Coach Meyer: Ellerson Engineers Army Turnaround

With Ron Meyer


I think one of the great coaching stories of recent years is what Rich Ellerson has done at Army since getting hired away from Cal Poly two seasons ago.

After many years of being way off the radar in college football...and significantly worse than military rivals Navy and Air Force, Army made it to a 5-7 record last year...and in 2010 they'll play SMU in the Armed forces Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 31st after finishing their regular season Saturday against Navy.

Army is going to a bowl!

I want to be careful not to overstate the case here. You saw Army struggle badly against Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium recently. They've come a long way, but there's still more to go. I'm just very pleased that the program is no longer a doormat in the sport. These kids are heroes. Nobody wants to watch heroes go 0-12 or 2-10 every year in a sport that is much lower than secondary in terms of their day-to-day priorities.

Ellerson has:

  • Returned pride to the football program. That can be very difficult to do after years of losing. Ellerson brought a fresh attitude and revitalized the energy from top to bottom.
  • Gone back to the triple option on offense, which is really the only way a military school can be consistently competitive at a major college program with the athletes they recruit.
  • Created an emphasis on defense that you don't normally see with the military schools. You may not realize that Army ranked 16th in the nation last year in total defense, and is currently 25th this year heading into the Air Force game. Yes, they play a weaker schedule than average, and run-based games have less yardage because the clock moves faster. Still, Army isn't able to recruit the defensive monsters you see at SEC schools. Even after you adjust for context...this team is doing AMAZING things on defense with schematics, hustle, and that new attitude I was talking about earlier.

Army is still behind Navy and Air Force in the Power Rankings. It's getting closer, that's for sure. As you watch the Army-Navy game Saturday, take some time to appreciate what Ellerson has dome with the Cadets, and what Ken Niumatalolo continues to achieve at Navy with what has become a perennial bowl program. As a handicapper who used to be a head coach, it's my job to make sure you're focused on these guys. In a special game like Army-Navy, it's my job to make sure you APPRECIATE what class gentlemen are doing with their teams of heroes.

Navy is an 8-point favorite this year, marking one of the smaller spreads we've seen in a while. You know Ellerson and Army want to change this recent course of history:

2009: Navy (-14) beat Army 17-3 (push)
2008: Navy (-11) beat Army 34-0
2007: Navy (-14) beat Army 38-3
2006: Navy (-19) beat Army 26-14 (rare Army cover)
2005: Navy (-6) beat Army 42-23
2004: Navy (-13) beat Army 42-13
2003: Navy (-22) beat Army 34-6

Army hasn't won since 2001, and has only been a single digit underdog once since 2003. The last three games have gone to Navy by a combined 89-6 final score! Is this the year Ellerson turns things around?

I will have a pick in the Army-Navy game as part of my Saturday package, along with the biggest day of college basketball we've had so far this season. Among the marquee games I'm looking at:

UNLV at Louisville on ESPNU (I'm based in Vegas after all)
Alabama at Providence on ESPNU
Wisconsin at Marquette on ESPN2
Tennessee at Pittsburgh on ESPN
Washington at Texas A&M on ESPN2
Gonzaga at Notre Dame on ESPN2

I'll probably have something for you from an 8-game NBA card as well.

You can purchase game day releases a few hours before the first games go here at the website. Have your credit card handy when you log in. Longer term packages are available. Sign up for the college bowls and Army-Navy will be included at no additional charge if you call 1-877-540-8787.

Be sure you come back Sunday for a HUGE day in the NFL, highlighted by New England at Chicago in a game everyone's been talking about all week...and Philadelphia at Dallas in the prime time game. I coached many of the Patriots players who were on the field during that famous mid-80's Super Bowl between the Pats and Bears. You can bet I'll have something special up my sleeve in this storied NFL matchup.

Thanks to Rich Ellerson, all three military schools have great coaches on the sideline right now. That's the way it should be, because those kids deserve the best. If you've been struggling with your handicapping this year, call RON MEYER and put the right COACH IN YOUR CORNER!



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