Army prepares for second prospect camp

Rich Ellerson (AS/Sheldon Y.)

The Army Black Knights coaching staff is preparing for their second football camp this summer. The first camp occurred on June 1 with the next one scheduled for Sunday July 7. This is a welcomed change in Rich Ellerson's recruiting philosophy.

The Army Black Knights coaching staff is preparing for their second football camp this summer. The first camp occurred on June 1 with the next one scheduled for Sunday July 7. This is a welcomed change in Rich Ellerson's recruiting philosophy. Two years ago I asked Rich Ellerson, in an exclusive interview with ArmySports.com, if he planned to offer recruits a summer camp. Ellerson told me, "I'm not sure if we want to do those things." Following the last two disappointing seasons it looks Ellerson changed his opinion on having summer camps. I was surprised that Ellerson had previously dismissed the notion completely since the other service academies Navy and Air Force have had good success running their summer camps.

Losing can change a coach's perception. There is a real value in getting recruiting prospects on the West Point post. Once a player wears a Black and Gold T-shirt and experiences the Army's facilities in person it can assist in a player's recruitment. Navy and Air Force had recruiting success landing three star prospects by having players attend their camp and offering them early. Having players on post allows them to visualize being a member of the team and commit earlier in the process.

Last season Navy landed Austin Kurke who was widely recruited as both a tight end and a defensive end. Navy offered Kurke early at camp then gained and held his commitment despite an onslaught of offers from Arizona State, Cal, Utah, Hawaii, Army, Air Force, UC Davis and South Dakota State.

Another Navy camper Sean Spencer was a three star recruit from Georgia who originally committed to SEC Vanderbilt but changed his mind after visiting the Annapolis camp. Spencer had the most quality offers of any recent Navy recruit. He was also offered by LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Indiana, South Florida, UCF, Air Force and Army. Since Army and Air Force failed to get him on campus like Navy, they were behind the proverbial eight ball in recruiting him.

Ellerson's recruiting approach has been more of a softer sell in respecting the long term commitment to becoming a military officer. During his tenure he's chosen not to offer early in the process usually waiting until after a player's senior year started before making an official offer. As a result in some head-to-head battles the Black Knights found themselves at a disadvantage when recruits had no loyalty or ties to the program. This occurred last year when lefty quarterback and defensive Ben Okun from Newberry Park high school in California originally committed to Army but switched a week later to Air Force.

One of the other issues has been recruiting on the East Coast and down South had been uneven at best. The staff Ellerson brought with him from Cal Poly had been very solid recruiting their old stomping grounds out on the West Coast. Ellerson's first full recruiting class, took the field at Michie after a Prep season in 2011. Recruiting has improved with many of its best player like Larry Dixon, Hayden Tippett, Robert Kough, T.J. Altimala, James Kelly, Hayden Pierce and Chris Carnegie have been from the West Coast.

These summer camps will give the staff the chance to see more players and should improve east coast and southern recruiting. The staff has a chance to evaluate over 250 players in person. It also gives the staff a chance to strengthen its coaching contacts as many coaches attend these summer camps. The first camp in June resulted in a number offers to quality recruits. Army is expecting well over 120 players to attend the July 7th session.

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