September 2, 2011

Getting Ready for NIU: Q&A with Coach Joe Ross

The Army Black Knights are in route to take on Northern Illinois in their 2011 season opener. For Coach Joe Ross, who is responsible for the fullbacks, as well as the special teams, knows that each these areas has a significant role in the success and perhaps even the outcome of tomorrow's game.

GoBlackKnights.com had an opportunity to chat with the Army coach as he took time out for a time of Q&A.

GBK: Coach, what will determine how you will utilize and getting reps for freshman fullback Larry Dixon?

Coach Ross: Normally what dictates that is if we get some long drives going and Hassin (Jared) needs a break, we will give him a break by putting Larry in. Or Hassin can signal to me or that if I sense that there's a long drive we will put him in for a couple of plays and get Hassin back in there.

GBK: Speaking of Dixon, how would rank his progression thus far?

Coach Ross: Oh, he's doing a fantastic job. Because he was at the prep school last year he has a very good sense of the offense. He's very mature, so he's a year older than your typical freshman. He's very strong, very smart, great attitude, he really cares about wanting to do the right thing .... he's just been a pleasure to be around and a treat to coach.

GBK: Can you talk about the difference in style between starter Jared Hassin & Dixon?

Coach Ross: From my perspective they are very similar from the way we coach them. Larry is probably a little bit lower to the ground because he's shorter than Jared, but Hassin does a great job at running low. They both have great acceleration off the ball, they both see the field well ... so from where I sit, they are very similar in the way the run the ball. I don't see a big difference.

The NIU coach is correct, because the fullback in our offense is really a tailback. He's going to get the ball 20 times a game. He's not a typical fullback in most traditional offenses.

GBK: Do you feel with the development of the receiving corp that it will impact what you do offensively, especially at fullback.

Coach Ross: That stuff (using the fullback) is always there, but now the defense may have to respect those receivers a little more. The game plan is always there, but we have to get the defense to respect our passing game and once they respect it, it opens up a lot of other things, especially for the fullback.

GBK: Let's talk about your Special Teams. How is the team looking in the kicking game area?

Coach Ross: We are very excited about Alex (Carlton) he had a great year last year. He can finish this year as the all-time leading kicker for Army. We have a guy that's pretty special.

We are very excited about Eric Osteen doing our kickoffs ... he has a big leg and shown that all camp. Now we have to see if what he did in camp and see if he can do that in the game.

GBK: How do you feel about your punt & kick return game?

Coach Ross: Josh Jackson is still our returner and Crucitti (Jonathan) backing him up. I feel very comfortable about both of them handling the return duties.

On kickoff returns we have Raymond Maples and Crucitti back there and I like the fact that we have running backs back there returning the ball.

We like to treat our kick off returns as downhill running play ... just like an offensive play. So if you are going to treat it like that then it's about reading blocks, hitting the seams and hitting the crease. Running backs do that all the time and for consistency purposes we like the running backs. You know you always say fast guys, but from my point of view they are not in a role where they are looking for a seam or running off blocks, so they might miss the crease more times than not. Some coaches like that where take a chance and get that big home run but will have decided to go this route.


The Army Black Knights are currently making their way to Northern Illinois and GoBlackKnights.com will be there for game day coverage, along with our Cover-It-Live feature.

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