With results like that, many high school seniors have been easily swayed towards Colorado Springs over the past decade, where the prospect of winning has proved to be more than the proverbial “one year away.” The tide of recruiting may be changing however, as Class of 2009 recruits like former Kell (GA) linebacker Clay Rutherford chose Army over scholarship offers from Air Force this past winter. At 6-foot-2, 205-pounds, Rutherford is a high impact linebacker with the versatility to play any number of positions in coach Ellerson’s defense, including defensive end or outside linebacker. I recently caught up with the USMAPS-bound prospect, and got the scoop on why he chose Army over Air Force and what his plans are for the future.
Adam Nettina (AN): What was your recruitment like out of High School? Which schools were recruiting you, which ones offered you scholarships, and why did you ultimately choose Army?
Clay Rutherford (CR): I signed with West Point during high school so I didn’t have to worry about it after I graduated. As far as the schools which recruited me; Elon, Furman, Wofford, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Army, Air Force, and Navy all showed interest. I chose Army because the football program is on the rise, and when I took my official visit I was amazed by the campus, the people, the benefits of a West Point education, and the coaches.
AN: What made you choose West Point over the Air Force Academy? Was football the deciding factor, or was there something about West Point or the Army itself that you favored over Air Force?
CR: I had both coaching staffs come and personally visit me at my house. The Army coaches made me feel more comfortable than the Air Force coaches. They didn’t push me about recruiting because they knew I was under pressure, and they just told me that I would have my offer waiting for me when I made my final decision. Also my official visit was a factor.
AN: Did you notice any change in your recruitment from the old Army staff under coach Brock to the new one under coach Ellerson? Would you say the level of interest on the part of Army increased or decreased with the change in staffs?
CR: I would say it was about the same, because both coaches and their staffs called on a regular basis during the recruitment period.
AN: What does it mean for you to have the opportunity to come in and play for a coach with the defensive pedigree of a Rich Ellerson? Have you heard what your role might be in his unique defensive scheme? How do you think your skills translate to his defense?
CR: I’m very excited to be playing for all the new coaches. As for position plans, I have been told I could play defensive end, linebacker, and outside linebacker. I believe his defense is all about speed and pursuit of the ball and I feel that I’m good at those things.
AN: I understand you will be attending UMAPS before heading to West Point. What do you hope to get out of that experience?
CR: I am hoping to get the experience of the military life and to have a year of development in football at a higher level. Also I hope to get another year to grow physically.
AN: What do your think your greatest strengths are as a football player? What part (or parts) of your game would you like to improve on coming before coming to the FBS level of competition?
CR: Some of my strengths are the way I read offenses, filling up holes, blitzing and my ability to pursue. Some of the things that I would like to work on are dropping into coverage, getting better in man coverage situations, and shedding blockers.
AN: Have you met any of your future UMAPS or West Point teammates yet? What are your impressions (if any) of the 2009 Army recruiting class?
CR: No I have not met any of them yet but I have talked to a few of them through email and I look forward to meeting them on R- Day.
AN: Do you know what you’d like to major in at West Point?
CR: Not yet; I’m currently undecided.
AN: Obviously, attending West Point is a different experience than most colleges. What attracted you to the military aspect of the school, and do you have any idea as to which service selection you will want?
CR: Well the facilities are top of the line. I thought that the SEC schools had some pretty amazing stuff, but then I went to West Point and EVERYTHING was so nice. The training room, equipment, the rehab facilities…even their dorms are like castles. There is so much history and honor on that campus, it is just amazing.
AN: Finish the sentence: The one thing Army fans should know about me is…
CR: I’m a hunter, a fisherman, and football is my first love. Go Army beat Navy! (and Air Force)