Ross Confident in Team Growth

Arthur Dowell, Web Master

First year head coach said he will ensure the growth of the football team he helped build.

Sports fans can plainly see Ross do his work on the sidelines on game day, but it is the year-round, behind-the-scenes work that gives faith in future victory.

The team left for camp with 99 committed football players at the start of the year. Heading into the fifth week of the season, it lost 25 players for various reasons. This leaves the Cougars with some holes and forces Ross to use a strategic approach in both practice and game situations.

As a first year head coach, Ross doesn’t feel much of a difference from his days as a defensive coordinator at Ithaca College, but does say media relationships is something he is beginning to get accustomed to.

“From a coaching standpoint, it’s not a whole different then the previous four to five years I was a defensive coach,” said Ross. “You deal with more areas outside and things are tugging at your time more.”

With 25 players injured or departed from the team, Ross said opportunities are opening for those who are healthy and staying onboard. This is a great opportunity for the players third on the depth chart to move their way up and start on Saturday afternoons, he said.

He said his role is to improve his players both mentally and physically as much as he can.

“It’s all about development of the players at this level. Not everybody’s at the same level, not everybody’s role is going to be the same,” Ross said. “It’s a competitive situation, you have to decide if you want to compete and do the things that are necessary to get better.”

Ross spoke of legendary baseball player Lou Gehrig getting the chance to be a full time player after original starter Wally Pipp went down with a head injury. People may have never found out just how good Gehrig was if it were not for Pipp’s unfortunate head injury.

Ross said player development is one key step to success, and another is the recruiting process.

Ross engages in recruitment every day, but from season’s end to Christmas, Ross and his staff go on recruitment trips throughout Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. Though the process can be rigorous, Ross and his staff have the simple goal of making the team better.

“There has to be competition on the roster to keep the players to push themselves to do the best they can and this allows us to compete in the MAC.”

First year fullback Matt Boffa remembers the recruiting process when he had to choose between schools. He recalls coaches reaching out to his high school head coachand he remembers when offensive line coach Chris Gray had interest in him persuaded him to play football.  While he was attracted to the chance to be part of a university’s first football team, other factors solidified his choice.

“I was taken away by how beautiful the campus was when I came to visit. The idea of playing on the first team is pretty cool, but it was Coach Gray’s approach of this ‘what we are doing and we want you part of it.’”

Ross said he makes sure his team remains academically eligible to play: He puts students through a study hall session once a week and the only way they are eligible to get out of it is when they complete their first year and hold at least a 3.0 GPA.

Ross will continue to grow his team or as he says, his “family of 75,” and hopes players have success beyond their football days.

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