at quick end behind Josh McNary]

I think when the prep school comes up here and moves to West Point it'll be interesting. They'll be some things we can't right now anticipate. How's it going to feel going to prep school down here versus the Jersey shore (Ft. Monmouth). I think from a recruiting standpoint it will be cleaner. It will be easier to articulate what it is, West Point the four year experience versus West Point the five year experience, how that will play in to the overall quality of the experience. We don't want it to be another plebe year and I know the leadership is determined it not be that. It's not going to have that sense of independence that it's had in the past. Even thought it's part of the Academy. It's geographical location is necessarily given it some independence of action that I think maybe it won't enjoy here. It'll be interesting but we'll just find out.

I do agree that it's a spectacular infrastructure that their (prep players) are going to have. It's going to be wonderful. We may have a few at bats here coming out the gate that we won't like, as we find out where the rough spots are, but I think in the end it can be a huge positive for us. Again the challenge we had with retention, we addressed largely with all our coaching staff, all the AI's, athletic interns, are guys who played for me. They were seniors in this program last year that oversaw that cultural revolution that took place internally. They went down there with a mission to bring those guys up to speed before they ever came up here. They're filling the role of not only young lieutenants but the essential upper class they don't have at the prep school. The influence those graduate assistants can have down there in terms of not just coaching the football but coaching them about being a West Point cadet. Coaching them about managing time. Coaching them about the culture of our football team, the expectations that being an Army football player carries with it. Having a connection, as a young 17 or 18 year old, with someone who's just taken that step into the destination that we talked about so much in the recruiting process. I know is paying huge big dividends already in terms of that retention model that we talk about but also in the developmental experience that we hope the prep school is for those guys. So they hit the ground here they hit the ground running.

ArmySports.com: Where they know the system.
Rich Ellerson: Yes, both as cadets and students and as football players so that they'll really be ahead of the game. We put a lot of energy and thought into what is happening down there right now. Obviously we're doing it all through surrogates. I can't touch those guys except through the guys working and coaching down there at the prep school but what I'm hearing is that vision is in place. Something that was kind of hit or miss can become something we all hope it becomes. A priceless asset.

ArmySports.com: One last question. Next year you'll have all your guys enter the program through your recruiting cycle. Word has it you've made final roster decision and cut some players from USMAPS (Brock's recruits) and last year to get to 150 roster limit without even putting them in shells and shorts to compete. What were those decisions based on? Was it film, coach Simi and his staff? How did you make those decisions without seeing players on the field?
Rich Ellerson: We gave everybody a chance to come up go through mass athletics. We have a chance to see them physically. Certainly we have scouting reports, we have their tape from down there what they did last year. We certainly have personnel evaluation reports from coach Simi and coach Green. We have certain expectations but then we tried to keep an open mind. We carried those guys through as much mass athletics as we could then after a few weeks of that we told him here's what we're thinking. We let them know what was coming. It's 150. I'm not making that number up. That's not something we just pulled out of thin air. There some wonderful research out there from an anthropological standpoint that if you're going to have a team, I'm not just talking about a collection of casual acquaintance, guys who have the same haircut and tailor, then you have to have that limit (the roster size) you just can't go beyond it.

Anybody who realistically had a chance to compete and contribute in our mind is with us. We didn't cut anyone we thought had an outside chance of playing at Michie stadium on a Saturday. Will we be wrong occasionally, no doubt, the evaluation is still ultimately subjective. While we're pretty good at it, we're not perfect, we know we're making some mistakes but we're certainly spending much, much more time than anybody else in the country because of the nature of mass athletics. We can do that. We can watch guys run and jump, change direction, throw, catch and compete. At the civilian schools we couldn't do. They (civilian schools) can have but 105. Those decisions are made. They're horrible and I hate it. As you know, internally we fight. I'll be in here next spring, after coming out of spring football having to sit down and give some guys some bad news that I don't think football is in their future. So that I can create those opportunities coming to the front door for another batch of young men who we may or may not be right about.

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