Army Strong, part II

One of the major concerns for Army fans this off season were the injuries to Josh McNary, Stephen Anderson, Jason Johnson and Chip Bowden that all required surgery. All three players missed spring practice. Coach Gerch assured that all will be ready to answer the bell on September 1.

McNary, who had shoulder surgery, is in tremendous shape. Gerch credited McNary's fitness to Josh's work ethic. After shoulder surgery he had to perform his conditioning on a bike. Initially Josh could only work on his legs and lifted with one arm. McNary's weight is now a rock solid 240. The additional weight is all muscle and McNary has been beating all the other linemen during sprints so he hasn't lost any speed. After being injured, Stephen Anderson took last semester off from school which greatly aided his recovery from knee surgery. Anderson was flying around during the recent scrimmage hitting anything that moved and is ready to go. Chip Bowden and wide receiver Ryan Mumma, who suffered a knee injury in a "B" squad game last year, recoveries from knee surgery are progressing at a little slower pace. Both stayed in school during the spring and had to spend more time on their feet to attend class. They were not able to spend as much time resting and rehabbing their knees. Bowden, who is in a battle with Max Jenkins to be the backup quarterback, was held out of the scrimmage for precautionary reasons. Coach Gerch feels Chip will be ready opening day. Jason Johnson shoulder is now healed and he will start against Eastern Michigan.

One player that sought out coach Gerch's help was senior slotback Pat Mealy. Mealy is a fine all round slotback those major weakness was his lack of a second gear. Mealy did extra speed work with coach Gerch in the offseason to improve his speed. While Coach Gerch can't put in what God left out he did breakdown the flaws he noticed in Pat's running style. Gerch had Mealy do extra harness runs, twenty five yard sled sprints, track type drills that sprinters use and worked on running mechanics for short bursts on the tread mill. With the harness work coach Gerch looked to improve Pat's first step quickness off the snap. The other drills worked to develop what Brett refers to as "max velocity" which looks to improve running mechanics after initial acceleration to allow the player to hit top end speed. The extra work paid off as Mealy recently tested a lot faster in the twenty-yard-dash and the pro agility tests.

Besides Steelman, Erzinger and Mealy, Gerch also praised new fullback Jared Hassin. "Hassin had a great off season, he's tremendously strong and once he gets going he's going to be tough to catch in the open field because he's really fast." Another newcomer who won a starting role is left guard Frank Allen. Coach Gerch says "Allen is an extremely strong kid who's raw but works hard." He also praised whip linebacker Nate Combs, bandit tackle Jarrett Mackey and his brother, backup defensive tackle A.J. Mackey, for their hard work and improvement this off season.

I asked Coach Gerch which freshman he is looking forward to working with moving forward. Like the entire coaching staff, he is excited about the potential of slot back Raymond Maples who already appears as second string on the depth chart. The other players that Coach Gerch mentioned were Patrick Laird and Jared McFarlin who were high school teammates at Monroe-Woodbury in N.Y. The 6-3, 195 pound Laird caught 32 passes for 786 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. Coach Gerch believes that with his speed work program he can improve Laird's first step off the line. Jared McFarlin had three catches in the recent intra-squad scrimmage. McFarlin is 6-foot-5 but weighs only 195 pounds. Gerch believes he can add the muscle to McFarlin's thin frame that he will need in order to contribute to the varsity in the future.

Gerch's joining the Army coaching fraternity proved to be a family affair. His wife Shandrika Lee- Gerch is now an assistant for woman's basketball team on Dave Magarity's staff. Shandrika Lee was a basketball star Pepperdine and also an assistant women's basketball coach at Cal Poly. Brett mentions that his wife was on the hiring committee at Cal Poly when he was selected as strength and conditioning coach. It just proves once again that the women really do the choosing in life. In Brett Gerch it looks like Army chose the right man to run their football strength and conditioning program.

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