Army Football Flexes Its Mental Muscles

Army head coach Rich Ellerson and his coaching staff have just over a week to prepare for their first contest, a cross country trip to San Diego State. They aren't wasting any time. So how does Ellerson get his crew ready for game day? Very specifically.

For one, the offense and defense each practice against a scouting team that takes on the look and schemes of the upcoming opponent. While the team still runs individual, one-on-one, and skeleton drills, the primary focus is on planning for Saturday's foe. "Now our focus becomes more pinpointed on the specific things [San Diego State does] on the field, downs, distances and things like that," said co-defensive coordinator Payam Saadat, "All our team right now is focused on them."

The team is also focused on another enemy—the epidemic of fumbling that plagued the squad in 2011. The defensive scout team was given strict instructions to keep the Army offense mindful of ball security. Defensive players would continue attempting to strip the ball even after a play. In some cases, defenders went so far as to sneak up on receivers and backs as they brought the ball back toward the huddle.

The scout offense is also looking to push the first team defense, heavily testing a defensive front that is revamped from last year.

"Right now," Saadat said, "it's becoming a less physical and more a mental approach for us."

Ellerson's focus on the mental side of the game extends to an overall philosophy. Over the weekend, he described his strategy.

"This morning's practice is a real challenge because we throw a lot of things at our guys," he explained, "We tried to create situations and we changed the tempo up on the guys so it's not looking great in practice, but you'd be amazed at how many things we forced to come up."

When it comes to the team's psyche, Ellerson and his staff are determined to exercise the players minds as much as their bodies.

"We try to get our people in an emotional place," he added, "and show them where they're going to see the ups and the downs and the sideways that you experience during the course of a contest so we can decide how we're going to handle those things."

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