If you’ve been out to one of Air Force’s first two preseason practices, you may have seen offensive backs working with what look like blue footballs.
No, the Falcons aren’t going to be using colored, ABA-style balls this season. The blue is a slippery nylon sleeve that slides over the ball. Air Force is using the sleeves in drills that deal with option pitches.
The sleeve “is not tacky, and (the ball) can slide through your hands,” said Jemal Singleton, the Falcons’ running backs coach and running game coordinator. “So you’ve really got to focus on where you’re carrying it, ball placement and all that good stuff – it just reinforces all those ideas. Then, when you get a regular ball, it feels like it’s got glue on it.”
Look for the Falcons to practice with it some more. Coach Troy Calhoun was not pleased with the amount of fumbles in Thursday’s practice. Other observations from Day 2:
Who stood out: Running back Chad Hall. Count me among those who were skeptical when Calhoun switched Hall, last season’s leading rusher, from tailback to “Z” wide receiver. But Hall seems happy with the switch, and, at least in the first two practices, the move seems to be accomplishing what coaches had hoped it would: It’s getting the ball to Hall where he has room to use his speed and moves, and it’s forcing defenses to cover him with linebackers and safeties – players Hall should be able to beat.
“It’s fun,” Hall said. “I get manned up on some safeties, get a little mis-match and … usually when I get (the ball) there’s one man around me, whether I’m running it or catching it. It’s just one man to beat, and I’ve got some space, finally.”
Thursday Hall made several nice catches, including a leaping grab on the sideline.
Sophomore safety Chris Thomas also had a good practice Thursday, several times ripping the ball loose from offensive players. Thomas appears to be one of those players who just always seems to be around the ball.
Lasting image: Senior cornerback Garrett Rybak picking off a pass in the flat during 11-on-11 drills and taking it to the end zone. It was one of several big plays made by the defense Thursday.
Coach’s quote: “I think the guys look good. (But) for me, it means nothing. Everybody looks good in jerseys. When we get out here in full pads and we’re hitting and I’m seeing guys finishing runs and those type of things, that’s when they start putting in my mind that they came to play.” – Running backs coach and running game coordinator Jemal Singleton, on his tailbacks.