May 26, 2012

GBK: One-on-one with Coach Tucker Waugh - Part I

Tucker Waugh holds dual roles on Army's football coaching staff, providing him multiple pictures of the talent on the roster, potential among the incoming freshmen and promise among prospects targeted on the recruiting tail.

Waugh, a veteran slot backs coach in his 12th season overall spread over two stints, scans the latest depth chart with an experienced eye to believe this is the most talented backfield stable the Black Knights have assembled in his time at West Point.

"And the beauty of it is other than (senior) Malcolm Brown, they're all back again next year -- and some for two more years," Waugh said. "We feel like we've recruited well to that position. We feel we have a chance to be a good football team."

The other role Waugh serves on head coach Rich Ellerson's staff involves the bigger picture as recruiting coordinator. His convinced Army's coaches are wading into a deeper talent pool these days on the recruiting trail.

Some of that is evident through the increased number of 3 & even an occasional 4 star ranked prospects.

The reasons range from recruiting philosophies implemented by Ellerson to Army's unique schemes that attract players to fit Army's system better than traditional offenses or defenses. But a difference that may be the most important is how high school kids view the world before and after 9/11.

"When people ask me about that, I tell them I am so impressed and so proud of these kids coming out of our high schools with their maturity and their desire to their serve their country," Waugh said. "We are in great shape with this next generation of young people."

The West Point & Ellerson Methodology

Ellerson is entering his fourth season in 2012, meaning more of his players are climbing to the top of the depth chart. His first full recruiting class is split between this season's juniors that were admitted directly to West Point and sophomores that started their careers at the USMAPS.
"I've worked for a lot coaches here and all of them were great men and great coaches that did their very best to maintain the excellence and traditions of West Point," said Waugh, who also served under former head coaches Stan Brock, Bobby Ross and Todd Berry. "Coach Ellerson has been fantastic about West Point tradition, too. But he is the one that has changed our recruiting philosophy.

"We are recruiting to the destination of becoming an Army officer first. That's the most important thing. If a recruit has that and also has the academic credentials and is a Division I football player, we want him. Coach Ellerson has brought that to the table and it seems to be working."

Another trait of Ellerson's philosophy is he won't let a recruit commit on his official visit, a strategy that would be sacrilegious at BCS powers. Oklahoma wants a recruit to act on an impulse buy before losing him to Texas.

But Ellerson doesn't want to set up a recruit for buyer's remorse and thus be forced to later deal with unwanted attrition.

"I think if we start with the interest level, the guys that really want to be here will be here," Waugh said.

Waugh, who also coached two years at Stanford in 2005 and 2006 before returning to West Point, said it didn't take long to accept Ellerson's philosophy.

"I think that's a great way to do business," he said. "I think that stems not from him being a coach or from caring about West Point -- it stems from him being an excellent father. What he tells recruits when he meets with them, is if he was the young man's parent, he would want them to take the time to travel home, digest all the information and then make their best decision.

"I think that comes from him being a good dad. His son Drew is attending West Point (in 2012 after a year at the USMAPS). If these guys choose to come to West Point, they are making a decision to be part of our family for four or five years. He wants them to make the right decision."

Another characteristic Ellerson seeks among his recruits is what the coaches call "flexibility." He wants them to have the ability -- and willingness -- to switch positions once they arrive.

"One of these things we look for is for a young man who is open to being a better player at another position," Waugh said. "He might come here as a running back and end up an X wide receiver or a field corner. Coach does a great job with that. He's very honest with them so they are comfortable with how they are going to be used. We feel like we've done a good job of getting guys with position flexibility."

With Army starting spring football in February and finishing in March, Army's staff has had the time to focus on recruiting between April and the start of fall camp. Army has extended several Class of 2013 offer already and Waugh feels the they are off to a good start with their recruiting pitches.

"We are targeting the right people to come to West Point for the right reasons," Waugh said. "There are a lot of good reasons that a young man would want to come to West Point. The elite academics are as good as it gets anywhere in the nation and we play highest level of football with wonderful facilities and great tradition.

"All of those things are fine, and a lot of people would want to come here for those reasons. But we go one step further and say none of that makes sense unless you're interested in the destination of becoming an Army officer. If that makes sense, the rest is glorious."

Keep right here on for Part II with Tucker Waugh.

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