Army opens spring camp

The real test comes this fall when Rich Ellerson leads Army into what we all hope is a successful 2009 season. However, on Saturday at Foley Athletic Center at the Point, the Ellerson era officially began with the first day of spring practice. Let the re-building of the program officially begin.

We all know that Ellerson has his work cut out for him. Army's string of losing seasons have piled up like a cache of arms. The new coach is revamping the Black Knights' offensive and defensive schemes with a true triple option offense and his Desert Swarm defense.

There will be many tests for Ellerson, his staff and his players. Still, after his introduction, what we've heard about this man and one practice, it seems evident that Ellerson is more cut out than Todd Berry, Bobby Ross or Stan Brock to get this thing done.

Thought of by his peers as one of the smartest coaches in the game, led an up-tempo practice, shouting instructions, while talking to many players one-on-one.

"We're not playing football yet. That's a vague approximation of what football practice looks like," Ellerson joked after the first session. However, as practices move on, fans will get to see more and more what Ellerson's Black Knights will look like. The prospect is exciting. The new boss has made some changes to Army's spring practice format.

Three practices are set before spring break. Following a week off, the Black Knights conclude with their 12 final practices, beginning March 23. The annual Black-Gold scrimmage is set for April 10 at Michie Stadium.

As expected, Ellerson's spring camp will be full of evaluations, some position moves, and continuing to get a feel for West Point. This is his dream job. Ellerson has turned down assistant-coach offers from the NFL, Pac-10 and SEC over the years. When Ellerson accepted the Cal Poly job in 2000, one of the caveats was that he could opt out, without penalty, if he was ever offered the Army head-coaching position.

Still, Ellerson has to get the job done at Army or he will be packing his bags just like Berry, Ross and Brock. It's a tiny step, but at least Ellerson was happy with his first day of spring practice.

"We took some extra tine today to slow things down and do a lot of teaching and explaining how the practice environment moves and rotates," Ellerson said. "The guys do a great job of staying focused for a long time. They were in the moment throughout and got an awful lot done for the first day. From that standpoint, I couldn't be more pleased. We haven't made a lot of progress as a football team because we haven't started playing football yet. You can't do that until you put pads on, but what we could do, we got done." Army returns for its second spring practice session in shorts and helmets Monday, before putting on pads for the first time on Wednesday.


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