February 11, 2012

GBK: Army Black Knights Kick-Off Spring Practice

It hard to believe, but just nine days ago it was National Signing Day and here we are with Spring practice 2012 underway for the Army Black Knights.

The day started with a team meeting at 7:00am, followed by spirited indoor practice and S&C workouts that took place at 7:20am.

With the team dressed in shorts and jerseys, the squad split time between being inside the climate controlled Foley Athletic Center and the weight facilities.

While the offensive started the morning walk through practice and abbreviated conditioning/running inside Foley, the defense was working within the weight room under the direction of Strength & Conditioning Coach Brett Gerch, strength colleague Kevin Schadt, as well the respective position coaches.

"It was a nice walk through, going through some of the fundamentals and the review of the plays ... nothing major," said fullback and special teams coach, Joe Ross after Saturday morning's practice.

After the one hour sessions, the groups would flip flop, whereby the defense made their way to the indoor football field and the offense hit the weight workout.

One focus while inside Foley was to go over some of the basics of the position for personnel that have moved to new roles.

In the weight room, according Gerch, the players in engaged in a variety of sets ranging from hang cleans, box squat, RDL (Romanian Dead Lift), dumb bell bench, lap pull down, close grip bench, barbell row and sledge-jammer (hitting the tire).

"We set up specific lifting pairs for these guys, where we generally put a freshman with an upperclassman so that the upperclassman can kind of show them the tempo that we want" said Gerch. "They can speak up if they see something and catch it if we aren't around.

It also helps that when the offense is lifting that the offensive coaches are actually in the weight room too. They are able to walk around and eyeball some things if necessary.

Today's session was pretty basic, but allowed for some players to show off their new physique after their five week intense winter conditioning program. Clearly, the current group of plebes have benefited from the tenure at West Point and under the watchful eyes of Gerch and Schadt. "It's been a good five weeks, although it was a quick-short five weeks, but it's been product," declares Gerch. "We have some guys that have been able to put some weight on. The technique is up substantially since the season. The season we didn't get a whole lot of time to go over a lot of things with the freshmen who were traveling. So they are now getting stronger and able to put more weight on the bar.

This was echoed by Ross, who says the maturation of underclassmen is part of the continuous building of the program. "Oh yeah, you can see that already and that happens every year .... it does't matter if they have played or not," he adds. "You see that big boost in confidence and just the way the players look from freshman to sophomore year."

Some notables were:

Captain and defensive end Jarrett Mackey continues to make strides relative to his 2011 season ending knee injury.

Hayden Pierce has put on 16 pounds and now up to 191 pounds versus the weight he was carrying upon his return from Christmas vacation. "We aren't going to lift as much because of spring ball, but I think at the very end, by the time school is out in May, the very least he will be 200 pounds," says Gerch.

Starting cornerback Josh Jackson has added 5 pounds to his frame.

Geoffery Bacon, Marcus Jackson and L.J. Harris have also added 5 addition pounds.

Freshman fullback Larry Dixon is already turning heads according the Gerch, but there are some areas they are working on to assist in his production. "He's actually getting a lot stronger, but we also working on his running technique. He's one of those guys when he gets tired and his technique would falter on any long runs. So the five weeks with Larry, we had good mix of speed work and conditioning. He's getting in real good condition and he's gotten strong, but leaned up and lost like 10 pounds. Right now he's 232 pounds."

"Larry (Dixon) caught my eye ... he looks good and I like the way he's running," shared Ross. "Hayden Tippett caught my eye. It's the fastest and most explosive I have seen him. That's a good 1-2 punch there. Jared (Hassin) looks great and he's going to be explosive and fast. He's unique now because he can play any of those running back positions. Makes him more flexible and more of a weapon.

Then there's 1,000 rusher who appears to get bigger each year. So where does the junior to be slotback measure up coming into spring ball? "He's bigger," chuckles Gerch. "He's put on a few pounds since he got back. He's just a real strong kid and he doesn't know how strong he can be... he's strong and is now about 217 pounds"

One player that could benefit from a few extra pounds is freshman quarterback Angel Santiago, who according to Gerch still has a ways to go in that area. "He's only put on a couple of pounds, but he's actually been really good in other areas. He runs better than most guys on the team; he moves really well, he's got great technique when he runs which will help be faster and he's got quick feet getting in and out of cones. He's been a surprise ... his work ethic has been good, he's had a good five weeks.

Practice resumes 6:55am Monday morning, albeit somewhat shorter version, with 40 minutes with the lift and 40 minutes outside, followed by the flip-flop of the squads.

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