INTERVIEW: Payam Saadat & Chris Smeland PT 5

(Matt Strasen-US PRESSWIRE)

ArmySports.com continues its exclusive interviews with Black Knight co-defensive coordinators Payam Saadat and Chris Smeland. In part 5 of 6 the two coaches discuss Army's safeties. The two coaches also share some of the things that attracted them to coach at West Point.

ArmySports.com:  At free safety you lose Donovan Travis and sophomores Tyler Dickson and Thomas Holloway have emerged as the two likely candidates to replace Travis as starter. How did the competition at free safety position look?

 

Chris Smeland: I like the progress of both those guys. Again it's going to be very competitive with them. I really think that both of them are more athletic than Donovan. Donovan was a very sharp football player. He understood what we were trying to do defensively. He got us in the right calls all the time. Travis was a good anticipator. I like the fact that both of these young guys are going to be athletic, and physical. I think their progressing in terms of their knowledge base. What their assignments are and how they are responsible for getting everyone lined up in the back row. They need to know the coverage adjustments we are going to make. It's going to be interesting to see how that unfolds. 

      

ArmySports.com:  You looked at a lot of underclassmen this spring. What players do you think might make an impact if not this year maybe down the road?

 

Payam Saadat: The guys that we are hopeful for, Jim are right now at the prep school. Our approach is we are thinking more about 2011 than 2012. We have about six guys [at the Prep school] we need to give ample reps too early to see where they fit in [this summer after R-day]. We're approaching the future to get these guys to just learn how to play fast and let it go within the parameters of the defense. I think the future is going to be told by what you see on the field next year. A young, aggressive, fast defense that is only going to get better because they are going to have the better part of three years (as starters) together. I think that's how we are approaching 2012 and beyond. We need to get our best eleven guys on the field for 2011 and that's our main concern.

 

ArmySports.com:   Coach Smeland why did you decide to join the staff?

 

Chris Smeland: It was an opportunity for me to really kind of to get back in the game. At the stage of my career I was only going to get involved with a head coach I had a lot of confidence in and that I knew on a personal basis. Rich Ellerson fits that bill to a tee. Rich and I go back a long ways. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in him in terms of making decisions. I felt strongly that he was the right coach for West Point. I feel good about where we are at right now because it's vindicated my confidence in him. He's the perfect head coach for West Point. I'm excited about being part of the crew.

 

ArmySports.com:  Coach Saadat you're from the West Coast and you originally applied for the Cal Poly head coaching job after Army hired Ellerson. How disappointed were you not getting the Cal Poly job? Was it a difficult decision to move your family to follow Coach Ellerson to the east coast?

 

Payam Saadat: Coming out east wasn't a big concern. I was leaving the happiest place in America in San Luis Obispo (CA). I've had fond memories there. I got my graduate degree from there. Chris (Smeland) graduated from there as well. Two of my three kids were born in that town. It's a great place but I think stepping out of the comfort zone and coming to the east coast, to a place like West Point, the way the people here opened up their arms, welcomed us in, provided an infrastructure to ease the transition has been awesome. Would I always like to get back to the West Coast?  Certainly, but it's the nature of the profession. You're going to get taken places and taken out of your comfort zone. To have to be taken to a place like West Point, I'll take that every time.

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