GOODMAN --- Even when you have been at or near the top of the NJCAA team rushing statistics the last few seasons, improvements can always be made to assure you remain there in the future.
During the 2018 season, the Bulldogs finished No. 3 in rushing yards per game with 261.1 yards per game. The Bulldogs had 446 attempts and averaged 5.3 yards per carry and had 16 touchdowns. But during the prior season in 2017, the Bulldogs led the country with 368.3 yards per game on 482 attempts and had 30 touchdowns with 6.9 yards per carry and had the country's leading rusher in Cameryn Brent. Brent finished with 1373 rushing yards with 15 touchdowns. He had a 7.1 yards per carry average on 194 rushes.
To keep improving, the Holmes Community College Bulldog Football offensive coaching staff including Head Coach Jeff Koonz, Co-Offensive Coordinators Raymond Gross and Brad Bustle and position coach Cob Summers traveled to West Point to visit with the Army Football team who is known for its top rated D1 rushing attack. Army finished second in 2018 in rushing with 4,062 yards and 47 touchdowns on 824 carries with a 4.93 yards per carry average.
The coaches flew into New York on Friday and rented a house in Mount Vernon. They drove to West Point on Saturday morning and watched Army work out in the weight room and met with Army Head Coach Jeff Monken and his coaching staff. They sat in position meetings with the Army coaches and players as they discussed their plans for a 120-play scrimmage held later in the day.
On Sunday, the coaches took in a New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles baseball game and had planned to see Manhattan but a three-hour rain delay pushed the game to a late finish.
"They had a great time there," Koonz said. "This was the first time they've ever been to New York City and obviously Yankee Stadium. The only negative thing was after a three-hour rain delay and after the cold front blew in, it was blistery cold (30 degrees)."
On Monday, the coaches returned to West Point once again where they sat in their staff meetings and then were afforded the opportunity to review film of Army's rushing attack in a private film room. They then met with Army's offensive coaches and sat in while Army coaches graded film from Saturday's scrimmage.
"That was excellent because we were able to see what they saw and the corrections they were going to make," Koonz said. "We saw how they coach it. They answered any questions that we had on certain plays and how you run this or when do you call that. We were one-on-one which was very helpful."
They then sat in position meetings once again and watched practice that afternoon where they observed their organization, how they made their corrections, coaching styles and how they practiced.
Koonz and Monken then met together where he learned how important it is for a team to have its own identity. "We met on developing your identity, how to implement it and how to execute it," he said. "What I learned from Coach Monken was how to better develop the culture of your football team that matches your style."
Koonz had connections with Army Offensive Coordinator Brent Davis, who was offensive coordinator on the Georgia Southern University staff the year after Koonz left the program, and asked about the possibility of the Holmes coaches learning from the Army staff. Davis had success with the flexbone offense at Georgia Southern and moved the concept to Army when he became offensive coordinator there. Davis even rented Koonz's house in Statesboro, Ga. while coaching there.
"The trip came about because of their type of offense," Koonz said. "They run the same offense that we do. They are the best Division I program running it right now."
Coach Gross' knowledge of the offense originated from the same place Davis' did, Koonz said. Coaches Erk Russell, former Holmes offensive coordinator and current Southwest Head Coach Tim Stowers and Paul Johnson were pioneers of the flexbone.
"The biggest thing our staff got out of it was how to teach certain concepts," Koonz said. "We block the same way, but they were a little more advanced on teaching the players and getting the most out of them. For the offensive staff they had certain questions on how to attack certain parts of the field. I think they got that. They shared some new plays, blocking schemes and execution of it that's going to help us.
"What I enjoyed the most was seeing the staff experience something totally new going to a tremendous program like West Point and then sharing that part of the country," he said. "Culturally, including New York City itself and the food was a lot of fun for me personally."
"I enjoyed learning how to develop your teams' own identity and how to coach it," said Koonz.
"On behalf of our coaching staff we would like to personally thank our president, Dr. Jim Haffey, and our Foundation Executive Director Dr. Lindy McCain for making this trip possible," Koonz said. "In my thirty-five years of coaching this was the most productive staff development activity that I have participated in. The information gathered will definitely have a positive effect on the success of future Bulldog seasons."