Monday, May 19, 2008



The Gazette's Air Force Sports Blog has moved. It now can be found at

The new address is attached to the Gazette's web site, which is better because now the Powers That Be can keep track of how much traffic it gets.

Every post I've made to the blog - along with all the corresponding comments from readers - has been moved over to the new address. And, don't worry, the BlogDog will move along with the site.

So, once again, please bookmark this site: And visit often, as it is updated frequently (and, come August and the start of football, it will be updated almost daily).


Jake Schaller

Friday, May 16, 2008

First Look: Wyoming

I started my blog’s “First Look” series last week with a quick peek at New Mexico (scroll down to take a look at the Lobos).

I’m going to do these periodically throughout the offseason because there never should be a time when we’re not talking football. (Note: If my father is reading this, I know that’s a double-negative, but I thought it was more fun to write than “we always should be talking football”).

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a look at the Cowboys:

2007 Record: 5-7, 2-6
Off/Def Starters Back: 8/7
Last Year vs. AF: Air Force 20, Wyoming 12
This Year vs. AF: Sept. 6 at Wyoming

Roster Report: The Cowboys bring back eight offensive starters from their 2007 squad, including running back Devin Moore (965 yards, five TDs). Backup running back Wynel Seldon (554 yards, eight TDs) also is back along with – get this – all five starting offensive linemen from 2007: Center Tim Bond (6-foot-4, 300 pounds), guards Russ Arnold (6-4, 290) and Sam Sterner (6-4, 297) and tackles Kyle Howard (6-7, 312) and Ryan Otterson (6-5, 289). Expect Wyoming to make more of a commitment to the run.

The defense will be tough up front as well with three starters back – tackle John Fletcher (6-6, 280), nose guard Fred Givens (6-0, 301) and end Mitch Unrein (6-4, 270). Also back is senior inside linebacker Ward Dobbs, who led Wyoming and ranked seventh in the Mountain West Conference in 2007 with 8.2 tackles per game.

The big question for the Cowboys is who will play quarterback. Last year’s starter, Karsten Sween, is back, but he struggled at times in 2007 and he did not lock down the starting role in spring practices. The Cowboys also are struggling to find a replacement for kicker/punter Billy Vinnedge.

Fast Fact: Wyoming, which lost 12 fumbles and threw 19 interceptions in 2007, ranked last in the MWC and 112th in the NCAA in turnover margin (minus-1.0 per game). The Cowboys committed five turnovers in last season’s loss to Air Force including a fumble that Bobby Giannini returned 85 yards for a game-changing touchdown. Wyoming has to improve in this area if it wants to compete for the MWC crown.

What Caught My Eye: This is Year Six of the Joe Glenn Era. And I think that ol’ Cowboy Joe officially has to be considered on the hot seat.

Since the 2004 season when Wyoming beat UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl, the Cowboys have struggled, going 15-20, including 9-15 in the MWC. And two of the last three seasons have been marked by disastrous collapses. In 2005 the Cowboys started 4-1 before losing six straight. Wyoming started 4-1 last season as well, but then lost six of its final seven, including a 50-0 loss to Utah (which was accompanied by Middle-Finger-Gate – Glenn giving Kyle Whittingham a one-fingered salute after the Utes kicked an onsides kick with the game well in hand).

So, you combine all the returning talent with recent disappointment and I think it equals this: Glenn has to win now.

Final Thought: If Wyoming can sort out its quarterback situation, it could be a surprise team in the conference. But the Cowboys will be tested with games on the road against BYU, New Mexico, TCU and Tennessee.

Way Early Line vs. AF: Wyoming -6. The Cowboys get Air Force in Laramie in the second week of the season when Air Force’s neophyte team still will be getting its collective feet wet. This game will be a big-time tone-setter for both teams.

More on the Pro Policies

I’ll be a talking about the service academies' pro policies, and specifically Army's Alternative Service Option, on TV tonight. I'll be a guest on College Sports Tonight, a program on CBS College Sports (formerly CSTV). The show will air at 5 (MT) and again at 9.

Tune in and watch why I write for a living instead of working for a TV network.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

DeBerry Foundation 5K Run & Walk Saturday

Don’t forget about a great event for a great cause this weekend.

On Saturday afternoon at 3, the Fisher DeBerry 5K Run and Walk will be held – rain or shine – at America the Beautiful Park. Coach DeBerry will be there along with special guest Rudy Ruettiger – the famous Notre Dame walk-on who inspired the movie Rudy. Coach DeBerry and Rudy will present medals to the top three finishers in each race and age category.

The registration fee for adults is $20 before 6 p.m. Friday and $25 the day of the race. The fee for children and students is $15 before 6 p.m. Friday and $20 the day of the race. Each participant will receive a t-shirt, and all registrants will be eligible to win raffle prizes and get free tickets to a Colorado Springs Sky Sox game. Food from Chick-fil-A will be provided.

The event benefits the Colorado Springs FCA, Santa’s Workshop and Young Lives.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rabold Update/Pro Policy Update

According to Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, outside linebacker John Rabold will try out with the Denver Broncos on Thursday.

Rabold won’t be participating in a mini-camp, like inside linebacker Drew Fowler did with the Detroit Lions and running back/receiver/returner Chad Hall did with the Atlanta Falcons. But it’s at least a chance to show what he can do. Calhoun said if Rabold impresses the Broncos, he could get invited to a camp.

Here’s a big problem for all Air Force players trying to catch on with NFL teams: With NFL Europe folding, the NFL now allows teams to have only 80 players on their rosters at the start of training camp. There are no additional exemptions. That cut out about eight players on each of the 30 teams and undoubtedly has made teams less likely to invite kids who will have to serve on active duty in the military for two years before getting a chance to play.

Speaking of that two-year policy …

David Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, has sent a letter to the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force to clarify the Department of Defense policy regarding officers playing professional sports, Air Force Academy sports information director Troy Garnhart said.

The policy, issued last August and implemented on Jan. 1, 2008, states officers must serve two years of active duty before applying for excess leave or early release from active duty to pursue a professional sports career.

But while Air Force and Navy both are following that policy closely, Army players are able to go straight to the NFL as long as they earn a roster spot. Why? In 2005 the Army instituted what it calls its Alternative Service Option Program. It allows graduates who remain on rosters to play professionally and serve as part-time Army recruiters.

Army basically is saying that program overrules the DoD policy.

While I don’t know this for sure, I’m guessing Chu’s letter was sent to try to rein in Army – to encourage strongly that Army follow the DoD policy to the letter like Air Force and Navy.

Army’s policy came under scrutiny after Caleb Campbell, an Army defensive back, was selected in the seventh round of the recent NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. The selection brought tons of publicity to Campbell and Army. And not all of it was positive.

Folks at both Air Force and Navy think the rules should be the same for all three service academies. They think Army’s policy gives it a recruiting advantage over its service academy rivals. And many question how Army could justify it. The DoD policy, after all, is extremely clear: You must serve two years of active duty before you play pro ball. As Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told The Annapolis Capital, “Army has redefined active duty to include playing professional sports.”

Whether Chu’s letter will cause the Army to alter its policy is uncertain. When I inquired about Army’s policy shortly after the draft, Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a press officer for the department of defense, wrote me an e-mail that stated, in part, “it is up to the Military Departments to interpret and apply that policy.”

I guess Army could stick by its interpretation and contend playing professional sports while serving as a part-time recruiter constitutes active duty service.

But even if it does, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of the discussion on this policy.

AJC Hall Article

Nice story on Chad Hall’s tryout with the Atlanta Falcons in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today.

Here’s the link.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

First Look: New Mexico

With spring football in the rearview mirror and the preseason still a few months away, I’m going to throw out some initial observations about Air Force’s 2008 opponents from time to time.

I’m going to go in no particular order and there won’t be a set schedule. I’ll just pass on some thoughts from talking to colleagues and reading stories from other media outlets.

I was a guest on The Mtn.’s Around The Mountain show this week, and one of the teams we discussed was New Mexico. So I’m starting with the Lobos.

2007 Record:
Off/Def Starters Back: 6/6
Last Year vs. AF: New Mexico 34, Air Force 31
This Year vs. AF: Oct. 23 (Thursday) at Air Force

Roster Report: The Lobos lost a pair of first-team All-Mountain West Conference receivers to graduation – Marcus Smith and Travis Brown. They combined to catch 167 passes for 2,156 yards and 10 touchdowns. But the Lobos, while inexperienced overall, have starters back at key positions. Junior-to-be Donavan Porterie returns at quarterback after passing for 3,006 yards and 15 touchdowns last year; Senior-to-be Rodney Ferguson, coming off back-to-back first-team all-league and 1,000-yard campaigns, returns as running back; And the Lobos have both starting corners back from their 2007 squad.

Fast Fact: New Mexico has won at least six games in each of the last seven seasons and gone to five bowl games in that stretch. But it hasn’t finished better than second in conference play during that time, and last season’s nine victories were its most in one season since Rocky Long took over as head coach before the 1998 campaign.

What Caught My Eye: The Lobos’ schedule. Yikes. New Mexico has arguably the toughest slate of any Mountain West Conference team this season, especially early.

The Lobos are the only team in the conference without a bye week (Air Force had that distinction last season) and the only team other than UNLV that will not play a Division I-AA squad.

(Note: in this blog, I heretofore am refusing to use the term “Football Championship Subdivision” – the new moniker for Division I-AA. Every time I write “Football Championship Subdivision” in the paper I have to write “Football Championship Subdivision – formerly Division I-AA,” because most people don’t know what the heck the “Football Championship Subdivision” is. So consider this my protest to this stupid name change. Back to the Lobos’ schedule.)

The Lobos open with conference heavyweight TCU on Aug. 30, then check out their September: Home games against Texas A&M and Arizona, followed by road games at Tulsa (which went 10-4 and beat BYU last season) and at in-state rival New Mexico State.

Greg Archuleta, the Albuquerque Journal’s excellent New Mexico football beat writer called the Lobos’ nonconference slate “one of the toughest” in Long’s 11 seasons.

Final Thought: New Mexico probably can extend its streak of seasons with at least six wins, but it will be tough, considering the schedule.

