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(All information as of July 1, 2006)
COACH AND PROGRAM
Bobby Ross is a winner. With three ACC championships at Maryland, a co-national championship at Georgia Tech, a Super Bowl appearance at San Diego and two playoff appearances with the Detroit Lions, Ross' reputation as one of the better coaches of his generation is secure.
Despite an impressive résumé and nearly four years of retirement, Ross traded in videos of his 15 grandchildren for game film in hopes of returning the Army football program to respectability. In what has to come as a surprise to no one, the Black Knights have improved in the two years under his watch.
Army went 4-7 last season, a win total not exceeded in West Point since 1996. In the three years before 2005, Army had won a total of three games. After starting last year 0-6, the Black Knights won four of their final five games, including a memorable 27-24 win at Air Force.
The Ross program is having the desired effect, as has the school's decision to play as an independent. Now the question is whether Ross can guide Army to six wins and become bowl eligible. The Black Knights will need to catch a couple of breaks, but there is more optimism on the banks of the Hudson River than there has been in a long time.
Army returns eight starters each on offense and defense and has the experience Ross believes is a prerequisite for success at the Academy.
"It's really important that academy teams are veteran teams," he said. "Our whole key is the development of players. Freshman and sophomores aren't fully developed. It is really to your advantage to play with lettermen and people who have gained experience."