Blue Ribbon Preview: Army

Updated: July 13, 2011, 9:59 AM ET
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ABOUT

Give Army credit. It knew last year.

It knew that its team chemistry was as good as anybody could remember. It knew that it had finally found offensive and defensive systems -- head coach Rich Ellerson's triple-option offense and double-eagle flex defense -- that fit its personnel perfectly. It knew that if a few breaks went its way, it could accomplish something that a Knights team hadn't accomplished in almost 15 years.

"We had high hopes," Ellerson said of his team's mindset entering last year.

The shine from last year's 7-6 campaign, Army's best since 1996, has yet to wear off. Junior quarterback Trent Steelman still receives slaps on the back from alumni who congratulate him for helping return the Knights to respectability. Ellerson noticed a bounce in his players' step during the spring that he hadn't seen since he arrived three years ago.

Ellerson, however, knows it would be foolish to feel any sense of relief. The Knights forced their way onto the FBS radar after being off it for almost 15 years. Now they must work even harder to stay there.

"We have to go from high hopes to high expectations," Ellerson said. "I think people are paying attention to us, but they're not necessarily convinced. To do that, all sorts of things need to be accomplished."

One way Ellerson chose to remind his team that its work isn't finished, especially considering it lost 11 starters from last season, was by ratcheting up the intensity in spring practice.

"I'd say it was as physical a spring as I've ever run," Ellerson said. "I wanted the younger guys to distinguish themselves. I wanted them to knock each other down and get after each other."

THE STAFF

Head Coach: Rich Ellerson (Hawaii '77)
Record at school: 12-13 (2 years)
Career record: 72-54 (11 years)

Assistants:
• Ian Shields (Oregon State '97) Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Payam Saadat (Washington State '95) Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
• Chris Smeland (Cal Poly '74) Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
• John Brock (Curry College '02) Rovers/B-Squad
• Tony Coaxum (West Point '00) Cornerbacks
• Andy Guyader (Cal Poly '97) Wide Receivers
• Capt. Clarence Holmes (West Point '03) Defensive Tackles
• Robert Lyles (TCU '94) Whip Linebacker
• Gene McKeehan (Utah State '68) Offensive Guards/Centers
• John Mumford (Pittsburgh State '79) Defensive Ends
• Joe Ross (West Point '95) Fullbacks/Special Teams
• Bill Tripp (Bridgeport '70) Offensive Tackles
• Tucker Waugh (DePauw '93) Slot Backs/Recruiting Coordinator