Jake's Way Early Line vs. AF: New Mexico -2.5.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Broekhuis Picks AFA Prep

Colorado Springs Christian School senior center Taylor Broekhuis, The Gazette’s 2007-08 Small Schools Boys Basketball Player of the Year, has committed to play at Air Force Academy’s prep school.

The 6-foot-9 Broekhuis averaged 17.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per game in leading the Lions to the 2008 3A state championship game. He chose the academy prep school over Colorado State, Denver and Northern Colorado.

“For me it was pretty much the fact that they had recruited me for a long time, almost a year and a half, and I felt really comfortable with the coaching staff,” said Broekhuis, who added that assistant Rob Pryor played a major role in his recruitment. “The facilities there are phenomenal, and it was kind of a gut feeling that I wanted to go there.”

Broekhuis said coaches projected him as a forward or post in the Air Force offense. He fits well in the offense because he is mobile and can handle the ball.

Broekhuis said the only reason he did not commit earlier was because he was wary of the military commitment at the academy.

“That’s what held up the decision for so long,” he said. “But I think I can handle it.”

Broekhuis said his grandfather was in the Air Force and “he was kind of pushing for Air Force the whole time.”

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fowler, Hall Invited to Camps

Senior inside linebacker Drew Fowler and senior running back/receiver/returner Chad Hall have been invited to try out with NFL teams, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said Friday.

Fowler is in Detroit for a tryout with the Lions this weekend, while Hall will participate in a tryout with his hometown Atlanta Falcons next weekend. Neither player has signed a free agent contract. Both simply are trying out with those teams.

Fowler will take part in the Lions’ rookie camp. According to a story that appeared in The Grand Rapids Press earlier this week, the camp will include Detroit’s nine drafted rookies – including Army defensive back Caleb Campbell – along with “about 10 undrafted free agents and about 15 or 20 tryout players.”

The article went on to say that the the Lions' draft picks and their undrafted free agents “likely” would be back for training camp, but that the tryout players, like Fowler, “will have to show enough to earn an invitation back.”

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More Congressional Bowl Thoughts

On Wednesday, the NCAA licensed the Congressional Bowl, which, according to officials, wants to invite a service academy team every year – a rotation of Navy, Army and Air Force.

Navy is locked in for ’08 (if it wins six games and, thus, becomes bowl eligible), and Army has signed on for ’09.

Bowl officials want Air Force in ’10. Can it happen?

It will be complicated, as Air Force is affiliated with the Mountain West Conference, while Navy and Army are independent. But it's not out of the realm of possibility as long as the league athletic directors approve a plan.

As explained in the above linked article, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun likes the idea of securing direct tie-ins with bowl games like Navy has had in recent years (for instance with the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl and the 2008 Congressional Bowl).

Calhoun wants the academy to be aggressive in its pursuit of such partnerships because he thinks the opportunity to play in the postseason is an enormous benefit to the program. It provides additional practice days and creates publicity for and excitement within the program.

A bowl in D.C. is especially intriguing because of the amount of graduates living in the area, not to mention the proximity of several Air Force bases and the Pentagon.

Moreover, he worries that Air Force could be left out of the postseason even if it becomes bowl eligible. Remember, even as late as early November in 2007, when the Falcons were 6-3 and technically bowl eligible, there were worries that they wouldn’t make it to a postseason game.

BYU seemed all but locked into the Las Vegas Bowl (even if Air Force had tied the Cougars for the league title – still a possibility at that point – the widespread belief was that the LV Bowl would select BYU). The Poinsettia Bowl was out because Navy was well on its way to securing the aforementioned automatic bid and the bowl wouldn’t host a re-match (Navy and Air Force played earlier in the year). That left the New Mexico Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl for what looked to be three bowl eligible teams – Air Force, New Mexico and TCU.

Well, everything worked out, as Air Force accepted a bid to the Armed Forces Bowl and TCU snuck into the Texas Bowl because the Big 12, with which the Texas Bowl had an affiliation, sent two teams to the BCS and thus did not have a bowl eligible team for the Texas Bowl.

But what if the Big 12 did have a team? Then one of the bowl eligible MWC teams would have been left out, as happened to Wyoming in 2006 – the Cowboys were bowl eligible at 6-6 and did not go bowling. In 2007 there were 32 bowl games for 71 bowl eligible teams.

Calhoun believes at least five of the MWC’s nine teams typically will become bowl eligible each year. And the MWC has just four bowl tie-ins. (They might have had five, but on Wednesday the proposed Rocky Mountain Bowl, which would have been held in Salt Lake City and pitted a MWC team against a team from the Western Athletic Conference, was denied a license). That makes a direct tie-in with the Congressional Bowl a good solution, he said.

“First and foremost, it’s another bowl opportunity,” Calhoun said. “We’re always going to have five (teams) eligible, some years six. So what (a partnership with the Congressional Bowl) does now is maybe it frees up a year where if a team is 6-6, they go to a bowl.”

Calhoun knows why the conference is hesitant: Let’s say Air Force makes a deal with the Congressional Bowl in 2010 that says if the Falcons are bowl eligible, they get an automatic bid to the bowl. What happens if the Falcons go 10-2 that year and win or tie for the conference title? The league would want them in one of its own bowl games.

But Calhoun is quick to remind folks that last year, though Air Force finished second in the league, it could not be chosen by the Poinsettia Bowl, which has second pick of MWC teams, because of the deal with Navy.

So what’s the solution? According to Javan Hedlund, the associate commissioner for communications at the MWC, a potential Air Force tie-in with the Congressional Bowl would have to be approved by all the conference ADs and the league’s bowl partners.

Here’s my plan: Let Air Force arrange its own tie-in with the Congressional Bowl every three years. It will stipulate that Air Force will go to the Congressional Bowl if it becomes bowl eligible unless A) the Falcons win the league title, in which case the Las Vegas Bowl can take them, or B) the Falcons are one of only four bowl-eligible MWC teams and they need to fill a spot in one of the MWC’s four bowls.

How does that not make sense for everyone? It gives the league a chance to keep the Falcons if they win the MWC championship and guarantees the league will fill its four bowl slots. But it also gives the Falcons a chance to play a game that embraces service academies (like the Armed Forces Bowl) in an area that has plenty of built-in graduates and fans.

Air Force was approached by the bowl game but referred the game to the MWC, as its first obligation is the league. But Calhoun’s right. This is a no-brainer.

The academy and the league need to make it happen.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Congressional Bowl Licensed

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun wants the academy to pursue direct tie-ins with bowl games similar to what Navy had with the Poinsettia Bowl last year.

You become bowl eligible (by winning six or more games), you get an automatic invite to the bowl with which you have a direct tie-in.

There appears to be a perfect scenario for such a partnership in the Congressional Bowl, which was sanctioned by the NCAA on Wednesday along with the St. Petersburg Bowl. Those two bowl games will join the 32 existing bowl games that were played last season and were licensed again by the NCAA Postseason Football Licensing Subcommittee on Wednesday. The proposed Rocky Mountain Bowl in Salt Lake City was not licensed.

The 2008 Congressional Bowl will feature Navy (if it reaches six victories and thus becomes “bowl eligible”) against a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The bowl has a deal in place with Army for the 2009 game and would like to arrange a future tie-in with Air Force.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Injury/NFL Updates

Spoke with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun today and got some updates on some of the Falcons’ injured players:

-Outside linebacker Hunter Altman, who had an arthroscopic procedure on his right ankle on April 11 (the day before the final spring scrimmage), is “doing pretty much everything right now,” Calhoun said. Altman is “a little limited,” pushing off his right foot, Calhoun said, but he should be back to full strength by May 15.

-Tailback Savier Stephens is recovering from hernia surgery and is in rehab, Calhoun said. “He’s able to do some of the core work, and he ought to be able to do everything in early June,” Cahoun said.

-Nose guard Jared Marvin continues to rehab his surgically repaired right knee. Calhoun said Marvin is looking at a mid-September return. …

Calhoun also said that senior linebackers Drew Fowler and John Rabold are drawing interest from some NFL teams – Fowler with the Lions, Rabold with the Chiefs, specifically. Both are looking to sign with teams as undrafted free agents, participate in camps during the next two years and then join the teams (while continuing to serve in the reserves) after completing two years of active duty.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cover Boys

Air Force’s 2008 football team will be one of the youngest in academy history, according to coach Troy Calhoun.

The media guide – which has not yet been released – will suggest as much.

Last year the media guide featured all seniors on the front and back covers. Linebacker Drew Fowler, quarterback Shaun Carney and fullback Ryan Williams were on the front, while running back/receiver Chad Hall, linebacker John Rabold and safety Bobby Giannini were on the back.

This year’s media guide, according to sports information director Troy Garnhart, will feature seven players in some combination on the front and back. There will be four seniors (defensive end Ryan Kemp, linebacker Hunter Altman, tight end Travis Dekker and kicker/punter Ryan Harrison), two juniors (safety Chris Thomas and guard Nick Charles) and a sophomore (Reggie Rembert).

Garnhart said he can't remember a sophomore appearing on the cover of the media guide in his approximately 20 years at the academy and that it traditionally has been reserved for upperclassmen. However, he said a sophomore appearing might just suggest a change in philosophy under Calhoun - the best players are featured, regardless of class. ...

Air Force seniors have received their post-graduate assignments, and four football players from the Class of 2008 will stay around the academy next year. Fowler and Carney will serve as graduate assistants for the Air Force football team, while Blaine Guenther and Hall will serve as graduate assistants for the academy prep school's football team.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why the Price Increases?

As noted in this article that appeared in Tuesday’s edition of The Gazette, Air Force has raised prices for football season tickets.

There were across-the-board price increases, and most ticket prices went up about five percent. Such increases are immediately understandable. The academy had not raised prices in three years, and many sections had not seen an increase in five years. Plus, Air Force is coming off a surprisingly successful 9-4 campaign and wants to capitalize on that momentum.

But the premium seats at Falcon Stadium – four sections near the 50-yard line – were raised about 56 percent. And that increase shocked – if not angered – some season-ticket holders, some of whom expressed their displeasure to The Gazette.

The academy, however, had reasons for the increase, said Chris Peludat, Air Force’s assistant athletic director for tickets and marketing. And it was not given the opportunity to explain those reasons in the aforementioned article. It is given that opportunity here.

