Aside from this week’s big news — Army will host Shrek Movie Night at Michie Stadium on Sept. 1 — there has been a lot of chatter and optimism coming from preseason camp on post. Everything at this point is focused on Sept. 4th’s opener in Ypsilanti, Mich., where Army will take on one of the worst teams in college football, Eastern Michigan, a squad that allowed 27 points to West Point in the first of 12 consecutive losses last year. (EMU, by the way, will have it’s hands full again in 2010… they face Ohio State on Sept. 25, the same day Army looks for revenge against Duke, who went 5-7 last year).
Head coach Rich Ellerson has been running through drills for two weeks with increasing amounts of contact — tomorrow’s 2:30pm scrimmage will be the closest thing to game action most of the players have seen so far this summer (I won’t be there).
Ellerson has spoken a few times about the skill level and impressive transitioning of returning upperclassmen who are looking sharp in camp as compared to plebes looking to garner reserve roles.
“The seniors have done a great job of taking that another step forward,” Ellerson said Friday. “Clearly the veterans, the guys that have been with us for over a year in this offense and this defense, are ahead in their fundamental development, their reaction systems and their grasp of the systems. There is such a difference between the new guys and the guys that have been here, and that wasn’t the case a year ago.”
Senior running back Pat Mealy, who reeled off several 100-yard games in 2009, agreed about the development.
“We’re a lot faster and our knowledge of the game is a lot better,” said Mealy. “You can see out there that guys know where they’re going and know they’re assignments.”
“It’s helped a lot because a lot of us have experience so we know how it goes,” said center Zach Peterson. “We’ve improved from where we left off last year. It’s also helped with the young guys as far as helping them along.”
That disparity was to an extreme on Monday when the entire freshmen class of hopefuls were absent from practice — they were finishing off a 12-mile march to finish cadet basic training. They were also of being issued laptops, phones and identification cards (nice deal), leaving returning players to runs drills short-handed.
“We did a lot of things where the first and second teams are scouting the first and second team and we flipped it around,” said Ellerson. “A good football team, a quality football team will take pride in its ability to prepare itself.”
And so the Knights take the field at Michie tomorrow for just that, leaving behind the practice facility for a little game action.
“The goal tomorrow is not to trick anybody, but compete,” Ellerson said. “We need to go out there and get some fundamental practice and error correction in.”
Another senior, Richard King, said he’s ready to roll. King missed all of 2009 but figures to get some starts in 2010 at defensive back.
“I’m totally on top of my game now,” King said. “I’m back to where I was two years ago.”
Mealy said the pain in practice is actually a sign of progress.
“As an offense, it’s been a physical week,” he said. “We’ve been banging a lot, just getting the kinks out. We’re a little sore, but that’s always a good feeling.”
One thing to look for on Saturday will be how Alex Carlton and Matt Campbell fare in field goals. Ellerson lost some confidence in Carlton after the spring scrimmage, not to mention a few rough games (big missed kicks against Tulane, Navy, etc) after the sophomore tied the Army single-season record with 18 field goals (he also nailed all 13 extra points). Campbell had the job before Carlton and is hungry to get it back, and both seem to be doing pretty well in practice sessions so far.
EMU hasn’t posted much online about their preparation for opening day and Army’s triple-option attack, except that they’ve been picked to finish last in the MAC.