Ellerson shakes up the Army coaching staff

Army head football coach Rich Ellerson has decided to shake up his coaching staff after miserable back-to-back seasons when the Black Knight won a total of just five games. Ellerson led the Black Knights to their first winning season in 14 years in 2010. Since that time Army has posted a 5-19 record over the last two seasons.

After Ellerson was hired he brought most of his core coaching staff from his previous job at Cal Poly to West Point. It was rather surprising that he kept six holdovers from Stan Brock's staff. Ellerson told me in an interview that the reason for the retention of so many on the staff was that he "wanted keep the West Point I.Q. high on the coaching staff."

After struggles of the last two years Ellerson felt it was time to make some changes. The only coaching change the first four seasons had been when Joe Ross returned to the private sector and was replaced by Luke Thompson as special teams coach. The decision to make changes to the staff was not imposed on Ellerson. Right now he has the support of the athletic director, the Superintendent, the administration even if some of the fan base as begun to lose faith. The opportunity to make changes opened up when Gene McKeehan, the associate head coach and offensive guards and center coach, decided to retire after a forty year college coaching career. ArmySports.com posted this information in the Army Insiders forum. Bill Tripp, another forty year coaching veteran who coached the offensive tackles, then decided to retire. McKeehan and Tripp combined to make the offensive line the most productive, deepest and best performing area of the team the last two years. The Black Knights led the nation in rushing for two consecutive seasons. The 2012 team set school records as they averaged over 369 rushing yards per game and ran for an impressive 4,438 yards. For the second year in a row the team exceeded four thousand rushing yards in a single season.

The two coaches hired to fill the big shoes of McKeehan and Tripp are Todd Spencer and Tom Simi. I like Ellerson's choices. Spencer has extensive experience coaching mostly option offensive lines his entire career. Like McKeehan, who coached at Navy, Spencer coached eleven years at Navy before following Paul Johnson to Georgia Tech. Spencer resigned from the Georgia Tech staff last year after it was discovered he violated NCAA recruiting rules by sending a few text messages to recruits. The NCAA prohibits all electronic correspondence to recruits with the exception of faxes and emails. Spencer resigned after signing day and took an assistant coaching job at Orange Lutheran high school in California for the 2012 season. Todd is a very intense and fiery coach. Spencer is also a renown recruiter at both Georgia Tech and Navy with experience recruiting in Georgia, Florida and Texas among other areas.

The other new offensive line coach is Tom Simi who has been the head coach of the United States Military Academy Prep team since 2009. Simi is a graduate of Eastern Oregon University. He was an assistant coach from 1997 through 2001 at his Alma mater. Most of that time he served as an assistant under former head coach, current Black Knights offensive coordinator, Ian Shields. Simi has a thorough understanding of the Army offensive system and terminology. Before becoming the head coach at USMAPS Simi had been a successful assistant then head coach at Feather River Junior College in California. In 2008 Simi led Feather River JC to a post-season bowl game. They were among the conference leaders in scoring and rushing offense running a triple option scheme. Simi strength is as an offensive line coach. He deserves much of the credit for developing current offensive line starters Ryan Powis and Steve Shumaker and preparing them to play early in their careers. Simi has an outgoing, affable personality that should play well on the recruiting trail. He has an excellent eye for talent. The new offensive line coaches should help improve Army's recruiting efforts.

Long time college running back coach Wayne Moses who has been a running backs coach since 1979 is expected to join the staff. The 57-year-old Moses spent last season at Idaho. Moses has lived a nomadic assistant coaching life. He has coached at USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, North Carolina State, Rutgers and two seasons in the NFL for the St. Louis Rams among other places. Tucker Waugh, the running back coach and recruiting coordinator is being replaced at both jobs. He will probably stay on the staff and switch roles with Andy Guyader. I think removing Waugh as recruiting coordinator has been overdue. Waugh has a reputation as a good recruiter in some circles but he has landed only one impact player, Raymond Maples, from talent rich Pennsylvania the last four years. Pennsylvania is an area of the country that Colonel Red Blaik used to mine for future College football Hall of Famers like Bill Carpenter and Arnold Galiffa. It's been a barren area of late for the Black Knights, with Army's best recruits signing with the former Cal Poly coaching staff members Guyader, who has handled wide receivers since 2009, will be the new recruiting coordinator and will handle the quarterbacks and fullbacks. Offensive coordinator Ian Shields will no longer coach the quarterbacks and just run the offense.

The coaching casualty who was let go was former Army football player Captain Clarence Holmes. Holmes had served ten years on the staff and was a solid recruiter. Holmes' defensive line struggled the last two years. Holmes didn't have much to work with after all the defensive line attrition from the 2007-2010 recruiting classes that left him with virtually no upperclassmen the past two years. When Ellerson was seen getting down in a stance to coach technique to the defensive tackles after the defensive meltdown against Temple it seemed Holmes was in trouble.

Army has recruited much better since 2010 with the varsity experiencing an increase in impact freshmen, team speed and a lowering of attrition rates. These changes should help the staff put a younger, more outgoing face on its recruiting efforts. Ellerson hopes the changes will pay dividends. They better because his future maybe at stake.

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