Peludat said that while the prices for 50-yard line seats increased by $100 ($175 to $275), there is $65 in value added to those seats. The academy is installing cushioned seat backs in those sections (a $35 value, Peludat said) and each individual game ticket for those seats will include $5 of stored value that can be used at concessions stands like a debit card for that particular game.

“So it wasn’t just a $100 increase and they’re getting nothing for it,” Peludat said.

And while the increase was dramatic, Air Force’s tickets still are among the lowest in the Mountain West Conference and are roughly commensurate to those at Army and Navy.

If Air Force season ticket holders are members of the Blue and Silver Club, they receive a 15 percent discount on tickets (up to four). Factoring in that discount makes Air Force’s season tickets (around the 50-yard line) the lowest in the league.

(Note: The base prices for season tickets in premium areas are lower at some other schools, but those schools require minimum donations as well. For instance, according to academy research, Wyoming season tickets near the 50 are $168 but require a $500 per-seat donation.)

“We think our prices are very fair and in line with what other schools are charging, what Army and Navy are charging, plus ours include benefits,” Peludat said. “Nobody’s giving you $5 per game to spend. The seat-back is nice, not every school has that. We’re bringing things in to try to make those sections nicer, and there’s cost associated with that. We did raise the price, but we’re giving 65 percent of that increase back to our fans. Some like that and some don’t.”

While Air Force premium tickets still are affordable in relation to other conference schools, it was the dramatic increase that might have caught fans off guard. Peludat understood that sentiment.

“It probably would have gone over easier, especially in the center section, if we had increased prices incrementally each year,” he said. “It might have been easier to swallow.”

So what’s the increase’s bottom-line effect on season ticket sales? While Peludat acknowledged they’ve received some upset phone calls, he said it’s far too early in the renewal process to tell.

“We don’t keep a tote board, but if we did, it’s been pretty equal as far as complaints versus people buying in,” he said.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Coaching Clinics

Air Force football coaches are on the road this week, taking some time to learn from their peers.

Offensive coaches visited West Virginia spring practices and now are at the University of Arizona. Defensive coaches are visiting Clemson and UCLA.

The Falcons’ coaches are making these visits to watch how other programs work and to see if there’s anything they are doing schematically that might work well at the academy. “Professional development,” is how Calhoun explained it.

Air Force’s coaches were unable to make such trips last year because Calhoun had just been hired and was scrambling to get settled. But he wants to make visiting other schools an annual activity, along with watching plenty of film of other schools.

“I just think it’s really healthy to do, and sometimes you pick up things where you think, ‘Hey, maybe in two, three years when so-and-so and so-and-so are juniors at the academy, that’s something that could work pretty well for us,’” Calhoun said via phone from Arizona Thursday afternoon. “I just think you’ve got to do it.”

Calhoun said “a couple” teams visited Air Force this spring, “and that’s something we try to encourage – let them know they’re welcome.”

But something tells me Navy and BYU coaches wouldn’t exactly be greeted with open arms.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

AF-Houston Time, TV Set

Kickoff for the Air Force football team’s third game of the 2008 season – at Houston on Sept. 13 – has been set for 1:30 p.m. (MT), according to an academy release.

That means the Falcons likely will have to deal with hot and humid conditions. The game will begin at 2:30 local time, about the hottest part of the day, and – according to a National Weather Service site I visited – the typical high for Sept. 13 in Houston is 90 degrees. Air Force players' conditioning will be tested.

Air Force also announced the Houston game will be televised nationally by CBS College Sports Network, formerly known as College Sports Television (CSTV).

That gives Air Force seven nationally televised regular season contests in 2008. The Falcons’ games at Wyoming (Sept. 6) and at home against New Mexico (Oct. 23) and BYU (Nov. 15) also will be televised by CBS College Sports Network. In addition, Air Force’s home games against Utah (Sept. 20) and Navy (Oct. 4) and its regular season finale at TCU (Nov. 22) will be televised on Versus.

Air Force’s game at Army (Nov. 1) is expected to be televised by one of the ESPN family of networks.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Basketball Banquet Review

Thought I’d pass along some highlights from Wednesday night’s men’s basketball banquet for those of you unable to attend.

-As one would expect, senior guard Tim Anderson was given the program’s top honor – the Bob Spear Award. Named after a former coach (known as the father of Air Force basketball), the award is given to “the student-athlete that is outstanding in all areas of the academy – academics, athletics and military performance.”

Anderson was a no-brainer pick.

Though he was a second-team All-Mountain West Conference selection and the league’s defensive player of the year, Anderson never was fully appreciated during his career by those outside academy grounds. It had something to do with his quiet demeanor, and it was in part because he played his junior season in the shadows of the academy’s outstanding Class of 2007. Mostly, though, it was because some of his most valuable contributions were little things that casual fans don’t notice – deflecting passes, picking up charges, helping out on defense.

He led the 2007-08 Falcons in scoring, assists and steals, and he’ll graduate ranked No. 2 at the academy in career games played and career steals – behind Jacob Burtschi in both candidates.

Anderson won’t be leaving the program totally, however. He’ll be back next year to serve as an assistant coach for the prep school’s team.

-Junior Andrew Henke was given the Falcon Award, “given to the player that gives 100 percent regardless of the situation and his place on the team.”

Henke won the award in large part because he willingly accepted the role of “sixth man” even though he played the minutes of a starter, led the team in rebounding and ranked second on the team in scoring.

Coaches often like to say that who starts is insignificant. Back when I covered the Nuggets, George Karl would scoff when I asked him about his starting lineup. He said that was something that wasn’t a big deal and that “you guys” (the media) blew out of proportion.

But players care. They’re lying if they say they don’t. And Henke, though he deserved to start (as it said several times in this blog and multiple times in columns in The Gazette), never complained.

“He put himself behind the team,” Reynolds said.

-Anderson and senior Eric Kenzik shared the Captain’s Award, and senior Keith Maren was given the Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year award.

-Athletic director Hans Mueh praised the coaches and the team, calling it one “that will forever leave its mark on the academy.” Mueh said he is “as proud of this program now as I’ve ever been.”

-Head trainer Larry Willock, who is retiring after 14 seasons at the academy, was given a framed No. 14 Air Force jersey.

“I’ve been in coaching for 27 years, and he’s the best,” said Reynolds, who fought back tears as he introduced Willock. “There’s no one close.”

-Reynolds said Air Force is trying to kick off the 2008-09 campaign with the second Air Force Classic. The tournament debuted last season. He also said there are preliminary plans to hold a second tournament at World Arena.

The schedule, however, is coming together quite slowly as teams are shopping for the best deals for their programs.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Reynolds said. “What we’re finding is more and more teams are paying a lot more money to get home games. Anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000 is what the big-time boys are paying to get home games. So consequently, it’s tougher. We’ve had some dialogue with teams. It’s just a work in progress.”

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rabold Hopeful for NFL Chance

Ran into John Rabold outside the Air Force football locker room the other day.

Rabold, who will graduate in May, is one of several Air Force seniors hoping to continue his football career in the pros.

I think it’s safe to say Rabold has been working hard to make that happen.

The outside linebacker, who earned first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors last fall, looks much bigger after a few months of hitting the weights. Rabold, who was listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds last season, said he’s up to about 250. And it looks like all muscle.

According to Rabold, his agent has been getting calls from NFL teams. Most are wary of his military commitment, however, and that likely means he will go undrafted.

(Air Force grads are required to spend five years on active duty, though those who have the opportunity to land a job that will have public relations benefits for the Air Force – like playing in the NFL – can get an early release from active duty. Instead of their final three years of active duty, they’d serve six in the reserves.)

Rabold hopes if he does not get drafted a team will sign him as a free agent. He’d then use his 60 days of leave following graduation to participate in that team’s preseason camps. He’d then stay in shape while on active duty, use subsequent leave time to take part in other team camps and then hopefully make the team after two years of active duty service.

Sounds like a tall order, but Rabold seems like he is serious about making it happen. And from what I’ve heard, Rabold is the most intriguing of the Air Force seniors with pro aspirations (including inside linebacker Drew Fowler and receiver/running back/returner Chad Hall, among others) to NFL scouts.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Scrimmage Review

As I wrote in my article for Sunday’s Gazette, I thought the defense controlled most of Saturday’s controlled scrimmage.

The defense had trouble stopping the quarterback draw and there were some missed tackles, but for the most part I thought it had the better of the offense. Anyway, here are some quick-hit thoughts from the final day of spring practice:

-Liked the way freshman tailback Kyle Lumpkin ran with the ball on one possession late in the day. He had six carries for 40 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown, on the 60-yard drive.

“He had the one fumble today, which I think is unacceptable, but he’s got a little shake to him, and I just love the kid,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “Attitude-wise, you’re around him as a kid, it’s contagious with the kind of determination he has and how much he loves football.”

-The defensive line played extremely well, led by Ben Garland, who forced and recovered a fumble, and Jake Paulson. Also thought sophomore linebacker Myles Morales stood out. He had a sack and a couple tackles for losses and always seemed to be around the ball.

-Thought freshman receiver Kevin Fogler played well. He made a bunch of grabs and in the situational part of the scrimmage (when the first-team offense would run three straight third-and-2 or third-and-6 plays) he hauled in a 46-yard strike from junior quarterback Shea Smith.

-That was Smith’s finest moment of the practice. He stood in the pocket and launched the ball just before absorbing a big hit. It was impressive enough that he put a deep ball on the money. More impressive that he did it knowing he was about to get stung.

-While quarterback Eric Herbort was really hard on himself after practice, I thought he had a few good moments, specifically the 60-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Hemphill.

-Hemphill again flashed his potential with that grab but it was balanced out by a pair of drops.

-This just in: Ryan Harrison is good.

-Junior tight end Keith Madsen made a great catch in traffic for a 14-yard gain. But the tight ends were relatively quiet otherwise.

-Spoke to senior-to-be nose guard Jared Marvin in the tunnel prior to the scrimmage. Marvin, one of five returning defensive starters, tore both the ACL and MCL in his right knee early in spring practice and had surgery on March 17.

