There is no question that the Army football program is seeing improvement in a short period of time since Rich Ellerson was hired as head coach. While Ellerson and his coaching staff deserve all the praise thrown their way, but there is one man who deserves his fair share as well: and that is Speed, strength and conditioning coach Brett Gerch.
One of the first things Ellerson did when he accepted the head coaching job last season was to attract Edmund to West Point from Cal Poly as the team's strength and conditioning coach. While the Black Knights' weren't in serious need of help in any of physical conditioning areas, it was Gerch's familiarity with Ellerson's expectations in these areas that are a big plus for the program.
The Black Knights' coaching staff has had success on the field with many players that were not highly recruited. Part of the success of these underdog recruits has been and will continue to be the physical improvements they've made under the watchful eye of Gerch.
As Army continues to show improvement on the field, it will been able to recruit bigger (although not a priority for Ellerson), stronger athletes to the West Point campus.
However, right now, Coach Gerch is working round two (second year) with the current Black Knights, who recently starting the winter conditioning.
the first day back from vacation we did some testing, then on the 5th we started our actual workouts," shares Gerch.
"This year we cut it down a little bit (testing). We only did vertical jump, broad jump, 225 bench, but we will do the pro agility and 20 yard dash within the next couple of weeks. But we want to make sure we are in good enough condition without pulling a hamstring. Normally we would do squat and clean, but this year we decided not to do that.
Bar has risen and the guys have definitely bought into the program a little bit more.
- Strength Coach, Brett Gerch
When asked what the team goals were for the winter session, Gerch was quick to point out that he is looking for overall results, with definite expectations in mind. "I wouldn't say that we have specific numbers, but our main concern is with the speed and explosion more so than the size of the guys," declares Gerch. "We are looking for these guys to show on field improvement as far as speed and explosion."
2009 - 2010 COMPARISON
"Bar has risen and the guys have definitely bought into the program a little bit more," says an enthusiastic Gerch. "Coach (Ellerson) gave me some specific goals with certain individuals that he wanted me to work on. But again, his whole game plan is speed and power over size
that's what we are working. We added in some new exercises to accommodate that I didn't around to last year because I didn't get here until February. It took me awhile to get these guys to do some things I wanted them to do, and do correctly. So I didn't do everything I wanted to, last year. It took awhile get the guys speed and technique
A lot them weren't familiar with doing cleans, or chain squats and it took awhile to implement that, so that were doing it correctly and gaining the speed that we wanted out of them.
AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT
Along with the general conditioning program, there are a few areas that Gerch hopes the speed, strength & condition will have 2010 season dividends. Along specific areas, there are a few players that Gerch spoke about, who will have the 2nd year coach's full attention during the team's winter conditioning.
"There were times last year that kickoffs weren't getting into the end zone and only making it to the 5 or 10 yard line," says Gerch. "We want to make sure that our balls are making it into the end zone. We have to make sure we are hitting that hard and getting a lot more strength out of them (kickers). Working on some of their flexibility as well but their workout will basically be four days a week
one day is basically legs (strength exercise) and next day explosive exercise
with very little upper body."
In addition to the kickoff game, Gerch pointed to two of the Black Knight's young and rising stars on defense in Andrew Rodriquez and Steve Erzinger. "They are really good athletes, but we would like to have them with a little more speed offseason," Gerch states.
"A-Rod isn't one of them, but there are a few guys we would like to put a little weight on them. But for the most part, we really aren't looking at the body weight, as long as they can move in space, that's what we are looking at.
If he's (A-Rod) was a lean 230 pounds and could move, we would take that, but we would rather have him being able to move and lighter versus bigger, but can't move. However, someone like McDermott (Mike)
We are looking to get a little more size and strength."
One player who isn't waiting for Gerch to reach out to him and is looking to improve in his ability to shift from 4th to 5th gear is senior running back, Patrick Mealy. "He already came to me the first day of workouts last week," states Gerch. "He wanted to come in and do extra speed work. He's pretty good laterally, but we want to work on his breakaway speed."
One of the most important components for the success of the Army program is the prep school and more so, how they effectively mirror what is unfolding at Army. "I work closely with Coach Wade Green (defensive coordinator) and I stay in touch with him to ensure they are doing the same work as we are," Gerch confirms. "I know we like to do a lot sleds and harnesses up here for linear speed work. To be on the same page, the prep school bought a lot of equipment down there so they could stay on pace with us."
When you speak to any recruit that visits Army, they never hesitate to say that the Black Knights' training facilities are one of best, if not the best they have ever seen and Coach Ellerson is looking for results from this area of the program.
Strength, size, and speed aren't the only part of the formula needed to construct a successful college football program, but they are an important part. With the talents of Gerch and Coach Ellerson's commitment, as well as philosophy to recruit the best athletes
the Army fans should have faith that the days of their team being overmatched physically are becoming a thing of the past.
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