Calhoun had told me that Marvin would need five to seven months of rehabilitation, and I’ve been told that’s pretty much standard for the type of injury he suffered. But coaches rave about Marvin’s toughness and work ethic, and Calhoun said Marvin likely would be back “sooner than it’s supposed to be.”

Marvin thinks so too.

He was doing some exercises when I saw him, and he said his rehab was going well, and he is getting his range of motion back in his leg. According to my math, five months from March 17 is August 17. So I asked if he would be back in late August.

“What?” he said. “Early August.”

It was impossible not to believe him.

-As I’ve written before, defensive line coach Ron Burton is one of my favorite coaches to watch during practices because of his intensity, energy and attention to detail. He’s also one of the more entertaining guys on the field.

Saturday he stopped freshman defensive end William Dallas as Dallas ran onto the field with the third-team defense. Dallas, you see, was wearing around his waist one of those hand-warmer pouches that you’ll often see quarterbacks, receivers and kickers using. Burton obviously didn’t approve.

“What are you doin’ with that mess on?” Burton asked. “Makes you look soft.”

Dallas shed the hand-warmer and tossed it to a manager before lining up with his teammates.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Spring Game, er, Controlled Scrimmage Preview

Air Force will wrap up spring practice tomorrow at Falcon Stadium, but it won’t be with a Blue-Silver Game of years past.

Like last spring, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun will finish spring drills with a practice that includes a controlled scrimmage. Instead of dividing players into two teams (Blue and Silver) and playing an actual game with a final score, Calhoun will keep units together and pit them against each other in a series of situations. So the No. 1 offense will drive against the No. 2 defense, the No. 2 offense will face the No. 1 defense, etc.

Calhoun admits that it “probably takes a hair bit away from the entertainment aspect of it because you don’t have two teams.” But he believes this type of format is necessary – especially with such a young and inexperienced squad.

“We just haven’t had that many guys that have spent time together playing together,” he said. “And I think to develop that kind of chemistry in an 11-on-11 environment where the coaches are off the field, we’ve got to get as much of that as we possibly can. And I think as soon as you start splitting teams up, then that Mike (LB) and that Will (LB) are on a different team and their communication – they don’t quite get a chance to get to play together quite as frequently. That center and the right guard are split up. That quarterback and a couple receivers. I just think it will work better this way.”

“The other thing is I think you’re able to isolate many more situations. Now you can truly focus on playing 11 on 11 and executing situations rather than thinking you’re going to be on two different teams. We’re going to compete, I just think we’ll get so much more done production-wise. “

And you can still glean plenty from this type of scrimmage. Here’s what I’ll be watching:

1) The quarterbacks, of course. Junior-to-be Eric Herbort has played well and moved into the starting spot on the Falcons’ two-deep chart, but senior-to-be Shea Smith has been rock solid as ever. The starting role for the 2008 opener won’t be won tomorrow, but it’s the last chance to see both signal-callers in action.

2) Reggie Rembert. As discussed in the post below, Rembert – a starting corner – has spent a few practices with the offense this spring because he gives an attack with few playmakers an explosive threat. I’ll be interested to see what kind of impact he makes with the ball in his hands.

3) The inside linebackers and cornerbacks. Air Force’s defensive line is arguably the deepest and most talented unit on the team. The outside linebackers and safeties are talented and relatively experienced. But save for Rembert, the corners are brand new. And so are the inside linebackers. Will any step up tomorrow?

4) The tailbacks. Air Force is paper thin at this position right now with Savier Stephens injured and Brenton Byrd playing corner. How will Kyle Lumpkin (who already has one of my favorite nicknames of 2008 – the obvious but perfect-for-a-back “Lump"), D.J. Ford and Chase Wilke look at full speed?

5) Who are the leaders? Air Force lost 26 seniors from last year’s team. It will be interesting to see who takes on a leadership role.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rembert Looks Good in Blue

Went to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in San Jose on Saturday night. Amazing show.

To kick off the encore, Bruce played his “Detroit Medley,” which begins and ends with him covering “Devil with a Blue Dress On.”

So what does that have to do with Falcon football? Well, nothing really. Except that I started to hear the song in my head this afternoon at practice after I saw Reggie with a blue shirt on.

That’d be freshman Reggie Rembert – who will start at one cornerback spot next season – donning the color worn at practice by Air Force offensive players.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said before the start of spring practice that he’d like to try using Rembert – the most explosive player on his roster – on offense in addition to defense. And Thursday, for the third time in 14 spring practices, Rembert practiced with the offense, lining up at the Falcons’ Z receiver spot – a hybrid running back/receiver position.

“He said after the end of the (2007 season) that we were going to try it out, and if I can’t handle it, then we’ll try it next year," Rembert said, referring to the following spring. “But hopefully he thinks I’m handling it alright.”

So, is he?

It was tough to get a really good read Thursday because, thanks to the weather, the team practiced indoors in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. But I’ll say this: Of the players on the Air Force roster right now – not counting incoming freshmen – Rembert has the most burst of anyone that touches the ball.

Last year, when he first stepped on the field in August, Rembert immediately stood out because of his speed, agility and play-making ability. It was the same Thursday. He just seemed to have that extra little zip when he got the ball in his hands.

Granted, Air Force doesn’t have a lot of dynamic playmakers on this team, so Rembert looks that much faster. But look for him to become one of the Falcons’ top weapons.

Calhoun said in a perfect world Rembert would play 12 to 15 snaps per game, but “that might be a bit much this year,” he said. “But maybe this year is at a half dozen every other game or something like that. We’ll just have to see.”

Rembert also is handling punt and kickoff returns. But Calhoun has said defense – where he played last season and even started one game in place of an ill Carson Bird – will be his first priority.

“If there’s ever a moment where I think it’s too much,” Calhoun said of playing both ways, “then we will not do it.”

But both Calhoun and Rembert seem confident that Rembert can handle it. Rembert said after three practices with the offense he feels comfortable at Z and knows all the plays. However, he said he doesn’t have the signals for the plays down perfectly. And he’ll need to because Air Force runs a no-huddle offense and gets its plays via signals from the sideline.

“He’s still learning his way a little bit, but that’s not a real difficult spot to learn,” Calhoun said of the Z receiver position. “So I think he can do it. During August he’s going to have to play both sides a little bit for us to make it feasible once we get into the season.”

Rembert said he likes playing both corner and Z, but “I like having the ball,” he said.

Fans will like watching him with it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Who's Gonna Catch it?

With former four-year starting quarterback Shaun Carney out of eligibility, Air Force is looking for a new signal-caller (a subject that will be explored in detail in my story that is scheduled to appear inThursday's Gazette).

But whoever the quarterback is in 2008, he’ll be inexperienced. And I think that makes the performance of the Falcons’ receivers incredibly important to the success of the Air Force offense.

So I thought I’d pass along some thoughts on the Falcons’ potential 2008 pass catchers.

X Receiver
Who’s Graduating: Mark Root. The reliable 6-foot-2 receiver started the majority of the Falcons’ games last year. Root ranked second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards with 28 and 385, respectively. He also caught a pair of touchdown passes.

Who’s Back: Spencer Armstrong and Sean Quintana. Those two give the Falcons a deep threat and a dependable possession receiver, respectively.

Armstrong, who will be a senior next year, was listed as the Falcons’ backup at X when spring practice started. He was not on the second two-deep chart released early last week, but since then, Armstrong has had several quality practices, in particular last Saturday when he made an impressive leaping catch in the end zone on the last play of the day. Those performances earned him the starting spot on the depth chart released Tuesday by Air Force coach Troy Calhoun (scroll down to the post below to see the full depth chart).

Armstrong was a non-factor early last year as he struggled to get on the field. But he came on late and made several big plays down the stretch – including a touchdown on a reverse against Notre Dame and a 48-yard touchdown reception against Army.

“He did some really good things at the end of the year,” Calhoun said. “But I think now he’s really ready to emerge and be an Air Force football player that’s a senior.”

Quintana, who will be a junior next fall, was listed as the starter at X on the Falcons’ first two two-deep charts before slipping to backup on the chart released Tuesday. Quintana emerged from obscurity in practices last August by catching whatever was thrown in his general direction. He made eight catches for 67 yards and a score in 2007.

Who Else: Freshman Kevin Fogler played on the Falcons’ junior varsity in 2007 but was impressive enough early in spring practice to earn the backup spot on Air Force’s second two-deep chart. The 6-6 Fogler “had some problems,” last week, Thiessen said, with some drops and a busted assignment and dropped off the chart released Tuesday. But he has shown plenty of potential this spring. Like Quintana, he is more of a possession receiver.

“He’s got a little bigger body, and he’s more physical,” Thiessen said. “He plays long, extends really well to fight for the football.”

Thiessen said the Falcons’ top three X receivers right now are Armstrong, Quintana and Fogler, but that Anthony Hemphill and Josh Cousins will push for playing time.

Z Receiver
Who’s Graduating:
Chad Hall. You might have heard of him. Only player in the nation to lead his team in rushing yards (1,478), receiving yards (524) and all-purpose yards (2,683).

Who’s Back: Ty Paffett. Calhoun has said all positions on his team are open, but Paffett is pretty well entrenched as the Falcons’ starter at Z. Paffett got good experience last year, playing the position when Hall lined up at tailback, and he has breakaway speed. Much more on Paffett in The Gazette later this week.

Who Else: Kyle Halderman and Brett Skene. Both players will be sophomores next year, though Halderman has a bit of an advantage as he played and traveled with the varsity the second half of last season.

“He got coached a lot last year, and we really came into spring expecting him to be the next guy,” behind Paffett, Air Force receivers coach Mike Thiessen said. “He’s got some growing up to do, he’s young, but that’s alright.”

Tight End
Who’s Graduating:
Chris Evans, who played sparingly last year.

Who’s Back: Travis Dekker, Keith Madsen, Steve Shaffer. After years when the tight end seemed borderline extinct at Air Force, it was brought back by Calhoun. Last season Travis Dekker caught 25 passes for 382 yards and two scores. The previous four seasons Air Force tight ends caught 19 combined passes.

The renewed emphasis on getting the tight end the ball is a good thing for the Falcons in 2008. Other than a dominant ground game that can relieve pressure from the passing game, nothing is better for an inexperienced quarterback than a big, reliable tight end. The Falcons have three.

Dekker, who will be a senior in 2008, clearly is the starter after ranking third in receptions in 2007 for Air Force. “I thought Travis played well for us last year,” Calhoun said. “He’s going to have to play even better this year. I think we’ve got to keep finding ways to be really resourceful to get him the ball.”

Madsen, who also will be a senior in 2008, caught five passes for 49 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2007.

“I thought early in (2007), clearly, I thought Madsen was a pretty good football player for us,” Calhoun said. “I thought in the first half against Notre Dame, when he started, he was not very good. I thought in the second half of the game against Notre Dame, I thought he was a pretty solid football player. But it can’t be that temperature one time is at 30 degrees and all of a sudden it goes to 210 degrees – Madsen’s got to find some consistency.”

Madsen started spring as the Falcons’ backup at tight end, but Shaffer has supplanted him. Shaffer, who will be a sophomore in the fall, is big and athletic and talented. Calhoun said he “may have played better than Madsen at the end of (2007), but he wasn’t ready because he was a freshman.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

New Depth Chart

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun released a new two-deep chart on Tuesday. It is the third depth chart of spring practices and contains just two changes:

-At X Receiver, Spencer Armstrong now is listed as the starter, bumping Sean Quintana to backup and Kevin Fogler off the chart

-At TB, junior-to-be Devon Ford now is listed as the backup to Kyle Lumpkin.

The full chart is below. Again, the years listed for each player are what they’ll be in the fall. For example, Spencer Armstrong is a junior, but he’ll be a senior in the fall.

WR- X 26 Spencer Armstrong, Sr.
81 Sean Quintana, Jr.

TE 88 Travis Dekker, Sr.
84 Steve Shaffer, So.

LT 79 Keith Williams, Sr.
70 Matt Markling, So.

LG 57 Nick Charles, Jr.
64 Jake Morrow, So.

C 63 Andrew Pipes, Sr.
65 Michael Hampton, Jr.

RG 62 Peter Lusk, Jr.
67 Tyler Shonsheck, So.

RT 60 Chris Campbell, Jr.
78 Ben Marshall, So.

QB 7 Eric Herbort, Jr.
14 Shea Smith, Sr.

FB 25 Todd Newell, Sr.
42 Jared Tew, So.

TB 28 Kyle Lumpkin, So.
20 Devon Ford, Jr.

WR-Z 19 Ty Paffett, Sr.
4 Kyle Halderman, So.

LE 95 Jake Paulson, Sr.
49 Ryan Gonzales, Jr.

NG 93 Ben Garland, Jr.
76 Stephen Larson, Jr.

RE 91 Ryan Kemp, Sr.
90 Rick Ricketts, So.

OLB 36 Andre Morris, Jr., So.
92 Myles Morales, Jr.

ILB 45 John Falgout, Jr.
55 Clay Bryant, Jr.

ILB 47 Ken Lamendola, So.
43 Justin Moore, Jr.

OLB 32 Hunter Altman, Sr.
37 William Keuchler, So.

CB 22 Brenton Byrd, Jr.
22 Ryan Curry, So.

CB 8 Reggie Rembert, So.
18 Elliot Battle, So.

SS 34 Chris Thomas, Jr.
30 Luke Yeager, Sr.

FS 23 Aaron Kirchoff, Sr.
29 Luke Hyder, Jr.

PK 13 Ryan Harrison, Sr.
94 Zachary Bell, So.

P 13 Ryan Harrison, Sr.
98 Brandon Geyer, Jr.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fisher Foundation Events

Hello all.

With former Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry set to be inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame tomorrow night, I thought I’d pass along some information about some events that will be taking place next month to raise money for his foundation:

The 3rd Annual Fisher DeBerry Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic (May 16)
-Will be held at the Eisenhower Blue Course at the academy
-Special guest and honorary chairman will be former Notre Dame walk-on football player Rudy Ruettiger, who provided the inspiration for the movie “Rudy.”

The 5th Annual Fisher DeBerry Foundation Chick-fil-A 5K Run and Walk (May 17)
-Will be held at America the Beautiful Park in Colorado Springs at 3 p.m.
-Cost: $15 for students and children;$20 for adults
-Register here

The Inaugural Colorado Coaches for Charity silent auction and dinner (May 19)
-Will be held at the Denver Marriott City Center.
-DeBerry will be on hand along with former Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, Northern Colorado coach Scott Downing and Colorado coach Dan Hawkins.
-Visit this site for more information.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Practice Report - 4/2

Late in Air Force's Wednesday practice, freshman defensive end Rick Ricketts and freshman fullback Ryan Southworth got into a brief scuffle after a play.

In preseason – and to some degree, in spring sessions – coaches sometimes like to see fights. Some won’t admit it, others will come right out and say that it shows players are getting after it and playing hard and with emotion.

So after Wednesday’s practice, I asked Troy Calhoun what he thought about the dust-up.

“We’ve got competitive guys,” he said. “And they’re physical, and they’re going to be active, so every once in a while that’s going to happen. I think the key is this – you play extremely aggressively, and yet you’ve got to have poise too. You ever cross the line, that’s 15 (yards) against us. Our guys are pretty good about that. You don’t see it very often, but you certainly see them flying around.”

Calhoun sent Ricketts, who appeared to be the aggressor, off on a disciplinary run around a far goalpost following the scuffle.

But I think the coaches liked that their players were fired up during a spring session.

Other Thoughts:
-While quarterbacks Eric Herbort and Shea Smith were extremely sharp and receivers made great catches in traffic during Tuesday’s practice at Falcon Stadium, there were some errant throws and drops on Wednesday. Ty Paffett, in particular, dropped a high yet catchable ball on a deep post.

-It will be interesting to see what Brenton Byrd does at cornerback during the last few practices of spring, specifically scrimmage situations. Wednesday he showed the speed and athleticism to stay with receivers, but he’s still learning the coverages. He's had just four practices at the position.

-Freshman tailback Chase Wilke seemed to run hard and show some burst.

-The hit of the day belonged to sophomore inside linebacker Justin Moore, who laid a shoulder into Z receiver Kyle Halderman and elicited cheers from his defensive teammates on the sideline.

Note: I’ll be out of town this weekend but will file practice reports to the blog after each of the Falcons’ last three spring sessions – next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (the controlled scrimmage).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Schedule Thoughts

So Air Force’s 2008 schedule was finalized on Tuesday (scroll down two posts to see the full slate).

First impression upon looking at it?

It sets up pretty well for the Falcons.

First of all, and most importantly, Air Force has a bye week at an opportune time for the first time since the 2004 season when it had a break between its sixth and seventh games.

In 2005, Air Force’s bye came before the last game of the season when a losing season already was assured. In 2006, the Falcons had two bye weeks, but they were sandwiched around their first game. And last season, of course, Air Force had no bye weeks, playing 12 games in 12 weeks.

In the upcoming season, the Falcons will get a break between their fourth game (a tough one against Utah, which should be one of the favorites in the Mountain West Conference) and their fifth (against archrival Navy).

Other impressions on the schedule:

-It’s not as difficult early as it was last season when the Falcons played the teams predicted to be the top three in the conference (Utah, TCU and BYU) and then Navy in consecutive weeks in September. That’s important, as the 2008 team will be young

-Not a terribly difficult start, but how about the finish? Back-to-back games against defending league champ BYU and then at TCU for the regular season finale. Think the Horned Frogs will be hungry for some revenge?

-A couple not-so-fortunate notes for the Falcons: UNLV has a bye week prior to playing host to Air Force on Oct. 18. The Falcons, meanwhile, play at San Diego State the week before facing the Rebels. Plus, TCU has a bye week before playing host to Air Force on Nov. 22. Air Force plays at home against BYU the week before. And finally, Air Force plays at UNLV (at night) on Saturday, Oct. 18. It then has to travel home and prepare to play New Mexico on Thursday, Oct. 23 after a short week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Depth Chart Moves

There were plenty of changes on the updated two-deep chart released by Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun on Tuesday (scroll down to see the full chart).

But that’s to be expected with so many positions considered to be wide open at this point. Calhoun said if coaches released a new depth chart after each practice “we’d probably have five changes every day.”

So how does Calhoun decide who belongs on the two-deep?

“You just want guys that are completely reliable,” Calhoun said. “And I think guys that are dependable and guys that are productive are the ones that get a chance to move to the surface and work with the primary units.”

Here are the changes from the initial spring two-deep chart:

Quarterback: Eric Herbort, listed as a backup on the first depth chart, moved in front of Shea Smith. But Herbort by no means has a stranglehold on the position.

“They’ve been pretty balanced,” Calhoun said of Herbort and Smith. “And that could continue to flip back and forth.”

Much more on the quarterback battle in an upcoming edition of The Gazette – likely this Sunday’s or Monday’s.

Tailback: Sophomore-to-be Savier Stephens and junior-to-be Brenton Byrd were listed as the starter and backup, respectively, at the start of spring practice.

But Stephens, the leading returning rusher from the 2007 squad, has been held out of practice because of a hernia that will require surgery. And Byrd (see below) is getting a look at cornerback.

So two players who were on the Falcons’ junior varsity as freshmen in 2007 – Kyle Lumpkin and Chase Wilke – now are listed as the starter and backup, respectively.

“They’re the two best tailbacks,” Calhoun said. “I think it’s the fairest way to operate is the guys that play the best are the guys that are in the two-deep. … Lumpkin, the kid loves football. He’s spunky, he’s a tough little nut. He’s got to learn how to run a little bit more downhill. But we’ll see how he does.”

Wide Receiver-X: Kevin Fogler, who will be a sophomore next year, moved in front of senior-to-be Spencer Armstrong as the backup to Sean Quintana.

Fogler impressed coaches in the first half of spring by making plenty of plays – specifically coming up with tough catches. “That’s a guy that every day did something in practice,” Calhoun said.

Fogler has an impressive 6-foot-6, 200-pound frame. And Calhoun said Fogler “plays with length.”

“There are times when guys are 6-4 and they play like they’re 5-6,” he said. “This guy’s 6-6 and he plays like he’s 6-6. He’s a great target. … You talk about the old term ‘upside,’ this guy has some.”

Tight End: Another sophomore-to-be, Steve Shaffer, moved in front of senior-to-be Keith Madsen as the backup to starter Travis Dekker. Shaffer is 6-4 and 230 pounds and began to emerge toward the end of last season. He, like Fogler, has plenty of upside.

Fullback: Jared Tew, who will be a sophomore next year, now is listed as the backup to Todd Newell, replacing junior-to-be Justin Moore.

Right Guard: Tyler Shonsheck, who will be a sophomore next year, now is listed as the backup to Peter Lusk, replacing senior-to-be Tyler Weeks.

Defensive Line: A few changes because of a knee injury suffered by nose guard Jared Marvin, who will be a senior next year.

Marvin tore both the ACL and MCL in his knee prior to spring break. He had surgery on March 17 and is expected to be out five to seven months.

With Marvin out, Ben Garland – listed as the starting left end at the beginning of spring – has moved inside to starting nose guard. Jake Paulson, who began spring as Garland’s backup, now is listed as the starting left end. Ryan Gonzales, a nose guard last year, now is listed as Paulson’s backup.

Inside linebacker: At one inside spot, Ken Lamendola, who will be a sophomore next year, now is listed as the starter, bumping Brandon Reeves. Justin Moore, who will be a junior next year, is listed as Lamendola’s backup.

Cornerback: Byrd, who began spring as the Falcons’ backup tailback, is trying his hand at corner. Calhoun said Byrd will finish spring there. Kevin Rivers, originally listed as a starter, has not practiced due to injury and now is not on the depth chart. Ryan Curry, who will be a sophomore next year, is listed as Byrd’s backup, replacing Devon Ford.

Football Schedule, Depth Chart Released

There hadn't been much to talk about in a while when it came to Air Force football, but now there’s a whole bunch.

The Mountain West Conference released its 2008 football schedule today, which finalized the Falcons’ slate. And, prior to Air Force’s practice today – the first in the second half of spring practices – coach Troy Calhoun released an updated depth chart with a whole bunch of changes.

I’ll be weighing in on both the schedule and the changes to the depth chart in this blog later tonight. Until then, here’s the Falcons’ 2008 schedule and the new depth chart.

2008 Air Force Football Schedule

Day Date Time Opponent (TV)
Saturday Aug. 30 12 p.m. Southern Utah
Saturday Sept. 6 1:30 p.m. at Wyoming* (CBS C)
Saturday Sept. 13 TBA at Houston (TBA)
Saturday Sept. 20 2 p.m. Utah* (VERSUS)
Saturday Sept. 27 OPEN
Saturday Oct. 4 2 p.m. Navy (VERSUS)
Saturday Oct. 11 6:30 p.m. at San Diego State* (The Mtn.)
Saturday Oct. 18 7 p.m. at UNLV* (The Mtn.)
Thursday Oct. 23 6 p.m. New Mexico* (CBS C)
Saturday Nov. 1 TBA at Army (TBA)
Saturday Nov. 8 4 p.m. Colorado State* (The Mtn.)
Saturday Nov. 15 1:30 p.m. BYU* (CBS C)
Saturday Nov. 22 2:30 p.m. at TCU* (VERSUS)
* - Mountain West Conference game
All times local to site

(The Mtn.) – MountainWest Sports Network;
(CBS C) – CBS College Sports Network, formerly known as College Sports Television (CSTV).

Updated Air Force Depth Chart

Note: Each player’s class in the depth chart refers to what he will be in 2008, e.g. quarterback Shea Smith currently is a junior, but he is listed as a senior.

WR- X 81 Sean Quintana, Jr.
93 Kevin Fogler, So.

TE 88 Travis Dekker, Sr.
84 Steve Shaffer, So.

LT 79 Keith Williams, Sr.
70 Matt Markling, So.

LG 57 Nick Charles, Jr.
64 Jake Morrow, So.

C 63 Andrew Pipes, Sr.
65 Michael Hampton, Jr.

RG 62 Peter Lusk, Jr.
67 Tyler Shonsheck, So.

RT 60 Chris Campbell, Jr.
78 Ben Marshall, So.

QB 7 Eric Herbort, Jr.
14 Shea Smith, Sr.

FB 25 Todd Newell, Sr.
42 Jared Tew, So.

TB 28 Kyle Lumpkin, So.
20 Chase Wilke, So.

WR-Z 19 Ty Paffett, Sr.
4 Kyle Halderman, So.

LE 95 Jake Paulson, Sr.
49 Ryan Gonzales, Jr.

NG 93 Ben Garland, Jr.
76 Stephen Larson, Jr.

RE 91 Ryan Kemp, Sr.
90 Rick Ricketts, So.

OLB 36 Andre Morris, Jr., So.
92 Myles Morales, Jr.

ILB 45 John Falgout, Jr.
55 Clay Bryant, Jr.

ILB 47 Ken Lamendola, So.
43 Justin Moore, Jr.

OLB 32 Hunter Altman, Sr.
37 William Keuchler, So.

CB 22 Brenton Byrd, Jr.
22 Ryan Curry, So.

CB 8 Reggie Rembert, So.
18 Elliot Battle, So.

SS 34 Chris Thomas, Jr.
30 Luke Yeager, Sr.

FS 23 Aaron Kirchoff, Sr.
29 Luke Hyder, Jr.

PK 13 Ryan Harrison, Sr.
94 Zachary Bell, So.

P 13 Ryan Harrison, Sr.
98 Brandon Geyer, Jr.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

BlogDog Bracketology

Basketball isn’t the BlogDog’s game.

He’s a football prognosticator – as evidenced by his sterling 8-4 mark picking Air Force games during the 2007 regular season. (Note: I’m not counting his pick of Air Force over Cal in the Armed Forces Bowl on his official record because his pick was made in suburban Maryland during the holidays under the supervision of the BlogWife. BlogDog was out of his element and confused).

But there’s a simple reason why the BlogDog is qualified to fill out a Mountain West Conference men’s basketball tournament bracket:

The tournament’s being held in Las Vegas.

BlogDog knows when playing blackjack that he always should split aces, never split face cards and double down when he has 11 (or when he has 10 or 9 and the dealer has a bust card). And when playing poker, he’ll go all-in pre-flop, then make the rest of the table fold with an intimidating growl.

He’s pure Vegas.

(Note two: For those of you just finding this blog, the BlogDog is my dog, Norm. Because I enjoy reading prognostication columns – and because The Gazette does not permit me, as a beat writer, to make picks on games – I pressed Norm into service. He correctly picked three of Air Force’s first four games, and a star was born.)

In football, Norm’s picks were determined by a “best three-out-of-five” system. I’d put a mini-replica Air Force helmet and the mini-replica helmet of the opponent the Falcons were facing that week in front of Norm, and whichever one Norm went to first – best three out of five times – was the team he thought would win.

But this is March Madness. One and done. So Norm picked just once on each game.

And, yes, he picked the football helmets, even though this is basketball.

His picks are below. He likes the Falcons to win their first-ever MWC Tournament game, Utah to upset New Mexico and BYU and UNLV to meet in a rematch of last year’s final.

BlogDog’s Picks:

Play-in Game

Wyoming over Colorado State


BYU over Wyoming

Air Force over San Diego State

Utah over New Mexico


BYU over Air Force
UNLV over Utah


Monday, March 10, 2008

All-MWC Teams Announced

The Mountain West Conference announced its all-league teams today. Air Force senior guard Tim Anderson was named to the second team. He also won Defensive Player of the Year honors.

A list of the teams and individual honors is below.

2007-08 All-Mountain West Conference
First Team

G J.R. Giddens (New Mexico, Sr.)
G/F Lee Cummard (BYU, Jr.)
G Wink Adams (UNLV Jr.)
F Lorrenzo Wade (San Diego State, Jr.)
F/C Trent Plaisted (BYU, Jr.)

Second Team
G Tim Anderson (Air Force, Sr.)
G Marcus Walker (Colorado State, Jr.)
G Johnnie Bryant (Utah, Sr.)
G Brandon Ewing (Wyoming, Jr.)
C Luke Nevill (Utah, Jr.)

Third Team
G/F Curtis Terry (UNLV, Sr.)
F Jonathan Tavernari (BYU, Soph.)
F Ryan Amoroso (San Diego State, Jr.)
F Billy White (San Diego State, Fr.)
F Kevin Langford (TCU, Jr.)

Honorable Mention: G Chad Toppert (New Mexico, Jr.), F Joe Darger (UNLV, Jr.), G Rene Rougeau (UNLV, Jr.), G Brent Hackett (TCU, Sr.), C Daniel Faris (New Mexico, Jr.)

Individual Awards
Co-Players of the Year

Lee Cummard (BYU, Jr.)
J.R. Giddens (New Mexico, Sr.)

Defensive Player of the Year
Tim Anderson (Air Force, Sr.)

Newcomer of the Year
Marcus Walker (Colorado State, Jr.)

Freshman of the Year
Billy White (San Diego State)

Coach of the Year
Lon Kruger (UNLV)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

San Diego State review

With its 46-43 victory over San Diego State on Saturday, Air Force guaranteed a fifth straight winning season, completed a .500 campaign in the Mountain West Conference and secured fifth place in the league.

Not a bad way to send out the seniors.

To the untrained eye, a fifth-place finish in a nine-team league doesn’t seem like much to celebrate. But to those who know what Air Force lost from its record-setting 2006-07 team, it was significant accomplishment.

The Falcons had just one starter back from last season’s squad and were picked to finish eighth in the league. And after getting blown out by Utah in their league opener, even four victories seemed like a stretch.

But Air Force, while seemingly overmatched and undermanned against almost every team in the league, found a way overachieve and win eight games.

A sign in the Falcons’ locker room reads, “Shock the League.”

Mission accomplished.

Other Thoughts:
- The MWC’s postseason awards will be handed out tomorrow afternoon. Will anyone from Air Force earn recognition?

The top candidate is Tim Anderson, who I think is probably a borderline first-team All-MWC selection. If the awards came out at the half-way point of league play, I think Anderson would have been a lock and even had an argument for Player of the Year. But his numbers dropped off significantly in the second half of the season, and that definitely will hurt him.

However, if voters look beyond points per game, he has a good shot. Anderson, who also is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, has been the Falcons’ top defender and one of the best defensive players in the league the last two years.

Andrew Henke’s late-season explosion makes him a candidate for possible third-team honors. And Evan Washington is a candidate for Freshman of the Year, but San Diego State’s Billy White – who twice has been named the league’s Player of the Week – likely will run away with that honor.

So how about Jeff Reynolds? He’s definitely in the discussion for Coach of the Year. He took over a team that lost four starters and close to 75 percent of its scoring from the previous year and guided it to a .500 record and a fifth-place finish – three spots better than where it was picked to finish.

I think it will probably come down to Reynolds, UNLV’s Lon Kruger and New Mexico’s Steve Alford.

Kruger, like Reynolds, had to replace four starters. And Kruger also had to deal with losing all his big men for various reasons and converting his team to a small-ball squad.

Alford, meantime, got through to J.R. Giddens and got the talented but previously disappointing player to fulfill his potential. And he guided a team that finished in the MWC cellar a year ago to a third-place finish.

- With Saturday’s victory (and Utah’s loss to UNLV Saturday), Air Force managed to avoid streaking New Mexico in the first round of the MWC tournament. That’s a good thing, but the Falcons still have a pretty difficult task in front of them. As will be discussed in an article in Tuesday’s edition of The Gazette, the Falcons have to beat the same team twice in six days. It will not be easy.

- Toughness award from Saturday’s game goes to Washington. In the first half, he had his legs taken out when he went up for a rebound, and he landed hard on his side. It looked like it could have resulted in a bad injury, but Washington popped right up and on the very next possession completed a three-point play. Then, with just seconds remaining in the game, he was pulled to the floor by San Diego State center Ryan Amoroso after grabbing a rebound. But he settled himself and made one of two free throws to push the Falcons’ advantage to three with 1.1 seconds left.

- What a physical game. Reynolds said he thought the Falcons’ game at UNLV was more physical than Saturday’s game, and I guess that’s true. But Saturday was pretty rough. In addition to his jersey grab on Washington, Amoroso also ran over Anderson earlier in the game. I thought a flagrant foul could have been assessed for either play.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Practice Update

Air Force held its fourth spring football practice on Saturday.

It looked like it.

The Falcons lined up in incorrect formations, put the ball on the ground, rolled shotgun snaps to quarterbacks, overthrew passes and jumped offside.

But, as coaches and players know, that’s to be expected early in spring. Especially with such an inexperienced team.

“I think what you’re going to find, especially in the first half of spring, you’re going to take these first seven practices and you’ve got so much teaching that your execution and the speed at which you operate is not where you want it,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “And yet if it was, you wouldn’t need to practice. We need to practice.”

“That’s obviously going to happen,” Air Force sophomore strong safety Chris Thomas said of the mistakes. “It’s the beginning of the year, we've got a lot of young guys and we're doing a lot of things we haven’t done before.”

Other Notes:
- Sophomore Eric Herbort, who entered spring listed as the backup quarterback behind junior Shea Smith, worked with the first-team offense on Saturday.

“He practiced better than Shea did on Friday,” Calhoun said. “That’s something that we evaluate daily, and it’s not just at that position. I think that position probably gains the most attention, but that’s across the board, and it’ll be that way probably until the middle of August – we’re going to have a depth chart that bumps around a good bit.”

- Sophomore tailback Brenton Byrd also entered spring practices listed as a backup, but with Savier Stephens being held out of practice because of a possible hernia, Byrd has gotten a chance to play with the starters.

Byrd has been “much better than he was in the fall,” Calhoun said. “He carries the ball better. I think he just plays more physical than he did in the fall. And part of that is he’s going into his fourth year at the academy. He’ll be a junior, plus he had a year at the prep school.”

Both Calhoun and Thomas said freshman Kyle Lumpkin has had some good moments at tailback.
- Starting Z receiver Ty Paffett did not practice on Saturday. Calhoun did not reveal his injury but said Paffett should be back next week. Starting cornerback Kevin Rivers also didn’t practice. He pulled a hamstring in a track meet last week, Calhoun said.

- Play of the day: A reception of about 20 yards by tight end Steve Shaffer. The freshman was running to his right but reached across his body to snag a pass thrown behind him. Also impressive were a pair of hits, one by Thomas on freshman receiver Brett Skene and one by freshman outside linebacker Mark Mosby on freshman Kyle Halderman.

- Two new coaches on the field Saturday: Chad Hall and Drew Fowler.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Carney Update

By the time I got done speaking with men’s basketball coach Jeff Reynolds on Thursday, the Air Force football team already had wrapped up its second spring practice.

So no practice report today. But I did get to catch up with former Falcons QB Shaun Carney.

Carney, as those who check this blog remember all too vividly, suffered a gruesome career-ending injury in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 31. Near the end of the third quarter, Carney ran right, then planted his right leg with designs on running over the one Cal player between him and the end zone. But as Carney took on that player, he was hit from behind and his leg was hit from the side.

The result was a dislocated knee cap, damage to ligaments in the knee cap and ACL, MCL and PCL tears.

Carney finally had surgery last Thursday after waiting a couple of months for swelling to subside. The surgery included “about five hours of actual cutting time,” Carney said, with about two or three more for “prepping and cleaning up.”

Carney’s PCL and ACL were removed. An Achilles from a cadaver was used for his PCL, and a tendon from the back of Carney’s right hamstring was sliced off and used for his ACL. He also had a microfracture procedure done on his femur – tiny holes were drilled into his femur, allowing blood and bone marrow to seep out and help build up cartilage.

Carney, who said he watched the replay of his injury on YouTube, stayed awake for about two hours of the surgery and watched the procedure on the monitor that doctors were using.

The pain in his leg, Carney said, now is “way worse” than it was in the weeks before surgery.

“They put four screws in there too, that’s how they have to get the ACL and PCL in there,” he said. “You can feel them moving around a little bit. So it’s a lot more painful than I expected.”

Carney will be in a wheelchair or on crutches for the next seven or so weeks. Then he will start rehabilitation and “eventually start jogging around July or August,” he said. “I could probably play basketball on that thing by November, but it won’t be real strong until next February.”

He will, however, be able to walk down the aisle at his wedding June 28.

And despite his limited mobility, Carney will be on the field next week helping with the Falcons’ spring practices (he will serve as a graduate assistant coach next year).

“I’m really excited,” he said. “Looking forward to getting out there any way I can and getting in the quarterbacks' ears a little bit.”

TCU Review

It wasn’t always pretty (I’ll get to what I found ugly in a minute), but Air Force kept the potential of finishing .500 in the Mountain West Conference alive with a 57-36 victory over TCU on Wednesday night.

If Air Force can beat San Diego State on Saturday at Clune Arena – a difficult task, especially considering the Aztecs will have had a week off to prepare – the Falcons will finish 8-8 in league play. And if UNLV beats Utah, Air Force will claim fifth place in the Mountain West. That would be pretty impressive for a team with just one starter back and hardly any others with any significant experience.

And consider this, strange as it may seem: An 8-8 league record would be only a two-game drop off from last season, when Air Force won a school-record 26 games overall and had arguably its best team in history.

So here’s what was to like against TCU: It starts with Andrew Henke. The 6-foot-6 junior guard/forward poured in a career-high 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.

Henke has expanded his game, matured and blossomed in the second half of conference play. Consider:

In the first half of conference play, Henke averaged 7.4 points per game on 40.9 percent shooting, including 33.3 percent from 3-point range. In the seven games since, he’s averaged 14.9 points on 49.3 percent shooting, including 54.5 from 3-point range.

He’s become the Falcons’ top offensive threat, as Tim Anderson’s production has dropped off in the second half of league play. Perhaps feeling fatigued from his hefty minutes, Anderson has averaged just 9.2 points the past seven games on 31.3 percent shooting (22.2 from 3-point range). He averaged 17.0 points on 47.2 percent shooting (46.3 from 3-point range) in the first half of conference play.

The Falcons’ defense also gets some credit for helping force TCU into an absolutely atrocious shooting performance. Air Force carried out its plan to perfection, denying Kevin Langford (the Horned Frogs’ leading scorer) touches inside and keeping Brent Hackett from driving – though allowing Hackett to fire bricks from 3-point range.

So what wasn’t to like? Too many first-half turnovers. Missing 11 of 21 free throws. And, most troublesome, the Falcons’ apparent lack of a killer instinct.

Air Force went up 13-0 as the Horned Frogs clanked their first eight shots from the floor.

And that’s when an elite team, playing on its home court, buries its opponent. It stretches its lead to a demoralizing 20 and puts the game away by halftime.

But the Falcons, once ahead, seemed to put it on cruise control. Sloppy play ensued, and before you knew it, they’d let TCU back in the game. To Air Force’s credit, it protected its double-digit lead in the second half. The Horned Frogs had something to do with that, however, as they could not make a shot.

Other Thoughts
-A victory over San Diego State on Saturday not only would give the Falcons a .500 record in league play and – depending on what happens with the Utah-UNLV game – a potential fifth-place finish. It also would give the Falcons just their second victory over one of the league’s top-tier teams.

So far, Air Force’s home victory over UNLV stands as its most impressive victory in league play – and overall, for that matter. The Falcons’ other six conference triumphs came over the Mountain West’s bottom-feeders – two each over winless CSU, Wyoming and TCU.

-Would’ve liked to have seen Phillip Brown play Wednesday night, at least for 3-4 minutes, after how well he played against BYU. I know Keith Maren has had a great season and he played well Wednesday and you want to go with your experienced senior. But I thought Brown could have benefited from a second straight game with some playing time.

-We didn't fit this in the paper: Junior guard Anwar Johnson handed out a career-high six assists.

-TCU looked like the most improved team in the league early this season. Now? Yikes. The Horned Frogs clearly missed suspended guard Henry Salter on Wednesday night, but 26.2 percent from the floor? The people they pull down from the stands for the shooting contests during timeouts look better than TCU does right now.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Are You Ready for Some (Spring) Football?

After a reserve defensive player picked off a pass in the flat late in Air Force’s first spring practice on Tuesday evening, one defensive coach looked at another.

“Who is that?”

For much of the day, that was a good question.

There have been the usual assortment of number changes – quarterback Eric Herbort went from 8 to 7, Savier Stephens from 42 to 2, Kyle Halderman from 83 to 4, Ken Lamendola from 54 to 47, to name a few. But there were a whole bunch of new faces on the field with the standout Class of 2008 gone and the freshmen who played on the JV last year now playing with the varsity.

How quickly those new faces develop will tell a lot about this year.

With that said, here are some initial impressions from Day One:

- Heard running backs coach Jemal Singleton scream “Finish the play!” a few times. The players were in helmets and shorts, but even when a back is touched down or corralled for a stop, Singleton wants him to keep going and sprint another 20 or so yards.

- Best play of the day: A deep pass down the right sideline from Herbort to receiver Spencer Armstrong. It covered about 45 to 50 yards, and the ball was right on the money.

- Shortly after that play, Will McAngus, a freshman quarterback, hit receiver Dal Shealy on a similar pattern.

- I think the Falcons should be in pretty good shape at the X and Z receivers. At X there’s Sean Quintana, who will be a junior and started some games last year, and Armstrong. And when Air Force uses them together, they make a good pair. Quintana is sure-handed and the perfect possession receiver, while Armstrong is a legitimate deep threat. Also on Tuesday, sophomore Chaz Demerath, a 6-foot-2 freshman, made a nice play when a deep pass was thrown to the wrong shoulder. Demerath adjusted and made the grab.

At Z, Ty Paffett likely will start. He came on strong at the end of last season and played Z when Chad Hall was taking snaps at tailback. Also, look for his backup, Kyle Halderman, to make some plays too.

- Still waaaaay too early to talk too much about the QBs. But both Herbort and Shea Smith looked solid. And freshman Ben Cockran can sling it. Lots of heat on his throws.

- The first-team defense showed great enthusiasm, screaming each time it came on the field during team drills. It will be interesting to see what the defense is like this year. The Falcons are stacked up front with six experienced guys back on the defensive line, and Air Force should be set at safety with sophomore Chris Thomas (I think poised for a run at first-team All-MWC honors) and free safety Aaron Kirchoff (who started several games last season).

But the success of the defense will depend on the LBs and CBs. Air Force has a returning starter at one OLB spot (senior-to-be Hunter Altman) and Andre Morris, Jr. (who started one game last year as a freshman) likely will man the other OLB spot. But Air Force will have two brand new inside linebackers, and two new corners. Reggie Rembert, who started one game last year, will man one side of the field. Kevin Rivers, a senior next year, is penciled in at the other corner spot. Rivers was in a red jersey (injured) on Tuesday and did not practice.

- The Mountain West Conference should release its football schedule soon. Air Force should hope its 2008 conference slate doesn’t look like last season’s. In 2007 the Falcons faced the top three teams in the conference plus Navy in the first month of the season. For as young and inexperienced as the 2008 squad will be, it would benefit greatly by playing a couple of the league’s lesser teams early.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Football Spring Depth Chart Released

Air Force head football coach Troy Calhoun released his initial depth chart heading into spring practice.

It appears below (Starters in bold).

Note: Each player’s class is what he will be in 2008 - e.g. quarterback Shea Smith currently is a junior, but he is listed on the chart as a senior.

WR- X 81 Sean Quintana, Jr.

26 Spencer Armstrong, Sr.

TE 88 Travis Dekker, Sr.
85 Keith Madsen, Sr.

LT 79 Keith Williams, Sr.
70 Matt Markling, So.

LG 57 Nick Charles, Jr.
64 Jake Morrow, So.

C 63 Andrew Pipes, Sr.
65 Michael Hampton, Jr.

RG 62 Peter Lusk, Jr.
67 Tyler Weeks, Sr.

RT 60 Chris Campbell, Jr.

78 Ben Marshall, So.

QB 14 Shea Smith, Sr.

7 Eric Herbort, Jr.

FB 25 Todd Newell, Sr.
43 Justin Moore, Jr.

TB 2 Savier Stephens, So.
22 Brenton Byrd, Jr.

WR-Z 19 Ty Paffett, Sr.
4 Kyle Halderman, So.

LE 93 Ben Garland, Jr.

95 Jake Paulson, Sr.

NG 56 Jared Marvin, Sr.
76 Stephen Larson, Jr.

RE 91 Ryan Kemp, Sr.
90 Rick Ricketts, So.

OLB 36 Andre Morris, Jr., So.
92 Myles Morales, Jr.

ILB 45 John Falgout, Jr.
55 Clay Bryant, Jr.

ILB 48 Brandon Reeves, Sr.

47 Ken Lamendola, So.

OLB 32 Hunter Altman, Sr.
37 William Kuechler, So.

CB 6 Kevin Rivers, Sr.
20 Devon Ford, Jr.

CB 8 Reggie Rembert, So.
18 Elliott Battle, So.

SS 34 Chris Thomas, Jr.
30 Luke Yeager, Sr.

FS 23 Aaron Kirchoff, Sr.
29 Luke Hyder, Jr.

PK 13 Ryan Harrison, Sr.

94 Zachary Bell, So.

P 13 Ryan Harrison, Sr.
98 Brandon Geyer, Jr.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hoops player Summerfield leaves academy

Air Force freshman men’s basketball player Mark Summerfield has left the team and the academy “for good,” he said Sunday.

“Things didn’t work out,” Summerfield said from his home in West Virginia. “More or less it was overall the military-type stuff and other personal reasons.”

Summerfield, a 6-foot-3 guard, is the third member of the original eight-player freshman class to leave the academy. Tom Parks left in early September and Tyler Burke left in mid-December.
In addition, three players on the Air Force Academy Preparatory School’s basketball team were expelled recently, and three others were placed on probation.

Air Force spokesman Brett Ashworth said because of the Federal Privacy Act and the fact that Summerfield has not yet withdrawn officially, academy personnel could not comment on his departure. Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds, who said on Feb. 21 that Summerfield was not practicing because of “personal issues,” could not be reached for comment.

Summerfield played six minutes in four games this season and scored three points.

“It was a typical freshman year, not getting too much playing time and stuff,” Summerfield said. “I think it might have helped if I had played more, might have given me a little more incentive to stay, but that’s not really the main reason. Basketball was some of it but not nearly all of it.”

Saturday, March 1, 2008

BYU Review

Midway through the first half, things looked pretty good for the Falcons.

After falling behind 9-1 in one of the most hostile environments in the Mountain West Conference, Air Force put together a 13-5 run to tie the game at 14 with 9:31 left in the half. The Falcons then played right with the league’s best team for about the next six minutes.

But 12- to 13-minute stretches of good basketball aren’t enough. Especially against the best team in the league. Especially on that team’s home floor.

And especially when those stretches are followed with stretches that resemble the Falcons' last three-and-a-half minutes of the first half and first 10-and-a-half of the second.

During that time, the Falcons were outscored 37-7, they made just two field goals and they got points on just five of 26 possessions. BYU, meanwhile, got points from six players, made 3-pointers on four straight possessions and built a 32-point lead.


“We lost them in transition a bunch of times, and we were scrambling on defense and they did a great job of finding the open man, making extra passes,” Air Force junior guard/forward Andrew Henke said. “They did everything. And then we didn’t come down and execute on the offensive end.”

Air Force plays well enough to keep up with the best teams in the league for stretches. But – right now – the Falcons not good enough to do it for entire games.

Other Thoughts
-Talk about a glimpse of the future. Midway through the first half, Air Force had three freshmen on the floor – guard Evan Washington, who has started every game this year; forward Derek Brooks, who has played in four of the Falcons’ last five games; and center Phillip Brown, who played for the first time this year.

-What a debut by Brown. The 6-foot-7 center from Georgia was a heralded recruit, but his development was slowed because he missed a good chunk of practices early in the year (the coaching staff held him out so he could concentrate on academics). But Brown has earned playing time in practice, Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said, and was rewarded Saturday night.

And despite playing in one of the league’s toughest venues and against one of its best post players (Trent Plaisted) for much of the time he was on the floor, Brown was effective. Six points, four boards and three blocks. Pretty good.

-Not surprised by the technical foul called on Reynolds. Actually surprised he hadn’t gotten one earlier this season, the way he gets after the refs. Saturday he was maybe one more complaint away from getting a second “T” and getting tossed.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Battle for Fifth

Heading into Saturday’s Mountain West Conference men’s basketball games, Air Force is tied for fifth place in the league with Utah and TCU (all three teams are 6-7 in conference play).

Moving into fourth place is unlikely for Air Force as San Diego State resides there with an 8-6 record and a game in hand. The Falcons face the Aztecs in both teams’ regular season finale, but San Diego State plays host to Colorado State (winless in league play) on Saturday. The Aztecs should wrap up at least fourth place with a victory over the Rams.

A slide all the way into eighth is impossible. Even if Air Force loses its final three games and Wyoming (in eighth at 4-10) wins both of its last two games, including a tilt at BYU, the teams would be tied and the Falcons hold the tiebreaker.

So it seems like Air Force will finish between fifth and seventh. Can the Falcons take fifth?

I figure it will take them winning two of three down the stretch and Wyoming upsetting Utah. Here’s how:

The remaining schedules for the teams vying for the fifth spot are as follows:

-Utah: at Wyoming, vs. Colorado State, at UNLV
-Air Force: at BYU, vs. TCU, vs. San Diego State
-TCU: at UNLV, at Air Force, vs. BYU

If we assume that each team will lose games to BYU and UNLV, the top two teams in the league, then here’s how the race looks:
-Utah (6-8) with games at Wyoming and against Colorado State
-Air Force (6-8) with games against TCU and San Diego State
-TCU (6-9) with a game at Air Force

If we further assume Utah will beat Colorado State, then the race comes down to three games:
-Utah at Wyoming (this Saturday)
-TCU at Air Force (next Wednesday)
-San Diego State at Air Force (a week from Saturday)

So if Wyoming upsets Utah, the Utes will finish 7-9. And if Air Force holds serve at home, it will finish 8-8.

Here’s the not-so-funny part for Air Force fans. The Nos. 2-4 seeds (which will face the Nos. 5-7 seeds in the first round of the conference tournament) still are up for grabs. So finishing sixth or seventh could arguably get the Falcons a better first-round match-up.

Confused yet? Me too. I’m starting to think “taking it one game at a time” is not so bad a cliché. We can worry about this a week from now.